Role Reversal
How to Roast Peppers

Liz Pearson's Yogurt-Rubbed Roast Chicken with Red Pepper Sauce


Let's start things off with a big, happy, declarative statement, shall we? It's Monday and it's awful out and despite being almost mid-May, we're dealing with March-like winds and rain instead of flowers and sunshine. I need something to cheer me up, perhaps you do, too, and I'm thinking this might just do the trick:

I may have found my new favorite way to roast chicken.

There. Things feel like they're looking up already, wouldn't you agree?

I'll always love the high-heat, Judy-Rodgers sanctioned way of roasting chicken, but the last time I did that we ended up having to live with the stench of scorched chicken fat in our apartment for nigh on a week. Since then, I've been banned from preparing chicken that way. Apparently, until we have a little elf living with us whose sole purpose is to run around silently behind me, cleaning up in the wake of my cooking endeavors and periodically scrubbing the inside of the oven (and while little elf is at it, also mopping), I won't be roasting at high heat again.

(Tragic, I know. How do I stand it?)

But over the weekend I found myself repeatedly coming back to a recipe printed in the LA Times a few weeks ago that has you stir Greek yogurt together with some herbs and spices and then massage big handfuls of the stuff onto (and into) a chicken, before letting it marinate for an hour and then roasting it at relatively average heat until cooked through.

See, doesn't that sound good? Something about spiced yogurt and marinating chicken... and I'm bewitched all over again.

Yogurt tenderizes chicken, don't you know, and the herbs and spices infuse the meat subtly. The marinating time and then the relatively long, slow roasting ensure an incredibly juicy bird. And to gild the lily - but this gilding I found absolutely necessary - the recipe has you roast shallots and red peppers beneath the chicken. After the roast is done, you gingerly peel the peppers (watch your fingers, they'll be hot!) and then puree them with the shallots and a disc of puckery goat cheese into an ochre-tinged sauce.

The original recipe has you do a fancy pan sauce with drippings and stock and flour and whisking, but is it a surprise to any of you at this point that I was far too lazy to follow suit? It was late, we were hungry, and that burnished bird was sitting on its platter making our stomachs growl. So I scraped up the pan drippings, separated the fat as best I could and dumped the drippings into the creamy sauce before whizzing it one last time.


And it was fabulous. Sweet and savory and with the faint funk of goat cheese about it. We slathered the sauce onto our forkfuls of chicken, dragged the chicken through great puddles of the stuff on our plates. If we hadn't been in the presence of dignified company, I might have even taken a spoon to the bowl. Best of all, while the chicken disappeared in a flash, there's sauce to last us another night at least.

I'm planning on using this yogurt-marinade technique over and over again - committing it to memory, even handing it over to the lamination files, if you will! The chicken was dreamily moist and juicy and would make fantastic leftovers.

This is the perfect Sunday supper - one you can start as the sun starts its slow descent in the late afternoon and can have on the table by the time the light is gone, but the birds are still out doing their early evening calls. I love this time of day in spring and especially where we live now, where we can actually hear the birds over the sounds of the city. If I go out on the balcony, I almost feel like I'm back in Berlin again - close enough to the city that I see the sunlight sparking off the buildings in Manhattan, but far enough away that I hear more birds than sirens; birds and the rustling of leaves in the trees around our building.

And there we go! Suddenly this cold, gray day doesn't seem so bad anymore. I have red pepper sauce, Ben, and a movie waiting for me (how to choose: Scarface on DVD or Iron Man at the theater?).

Happy Monday, folks. I hope it's a good week for you all.

Yogurt-Rubbed Roast Chicken with Red Pepper Sauce
Serves 3 to 4

Note: I made a half-recipe - the original makes two birds, and enough sauce to last for a week's worth of sandwiches, I think. Also, I omitted the steps and ingredients for the pan sauce. Click here for the original.

1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (3- to 3 1/2 -pound) chicken
1/2 pound (about 8) shallots, peeled and left whole
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 red bell peppers, halved, cored and quartered
1 2-ounce piece goat cheese, softened

1. In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the dry mustard, thyme, coriander, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Loosen the skin around the breasts and thighs, then rub both chicken all over (beneath the skin and inside the cavity, too) with the yogurt mixture. Refrigerate the chicken, uncovered, for 1 hour.

2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the shallots, carrots, peppers, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste into a large roasting pan and toss well. Arrange a rack over the vegetables.

3. Arrange the chicken on the rack, breast-side up, and roast, basting occasionally with pan juices, until the vegetables are very tender and the chicken is deep golden brown and cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Transfer the chicken to a large platter and tent with foil; set aside.

4. Drain the pan drippings into a bowl, then skim off and discard the fat; set aside.

5. Remove and discard the skin from the peppers (it should peel off fairly easily), then transfer them to a food processor. Add half the shallots and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the goat cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and pan drippings and puree until smooth.

6. Carve the chicken and transfer to plates. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of the red pepper and goat cheese sauce over each serving and serve with the remaining roasted shallots and carrots on the side.