I really love playing host, but let’s face it, some nights I just want to keep things simple. Here’s a great menu for a casual evening among friends, where we’ve put down our saffron and beurre blanc and picked up only the most basic ingredients: salt, pepper and olive oil. You’ll be amazed at how satisfying such an elementary meal can be.
Total Kitchen Time: 1 hr
Makes: Your work seem effortless to 6 awed guests
Mixed Grill (pictured above):
- 2 Free-range organic chickens
- 2 lbs. uncooked bratwurst
- 4 tbsp. olive oil (or canola oil)
- kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
- Preheat your oven to 400°F and place the top rack in the lower third of the oven. This will be your chicken oven.
- Preheat a second oven (even better, your toaster oven) to 450°F. Place the bratwurst directly on your oven rack or on a wire rack in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes until the top side has browned. Flip the links and brown for another 5 minutes.
- Turn the heat on your brats (long “a” sound) down to 200°F and let them continue to roast, turning occasionally, until you’re ready to eat (or about an hour and a half).
- Rinse the chickens and pat them very, very dry with paper towels. Make sure that all the nooks and crannies, including the inside cavity, are dry. The reason? Crispy skin comes from dry birds that don’t create steam as they cook (thanks, Thomas Keller!)
- Truss the birds and salt liberally. Pepper them to taste, then rub the skin with oil. The oil will add flavor, but also act as a conductor to help us in our quest of an all-over tan.
- Preheat 2 large skillets [may I recommend cast iron] over high heat until they have just started to smoke. Place one bird in each skillet, breast side up. Transfer the skillets to the oven 400°F and place side by side. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a thermometer inserted into the breast reads 150°F.
- After the birds have rested for 10 minutes, carve them into quarters and place on a large platter. Cut each bratwurst in half on a bias and place around the chicken. Serve to an adoring crowd.
For the roasted vegetables, chop yellow squash, zucchini, brussels sprouts and onions into 3/4″ chunks and toss with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet at 400°F for 25 minutes, or until golden brown spots of deliciousness appear.
Round out your meal with a light beet and goat cheese salad. Toss arugula and baby spinach with high quality olive oil, champagne vinegar and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Top with crumbled goat cheese and sliced, boiled beets.
Serve this meal with a sweet wine such as a Gewürztraminer or an Alsatian Riesling. You’ll look like a culinary hero, but for you, this was just “whipping something up”. Bravo.