While I know it’s easy to hate the switchover to Daylight Savings Time because of losing an hour of sleep, I have to admit that I don’t hate it at all and now that we’ve moved back into the Mid-Atlantic, I kind of love it. Sunset on Sunday following the change was after 7:00 which is nothing short of extraordinary. Admittedly I am usually very in favor of this change because as a food blogger who likes to take pictures of the food we eat in natural light (and much preferring to do so when we actually cook it), being able to do so in the beginning of March feels downright heady. I can’t wait to see how bright it gets here in the summertime.
It’s fitting, then, that on the first day of extended daylight we make a roasted chicken that’s so bright and sunny itself thanks to the use of saffron and lemon. It’s a recipe from Saveur that’s incredibly simple with an extremely short ingredient list, but it creates such a savory and juicy chicken that even adding some potatoes to the roasting pan made them delicious by association.
I have to be truthful, though–we don’t actually use saffron in this recipe. Well, not the real stuff from Spain or Iran; rather, we use American safflower stamens because they are a much more reasonable (read: less expensive) alternative for this application. The saffron is ground together with salt and pepper to make a seasoning rub that will then be blasted in a 400-degree oven, and it feels almost wasteful to use the pure stuff that way. Real saffron should be gently bloomed and added to things like paella and noodle dishes if you ask me–it’s too expensive to be messed around with too much.
Michael likes to add some butter under the skin of the breast when he makes roasted chickens usually, and the addition here is a nice one–especially if you do decide to cut up a potato and add it to the party. It’s completely optional, but for me it makes the breast meat far more tender and delectable.
Roasted Chicken with Safflower and Lemons
slightly adapted from Saveur
1 tsp safflower stamens
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 chicken (3 1/2 to 4 lbs is a good size)
6 sprigs rosemary
1 lemon thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces (optional)
1 small potato, cut into wedges (optional)
Butcher string for tying the legs together
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Gently slide your fingers under the skin of the chicken breast to make pockets on either side. Heat a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat and toast the safflower threads for a minute or two and then transfer to a mortar and pestle with the salt and pepper. Grind everything together until it becomes a coarse powder, and then use that to season the chicken both over and under the skin and inside the cavity. Add the butter under the skin if desired, and then place the lemon slices and rosemary sprigs both in the cavity of the chicken and under the skin. Tie the legs together using the string, tuck the wings under and place in a roasting pan with the potatoes (again, if desired). Roast the bird for about an hour or until the thigh meat reads at 165 degrees on a digital thermometer, and then let rest for about 10 minutes prior to carving.
Serve with a crisp white wine, such as an Albariño or Xarello, along with some crusty bread and a big green salad.