15 November 2011
Fall in Paris: a Study in Yellow and Brown (with Roast Chicken and Squash)
At a party a couple weeks ago, our hosts, who had invited a group of people who didn't all know each other, made us play a getting-to-know-you game, which involved writing answers to questions like "If you were a planet (adjective, famous person, book, etc), which one would you be?" A person's answers were read out anonymously and everyone had to guess who it was. To the question "If you were a season, which one would you be?" I was the only person who answered "autumn". When the host read it out, he said "oooh, this person is depressed!" Wide of the mark. I'm not depressed. Where I come from, autumn is a season of abundance, of bright colors, of beautiful light and crisp air.
But having lived in Paris for five years now, I can see why the French find fall depressing. The days get short so quickly, and gray and rainy. Even on the few sunny days, the fall colors are somewhat limited: yellow and brown pretty much cover it. For the past couple of years, I've tried to take myself out of my apartment to enjoy what fall has to offer here.
Montmartre with its colorful climbing vines is actually one of the prettiest places around. Last year at the jardins de Luxembourg, my sister and I appreciated the yellow and brown there, followed by warming homemade Chai. This year, I headed down the the Canal St. Martin to see the yellows reflected in the water.
As the weather gets colder and the leaves (whatever their colors) fall off the trees for the winter, it's important to have warming food to come home to. This roast chicken with squash is simple to make and perfect for the season. You can make it with chicken breasts or thighs or a whole chicken. Whatever fits your tastes and budget. And to top it all off, it matches the colors of fall in Paris - which are not depressing at all if you only you look at them the right way.
1 whole chicken (or 4 chicken breasts, or 4 chicken thighs)
1 squash (i used a potimarron, but butternut squash or pumpkin would work well too)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp dried sage (or 2 Tbsps fresh)
large pinch of sea salt
punch of black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC.
Mix together the olive oil with the sage, salt, pepper and cayenne. Rub this mixture into the chicken on all sides and place chicken in the center of a baking pan. Add the brown sugar to the remaining oil mixture.
Peel and cut the squash into cubes. (Ok, this is the evil part of the recipe. Squash is hard to cut and peel. I suggest cutting it in half, scooping out the seeds - you can save them and roast them - putting the squash half cut side down so it is stable and using a sharp knife to peel it, cutting down towards the cutting board so as not to slice your fingers. Then cut it into cubes.) Place the squash around the chicken in the baking pan and drizzle the rest of the olive oil mixture evenly on top of it.
Bake for about 1 hour (or until the chicken is cooked), mixing the squash once or twice to keep it coated with the juices. Serve hot and enjoy!