Teri Robl’s roasted chicken works best with farm-raised or organic chicken. (Photo by Teri Robl)

Teri Robl’s roasted chicken works best with farm-raised or organic chicken. (Photo by Teri Robl)

Winter is the perfect time for comfort food

I am hunkered into domestic life, as my job is seasonal and I am off during the winter months. I know that may seem a bit backwards for an Alaskan who loves to be out on Kachemak Bay and tend her flower garden, so I am making the best of it by enjoying cooking, reading through my treasured cookbook collection and keeping the woodstove stoked.

To work off the extra calories from the special meals I make, I am loving leisurely walks with the old black lab and playing with “Little Chief,” my sweet baby grandson, Kase.

Winter is the perfect time for comfort food. I love stews, soups, roasted meats, cheesy potatoes, homemade pizza and lasagna. One of my favorites is a perfectly roasted chicken. Serve a golden- browned, tender chicken with roasted Alaska vegetables with the pan drippings for dinner and I guarantee you will go to sleep with a smile on your face! Try to purchase a plump, organic chicken — or maybe you raised some of your own last summer to enjoy through the winter you can boast about. Their flavor is far superior than the average supermarket bird and worth seeking out.

Simple Roast Chicken

1- 3 to 4-pound whole chicken

Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Small bunch mixed herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and sage (optional)

Preparation

Heat oven to 450 degrees

Place your cast iron skillet in the oven while it is heating. This will give extra heat to the dark meat which helps it finish cooking at the same time as the white meat.

Rub the chicken all over with the oil and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper. If you have time, refrigerate the chicken, uncovered, for an hour, or overnight.

Stuff cavity with herbs and tie the legs together with kitchen twine if desired.

When the oven and skillet are hot, carefully put the chicken in the skillet, breast side up. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Continue to roast until the bird is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Continue roasting until chicken’s juices run clear when skin is pierced with a knife, 5 to 10 minutes longer if necessary. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh should read 155 to 165 degrees.

Carefully remove pan from oven and tip the pan to one end to let the juices flow from the cavity of the chicken. I set a folded pot holder under the pan on one side to keep it tipped. You can make gravy from the juices and drippings if you like. Maybe you will want to serve mashed potatoes. You can also spoon the drippings over the chicken prior to serving for more flavor and moistness. Let chicken stand 10 minutes before carving.

Serve with roasted veggies.

Use a combination of potatoes, carrots, onion and mushrooms (or whatever is your heart’s delight) cut into similar size pieces and tossed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper roasted on a hot baking sheet. I enjoy the flavor of Herbs de Provence and will add a little of this herb blend to them prior to roasting. Roast your veggies while the chicken roasts, but veggies will be done before your bird, so when they are fork tender, take them out of the oven and transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

After the chicken has rested a bit, cut it into serving size pieces and arrange on a big platter with your veggies surrounding them and spoon the drippings over the chicken. Put on some French music to listen to while dining. Bon appétit!

Put a smile on your face comfort food are Mom’s brownies. They are rich and chocolatey and oh, so easy to make. Tuck these in the pre-heated oven from roasting the chicken to bake while you are enjoying dinner and they will be ready in time for dessert. Serve with ice cream if you dare.

Mom’s Fudge Brownies

1- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

¾ cup cocoa

½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

Mix dry ingredients together well in a large bowl.

Add:

4 eggs lightly beaten

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

Oven 325 degrees. Spray a 9-inch-by-13-inch size baking pan with cooking spray.

Mix all together until just moist. Do not over-mix.

Bake 20-25 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Sift a bit of powdered sugar over the top when cooled a bit or frost with your favorite frosting.

After all this decadence, I better get my cross-country skis out and hit the trails as well!

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