Back to Basics

Recipes | By Margaret M. Johnson

With the major cooking holidays behind us for a while, we can stop fretting about whether or not we’ll stuff the Christmas turkey or if we’ll serve ham or lamb for Easter. It’s time to get back to basics, and in my opinion, there’s nothing more basic — or delicious — than a lovely roasted chicken that can turn a weeknight meal into one worthy of a Sunday lunch. While the chicken is roasting, add a pan of olive oil-drizzled vegetables that will be ready when the chicken comes out of the oven, or pop in fresh asparagus for the last few minutes. All you need to do now is open the wine!

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Use an organic or free-range chicken for this simple recipe. You’ll taste the difference.

1 (5 to 6 pound) pasture-raised or organic chicken


Ground black pepper

Small bunch fresh thyme

1 lemon, cut in half

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Mixed fresh herbs, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 425° F.

2. Rinse chicken inside and out. Pat dry and sprinkle salt and pepper in cavity. Stuff with thyme and lemon.

3. Brush chicken with butter; sprinkle with herbs and additional salt and pepper.

4. Roast chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until juices run clear when you cut between leg and thigh. Remove from oven, transfer to platter, and cover with aluminum foil for 20 minutes. Slice chicken and serve.


Serves 6

A medley of roasted vegetables is a tasty accompaniment to the chicken. Once the hard work of peeling and cutting is finished, this becomes a one-pan dish (most of the vegetables can be prepared beforehand and stored in resealable bags in the refrigerator and you can also find pre-cut vegetables in most supermarkets). Roasting times vary a bit, so add the vegetables at the suggested intervals.

2 large carrots, cut into large slices

1 large rutabaga (yellow turnip or Swede), cut into 1-inch pieces

2 large parsnips, cut into large slices

1/2 pound baby or fingerling potatoes, halved

1 medium onion, quartered

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil


Ground black pepper

2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 leeks (white part only), washed thoroughly

1 bulb sweet fennel, quartered (optional)

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place carrots, rutabaga, parsnips, potatoes, onion and garlic in a large roasting pan; toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary.

2. Roast for 15 minutes, toss once; add leeks and fennel (if using). Roast for 30 to 40 minutes longer, or until all vegetables are browned and tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife; remove from oven. Transfer vegetables to a serving dish; drizzle with vinegar.



If you prefer a more springtime vegetable to accompany the chicken, try roasting asparagus and top them with toasted breadcrumbs and grated Dubliner cheese.

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup white breadcrumbs

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt

Ground black pepper

2 to 3 tablespoons grated Dubliner cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add breadcrumbs; stir for about 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from heat; let cool.

3. Toss asparagus with oil. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, shaking pan once halfway through, or until asparagus are lightly browned and tender.

4. To serve, arrange asparagus on a platter and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and grated cheese.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her new cookbook “Teatime in Ireland,” visit