Sweater weather is the best season for cooks. It's a time to wander through farmers markets, navigating stalls piled high with the harvest — glistening peppers, striped squash, verdant leeks, rainbows of potatoes, ropes of garlic and wild mushrooms.
When home, simply pan roast your bounty with chicken thighs for a robust dinner that's pretty enough for a casual party, yet quick enough for a Tuesday night meal. You really don't need a recipe; this dish is all about technique. In truth, it practically cooks itself.
It's best to use skin-on, bone-in chicken legs and thighs; they'll stay moist and tender, and there's no worry they'll overcook. A cast iron pan works best, but any heavy skillet will do. Begin by sizzling them skin side down to render the fat so they turn super crisp (just like bacon). Then add the vegetables and give them a toss so they're glossy and don't stick. Once all the ingredients are snuggled together, shove the pan into the oven — and that's it.
Before serving, baste everything with a little sage butter and a splash of wine or citrus juice; the chicken emerges burnished brown and the vegetables tender and caramelized.
Use your favorite fall vegetables and adjust the seasonings to taste. In our recipe, sweet butternut squash plays off the woodsy mushrooms and dusky sage. You might try mellow leeks and buttery yellow potatoes sparked with rosemary and thyme. Or think about sweet potatoes and red peppers with a dash of hot red pepper flakes and the tangy drizzle of lime.
All you need with this autumnal dinner is plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices and a crisp green salad on the side.
Pan Roasted Chicken with Autumn Vegetables and Sage Butter
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: A robust one-pot dish, this makes an easy weeknight dinner or a casual party meal. Use any squash you like. Serve over wild rice or with plenty of crusty bread for mopping up the pan juices. From Beth Dooley.
• 6 to 8 cuts of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and legs
• 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
• 1⁄2 lb. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
• 1/2 lb. butternut squash, seeded, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-in. chunks
• 2 tbsp. olive or hazelnut oil
• 1/4 c. dry white wine
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 4 sage leaves, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, minced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken, skin side down, in a 12-inch cast iron pan or heavy skillet and set over medium-high heat. Sizzle the chicken until the fat begins to render and the skin starts to crisp. Turn chicken pieces over and add the onion, mushrooms and squash under and around the chicken, tossing a little to glaze them with the pan juices. Sprinkle with the oil, add the wine and season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Put the pan in the oven and continue roasting until the chicken is deep gold and the squash is well cooked, about 35 to 45 minutes. (The chicken should reach at least 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer but will remain moist to 185 degrees.)
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mash together the butter, sage and garlic with the back of a fork. Put dollops of the sage-garlic butter over the chicken and squash and continue cooking just until fragrant.
Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.