From couscous to quinoa, Maria Speck explores the art of cooking and baking whole grains with strong Mediterranean influences in Simply Ancient Grains.
This is a scrumptious one-skillet meal, easy to put together yet with enough panache to make dinner guests happy too. Tender leeks first roast in the aromatic juices of your chicken. While the chicken rests, you add some barley and allow the sweet leeks with their burnished edges to melt into the chewy grains. There are a few simple steps, but I have streamlined them for you to make it easy.
- To prepare the citrus rub, finely grate the zest of the lemon and the orange. Reserve the orange for another use. Cut the lemon in half crosswise, and cut one half into 2 pieces (reserve the other half for another use); set aside. Add both types of zest, the fennel, thyme, pepper, and salt to a small bowl and combine well with a fork.
- To prepare the chicken, pat it dry and trim any excess fat. Spread some citrus rub all over the skin and sprinkle inside the cavity. Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin from the breast meat and both thighs to create pockets so you can spread some of the citrus rub there as well. Place the 2 lemon pieces and the garlic inside the cavity and close it with kitchen twine. Place the chicken on a plate in the fridge without touching anything. Chill, uncovered, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
- About 2½ hours before you want to eat, remove the chicken from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. After half an hour, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 475°F. Brush a 12-inch cast-iron skillet (or a similar-size roasting pan) with oil.
- Once the oven is preheated, add the leeks to a large bowl. Sprinkle with the fennel seeds, 1⁄4 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and toss with your hands until the vegetables are well coated. Spread the leeks across the bottom of the skillet. Rub the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil across the skin of the chicken, and sprinkle with the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt. Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the leeks in the center of the skillet. Tie the legs together and tuck the wing tips under the body. If you have a meat thermometer with an attached rope, insert it now into the thickest part of the thigh.
- Roast the chicken for 25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and continue roasting until the thermometer registers 165°F, 35 to 40 minutes more, depending on size.
- While the chicken is roasting, cook the barley: Add the water, barley, zest, and bay leaf to a 2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the grains are tender with a bit of a chew, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the zest and the bay leaf. Drain and set aside.
- Wearing thick oven mitts, carefully remove the skillet from the oven and transfer the chicken to a large cutting board, loosely tent with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes; your meat will be so much juicier.
- While the chicken rests, add the cooked grains to the leeks in the skillet and sprinkle with the thyme. Pour in the wine—just enough to nicely moisten the grains and vegetables—and stir well to combine. Return the pan to the oven for about 10 minutes, until the grains are heated through, then turn off the oven and keep the door ajar until ready to serve.
- To finish, carve the chicken. Remove the leek and barley mixture from the oven, stir through once, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve each portion of leeks and barley with a piece of the chicken.
Reprinted with permission from Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck, copyright © 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.