Something simple for January…all those holiday parties and overindulging have us in need of good food easily made. This is one of my standbys, on regular rotation and always delicious. Honestly, I must have made this a million times. However, it never disappoints and, over the years, I have honed the recipe to perfection, even though I say it myself!
So let us begin at the beginning…
Roast a chicken. Buy a good organic free-range chicken, the better it is, the better it will taste.
I set my oven to 350, which is basically what I cook most things at. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Put it in a large baking pan. I use my trusty old Le Creuset skillet. But whatever you like the best.
Put half a lemon and a hand full of garlic cloves, skin and all, in the chicken cavity. Then peel a large sweet potato and dice it into pieces no larger than a small egg. With the tomatoes, I always used to use nice plump plum tomatoes, but recently I’ve been using lovely sweet cherry tomatoes, on the vine if you have them. Scatter the potato and the tomatoes around the base of the chicken and then sprinkle coarse salt and fresh ground pepper, douse with good olive oil, and put it in the oven.
Over the years I’ve tried different combinations of herbs and veg, but I’ve found that this simple mix works best. You want the chicken to roast and not poach in too much water from too many vegetables. This makes a deliciously moist chicken full of flavour.
It should take 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 hours, depending on the size of the chicken. I check it a couple of times to turn the potatoes and make sure the tomatoes okay. Then once it’s cooked you can get it out of the oven to cool a bit before the next stage.
Put a large pot of well-salted water to boil, about a teaspoon. For pasta, your water should be comme la mer, or like the sea. The salt brings out the flavour of the pasta. I like to use linguine, but you could use spaghetti. Not angel hair though, it’s too skinny and won’t hold the sauce.
Now to shred the chicken. This can be a bit tricky at first, but basically you are taking all the chicken off the bones in the skillet and setting the bones aside. To do this I use a carving fork and a regular fork. That way you can hold the carcass with the carving fork as you pull the chicken off the bones. Or you could use a knife, whatever works for you. I always freeze my chicken bones to make stock later. I also take off the chicken skin, you could eat that as you are pulling off the meat, as a cooks treat! Obviously, you leave the by-now caramelised and sticky sweet potatoes and tomatoes in with the chicken. You want the meat to be in bite-sized pieces, not too small, not too big and the potato and tomato will take care of themselves as you wrestle with the chicken. So you are left with meat and veg and olive oil and seasoning all mixed together in a gooey succulent mess…yum.
By now your pasta will be al dente and you can drain and then add to the pan. For one chicken I do about 3/4 1b of pasta, but you could easily stretch this to 1 1b, again depending on the size of the chicken.
Mix it all together well, getting everything off the bottom of the pan which is where all the flavour is. I use two wooden spoons and try not to flick anything I might want to eat everywhere, and then serve straight away. I always put some French bread in the oven at about 150 to warm and then smother in butter and have some Romano or Parmesan cheese to grate over it all too.
So simple! No wine or exotic ingredients. Just good food cooked not too quickly and with love. Works every time!! I cannot tell you how many happy smiling faces I have fed with this really simple and utterly delicious meal. Good food for a good life!
I organic free-range chicken
I large sweet potato
12 small sweet tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 – 3/4 lb pasta
6-7 whole garlic cloves
Fresh ground black pepper
Parmesan or Romano cheese