Let me tell you what I love more than just about anything: one pot/skillet meals. Let me tell you what I hate: doing dishes! So, when I think up recipes, I try to think of the process with those things I love (and hate) in mind. It’s not just for simplicity’s sake, either. I live in a cabin in the middle of a birch and spruce tree forest. Every month or so, water is delivered to our cabin because we’re not on a city water line, nor do we have a well. Instead, we have a holding tank buried deep in the ground. Plumbing works as it would in a normal house, other than the fact we have a reserved amount. Because of this, we’ve grown very conscientious of how much water we use on a daily basis.
Believe it or not, many Alaskans live in what’s called a dry cabin. There’s no holding tank, no indoor plumbing. To get water, they fill up 5 gallon jugs at the local watering hole (quite literally). That process looks something like this:
I admire the hell out of those people who live without indoor plumbing and instead use outhouses in -50 degree weather. I kind of drew a line in the snow when I moved here because I love showers in the morning, even if I ration shower time to 4 minutes.
Back to one skillet meals. Last weekend, I had a real hankerin’ for spinach-artichoke dip. Because of my hibernating tendencies in the winter, I try to avoid really rich, obscenely fatty foods. I don’t do enough in a day to burn it off, and I should say: you’ve NEVER had a craving for rich, fatty foods like the ones you have when you live in a place as cold and dark as this. It’s straight-up survivor auto-pilot. To keep things a little lighter, I had the idea to make a main course using some of the key players in spinach-artichoke dip and this is what I came with.My kitchen bible is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. This behemoth cookbook has the widest range of recipes with the simplest ingredients (his dubbed NY Times title is The Minimalist for that very reason) and variations for the majority of the recipes. Bittman has never steered me wrong before. In fact, we eat the creamy leek pasta dish once a week. I used his roast chicken technique here because it gets the skin really crispy, which I love.
Roasted Chicken stuffed with Artichoke Hearts
with spinach and mushrooms
5-6 lb. chicken
1 head of garlic, minced and divided
1 Tbsp. olive oil or butter
1 can artichokes (or 1 bag frozen)
2 cups raw spinach, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 cup wild and brown rice mixture
2 1/2 cups chicken stock, +more if needed
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme and tarragon, no need to chop
(oregano would work, too)
Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a large cast iron skillet in the oven to preheat. Meanwhile, rinse the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. Season the outside of the chicken with olive oil (or butter), salt, and pepper to taste. Cut the lemon in two and throw in the cavity, along with 1/2 of the garlic, a handful of artichokes and fresh herbs.
When the oven and pan are very hot (after 10 minutes or so), place the chicken, breast-side up, in the skillet. Get ready! It gets a little smoky. Roast for 15 minutes at 450°F (this will get the skin crispy and brown). Take the skillet out of the oven and add the rice, stock, mushrooms, artichokes, spinach, the rest of the garlic, and other spices to taste to the skillet. Stick everything back in the oven and then roast 45-60 minutes more at 350°F. An instant-read thermometer should read 155°F when inserted into the meaty part of the thigh. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes.
*If you check the bird and notice the rice is a little dry, simply add more chicken stock and do the best you can to give it a stir. All the juices from the chicken will add flavor and moisture but a little extra stock never hurts.
**If the rice starts to get over cooked and crunchy, with or without extra moisture, fashion a tin foil ring to place over the rice, leaving the chicken exposed to the elements in the center.