Recipes: 'Fields of Plenty'

Fields of Plenty

Food writer and cookbook expert Heidi Swanson includes Fields of Plenty by Michael Ableman in her roundup of holiday cookbooks for Ableman and his son take a cross-country road trip of artisanal American farms.

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Roasted Chicken Charred with Rosemary

Theresa Salatin cooked up some amazing meals during our visit with them. The food which featured their own eggs and meats, was simple and delicious, without any hint of high-flying gourmet pretense.

I'm sure Joel and Theresa will get a laugh at the idea of exposing one of their pastured chickens to the following machinations, but I've eaten the results of this recipe, and it's great. The first time I saw it performed was by its creator, marc Peel, at one of Fairview Gardens' renowned outdoor Field to the Plate cooking classes. It's the perfect recipe for all you pyromaniacs, but remember to ignite the chicken outside! When Tasha DeSerio was testing this recipe, she got the crazy idea to fire it up in her garage. Her husband flipped out when he saw a bird on fire and black smoke pouring into the house.

The brine moistens and tenderizes the bird, especially the breast, and the charring makes it taste like it was cooked in a wood oven – which is a treat, coming out of a home oven.


1/3 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

5 leafy sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

4 black peppercorns

3 whole cloves

3 juniper berries

1 small dried red chile

8 cups water

1 whole organic chicken (about 4 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium yellow onions. cut into 1/2-inch dice

I head garlic, cloves separated, peeled and thinly sliced

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

2 dozen fresh rosemary sprigs, each about 6 inches long

2 large carrots, cut into 3-inch pieces (optional)

2 stalks celery, cut into 3-inch pieces (optional)

To make the brine:

Combine the salt, sugar, herbs, spices, and 2 cups of the water in a Iarge saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from the heal and add the remaining 6 cups water. Transfer the brine to a bowl with steep sides large enough to accommodate the chicken and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 4 hours. Submerge the chicken in the brine and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Remove the chicken from the brine and let stand at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat Add the olive oil, onions, and garlic and season generously with sail and pepper. Saute until the onions are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Remove the leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary and chop them finely to yield about 1 tablespoon. Stir the chopped rosemary into the onion mixture. Stuff the mixture into the cavity of the chicken, making sure not to pack too lightly. Season the chicken moderately with salt and pepper. Put the carrots and celery (if using) In a large roasting pan and place the chicken on top, or put the chicken on a roasting rack in a large roasting pan. Pile the remaining rosemary sprigs all over the chicken as if you ware building a tepee Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F and roast the chicken for 50 to 60 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown and the rosemary is charred. Remove the pan from the oven, take the chicken in the roasting pan outside, and ignite the charred rosemary with a match. (An outdoor grill is a convenient place for this burning step.) Let the rosemary bum until the flames die down completely, then return the chicken to the house and let rest in a warm place for 10 to 15 minutes.

Before serving, brush the burned rosemary off the chicken and discard the stuffing. Carve the bird and serve.

Serves 4 to 6.

Winter Root Mash

This recipe was adapted from the root mash Odessa Piper prepares with Richard de Wilde and Linda Halley's celery root and Jerusalem artichokes. It's rich and earthy, and delicious served with a pat of butter and sprinkled with crunchy sea salt.

1 medium celery root, peeled

1 large parsnip, peeled

1/2 pound Jerusalem artichokes (about 7 small to medium artichokes), peeled

2 medium parsley roots, peeled

Kosher salt to taste

2 pounds potatoes (about 3 large potatoes) such as Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn, peeled and each cut into 8 pieces

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra fro serving

About 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, or milk, warmed

Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Sea salt to taste

Cut the celery root, parsnip, Jerusalem artichokes, and parsley root into pieces of similar size and shape-about 1/4 inch thick. Put the roots in a medium saucepan with water to cover by 1 inch. Season the water with a generous amount of salt — it should taste almost like seawater. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat, and gently cook until all of the roots are completely tender when pierced with a knife, 25 to 30 minutes — be sure to check each variety of root vegetable. Drain and spread the roots out on a baking sheet to dry in a warm place, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a separate medium saucepan with water to cover by 1 inch. Season the water in the same manner as the root vegetables and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat and gently cook the potatoes until they are completely tender when pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes. Drain and spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet to dry in a warm place, about 5 minutes.

While the roots and potatoes are still warm, pass them through a food mill and into a large bowl along with the 1/4 cup butter. Stir in about 1/2 cup warm heavy cream, or enough so that the puree reaches the desired consistency. Season the mash with pepper and more salt if necessary. Serve with a pat of sweet butter sprinkled with crunchy sea salt.

Serves 4.

From Fields of Plenty by Michael Ableman. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Books Featured In This Story

Fields of Plenty

A Farmer's Journey in Search of Real Food and the People Who Grow It

by Michael Ableman

Hardcover, 255 pages | purchase

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Fields of Plenty
A Farmer's Journey in Search of Real Food and the People Who Grow It
Michael Ableman

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