Roasted Organic Chicken Thighs with Butternut Mash

It's recipe time once more!  We'll explore why butternut mash beats the pants off potatoes any day, and how to make finger licking sweet garlic cloves while roasting chicken thighs to perfection.  You'll need a skillet that can go into the oven, so its handle must be made of silicone or metal.  Several such skillets can be found in any store, even the grocery store.  Or you can use a cast iron skillet for this, but use a large one because you'll need some room.  So that's why I use a regular, not cast iron skillet.  I'm just not up to the weight of a large one every day.  Whether it's a special dinner or an everyday meal, add a salad to this, and you have a feast!

That crispy skin is scrumptious!
 You may have noticed that garlic can be roasted until it's soft and sweet, not pungent at all.  Or you might not have noticed yet.  This recipe features sweet-roasted garlic, and if you haven't had that before, you're in for a surprise.  When garlic is roasted, its enzymes interact to form a deeply sweet flavor, and has no pungency.

There's a very entertaining episode of Alton Brown's Food Network cooking show about garlic. Since Halloween just passed, it's particularly appropriate that it features Count Dracula.  I'm not sure of the legality of posting this link, but I do know, because I'm a fan of his, that it's currently impossible to buy most of his episodes, so until a complete set is available, or someone asks me to take it out, I'll leave it for you to enjoy and learn more about garlic:

The Bulb of the Night - Alton Brown Episode about Garlic

Locally I've had a hard time finding good garlic.  The organic garlic I've found has been moldy and it's gotten old enough to have space (shriveling due to water loss) between the outer skin and the bulbs.  There's also an odd browning in the outer skins, that indicates it may have been picked during a rain storm, which would explain the poor condition.  I also learned at Whole Foods for instance, they may not replenish the garlic often enough, and they may not notice that people have rejected bad garlic already and they should discard them and put out fresher ones.  Like apples, one bad bulb can spoil an entire display.

But I think the organic garlic crop this year is very poor and retailers should be rejecting some of it and getting refunds, not leaving customers to find the one or two decent ones and then ignoring the rest.  The stems are often cut off far too close to the bulbs as well, and this adds to the speed of water loss.  Retailers should never accept such obviously poor quality. There should be a 3/4 inch stem on each bulb so the cloves of garlic don't dry out. And the roots should never be black with mold.

So, you might be wondering why butternut squash?  I mean, it's yummy, but why is it better than potato when it's mashed?  First, the flavor of the slightly sweet butternut squash melds very well with sweet roasted garlic, and for another, nutrition.  Potatoes are notoriously short on nutritive value (except potassium, and squash has plenty of that too). They have a bit less carbs than carrots, with the same amount of vitamin A. You might be thinking, "My eyes are fine."  And they may be fine.  But Vitamin A is much more than a vitamin for eyesight.  

Celiac Disease is associated with other autoimmune illnesses and many such illnesses are suspected of eventually causing a kind of cancer called Non Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL).  It's also the endpoint of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a disease that will probably prove to be immune related since the new medical coding already notes that inefficient recovery from viral illness is a suspected cause.

Vitamin A is particularly good at preventing this form of cancer, and others. Other vitamins are also talked about when prevention of Lymphoma is the topic, such as D and K.  So far, there hasn't been enough definitive science to prove it, but I take it as a hint that people have studied forms of vitamin A for cancer recurrence prevention, and several synthetic vitamin A derivatives are currently patented drugs for various ailments.

All of these vitamins, A, K, and D, are fat soluble and require a meal with sufficient fat in it to be absorbed.  So if you're going to eat that delicious roasted chicken skin, it's great to pair it with something yummy and full of Vitamins A and K.  You'll have to rely on other methods for the D.  I consider this to be the perfect indulgence, yummy and nutritious!

I found a comparison of potatoes and butternut squash here, and the blog author is from Virginia! I'm obviously on the same wavelength as Darius.  What a happy find!
This recipe works well for my family because my husband doesn't like carrots and if I'm going to be efficient while cooking, I tend to avoid them also, so we can eat the same foods.  I love carrots, but it's a matter of doubling my work for making side dishes. Butternut squash is a winner at our house.  I sometimes make both this recipe and the Organic Chicken Stew at the same time, and I can use the water from the squash in the stew if I have no stock. 

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Butternut Mash, Gluten Free and Organic

Butternut Mash

1 medium organic butternut squash, peeled and seeded, then chopped into large chunks
2 Tablespoons drippings + 1 Tablespoon butter
3-5 roasted cloves of garlic
1/4-1/2 cups milk (any dairy ingredients can be substituted for non dairy versions)
a sparing pinch of salt

Squashes can be found organic in every Sprouts market locally, but many grocery stores also have them, the local brand name is M&M, so look for the tag and buy local when you can. You can boil and mash this ahead of time.

----->>> How to peel, seed and chunk butternut squash:   These grow quite large and that's part of the advantage.  You buy one and it lasts.  But it can be a pain to work with.  Here's how I do it, even on days when my stamina is not so great.

1.  To peel, first cut off both ends sparingly.  Then, cut in two, at the point where it starts getting thicker at the bottom, so you have one round, and one thinner piece.   Peel each piece separately.

2.  To cut:  First, cut the round part in half, and seed.  A grapefruit spoon works great for this.  Then cut each half in four long pieces, and across, to make about 8 pieces.  The longer portion of the squash: Place it with one of the flat sides down so it's sturdy.  Cut through from the top down to make four wedges, then chunk the wedges.

3. Add all to a boiling pot of water so it can soften for 10 minutes, then drain and treat exactly as if you're making mashed potatoes, or use my suggestion below.

To mash:  Since you're going to have the oil from the chicken thighs in the pan anyway, why not use two tablespoons of it in the mashed squash?  The flavor from the roasted chicken and garlic will infuse the squash.  I also add a tablespoon of goat butter and  a touch of soy milk to mine.

If you can't handle casein, then you'll have to use whatever works for you.  I seem to be OK with goat casein, at least the little bit in butter. Add the oil/butter and milk, and use a masher to cream it.  I also add a few of the roasted garlic cloves to make it even sweeter.  I'm usually a fan of salt, but in this case, be sparing.  The sweet flavor will make using salt unnecessary, which is great when you need to avoid salt.

Roasted chicken and garlic

4-pack of organic chicken thighs, with skin on
about one whole bulb of garlic, each clove peeled and left whole

This part is simpler even than the mash.  The tricky part is timing the roasting of the skin so it doesn't burn.  Because each batch of thighs will have varying amounts of water in it, I can only give you vague advice:  It will take at least 10 minutes and not more than 25 min to roast the skin to a golden brown.

The process is simply:

1.  grease the skillet lightly

2. place four thighs skin side down in an oven safe skillet

3. place garlic all around (in contact with the edges of the skillet)

4. roast on top of the stove, on medium-high heat until the skin is golden orange (not yet browned, but visibly getting there) -- use a splatter screen or shield.

5.  Flip the thighs over so the skin side is up

6.  pop the skillet into a preheated oven at 375 F, and bake for 35-40 min.  If you boned the meat first, reduce the time to 25 min and check for doneness.

Be sure most of the skin is in contact with the pan while on top of the stove, or you get a rubbery section that's very unpleasant to eat. I snip the meat a little bit away from the bone and that allows the thigh to flatten out more.  Kitchen shears are so important to my cooking methods that I have 4 sets! If you're using a whole chicken breast with ribs, you'll have to bone it first, so it can lay flat.

Sides:  The simplest side dish to this feast is some pickled banana peppers, or those pickled veggies (cauliflauer, carrots, celery, etc) you can find in grocery stores.  It cuts the sweetness of the squash / garlic, and the unctuousness of the meat. A nice side salad works great too.


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