Autumn Chicken Roast

Ah yes, Autumn! The time of year where the temperature cools with a comfortable, crisp breeze and the forest trees turn into beautiful, vibrant seas of yellow, orange, and red colors. It is a transitory season known for peace, tranquility, and reflection as you watch the fall leaves glide gently down your lawn as you sip on a warm, soothing pumpkin-based beverage on your front porch rocking chair.

…unless you live in Southern California like me, where there are no such things as fall colors and cold winters. Here, we only have two seasons: hot scorching summers, and slightly colder summers. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can comfortably go surfing in the afternoon and make it home in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Although autumn vibes don’t roll through where I’m from, we fortunately can still enjoy the wonderful fall harvest through cooking amazing, wholesome and easy dishes like this one, which takes full advantage of in-season harvested produce such as sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and sweet, crispy Fuji apples!

If you want to learn to make this, come FALLow along!

Ingredients (Feeds 5-6 people)
-6 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
-1-2 Fuji apple(s)
-2 large sweet potatoes (I peeled the skin off, but you can leave it on if you like to have some skin in the game)
-1 lb brussels sprouts (about 10-15)
-1 Tbsp thyme (dried works, but fresh for extra credit)
-1 Tbsp rosemary (dried works, but fresh for extra credit)
-1 Tbsp olive oil
-Kosher salt, to taste
-Black pepper, to taste

Procedure
Chicken Preparation
1) Begin by generously coating all sides chicken thighs with kosher salt and black pepper.
2) Allow to dry brine with skin-side up uncovered or partially uncovered for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, in the fridge.
3) After brining, pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.
4) Heat olive oil in a pan on medium high heat.
5) When oil is hot, add the chicken skin-side down and allow to cook for 2 minutes to crisp up the skin.
6) Flip chicken to other side cook for 30 seconds.
7) Chicken isn’t fully cooked at this point. Don’t eat this yet please.

Roast Preparation
1) Pre-heat oven to 450°F roast.
2) Cube your sweet potatoes into approx 3/4ths inch cubes.
3) Cut off the stem end of brussels sprouts. Then cut vertically through the brussels sprout so that you have two symmetrical halves.
4) Cut apples into 3/4th inch wedges, with core removed.
5) Transfer cut sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and apples into a mixing bowl. Add olive oil and season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper. Gently toss or mix to coat.
5) Transfer seasoned veggies and apples to a baking tray and spread into an even layer.
6) Add the pan-seared chicken thighs on top of the vegetable/apple layer.
7) Evenly sprinkle thyme and rosemary across the baking pan.
8) Put baking pan into the oven and roast for approx 25-30 minutes, or until chicken internal temperature reads 175°F.
9) Allow chicken to rest for approx 5 minutes prior to serving.

Observations/Tips
-You might be thinking “Wait 175°F? Frank, that’s a typo, dude. C’mon now. Chicken cooks at 165°F! Anything more and you’re asking for some dry, stringy chicken!!” According to the FDA, chicken (and other poultry) is considered thoroughly cooked and safe to eat at 165°F. The 165°F target temperature is useful for predominantly white, boneless chicken meat (such as the chicken breast). I recommend trying to stay as close to 165°F if you substitute with chicken breast for this recipe (or any other recipe using breast), as breasts can dry out if you overshoot the temperature too much.
-However, chicken thighs are quite different as they are known to have more dark meat than white meat. Dark chicken meat has a greater abundance of a protein known as collagen, which helps provide strength and support to the thigh. This protein also gives some chewiness to the meat (which we don’t want). However, it’s been observed that this chewy, rough collagen melts into a much more tender gelatin protein at 180-190°F, giving a juicier, more tender thigh. So although it is safe to eat thighs at 165°F, it is actually more beneficial to cook until target temperature of 180-190°F.
-I like to remove the chicken from the oven at 175°F. The carryover heat will bring the chicken up to 180-190°F while the chicken is resting.
-Leaving your chicken partially covered or uncovered will help remove moisture on the skin. This sounds like a bad thing, but it actually really helps with getting a real crispy skin when you cook.
-Dry brining is much encouraged to bring your thighs to next-level juiciness. In a dry brine, the salt draws moisture out from the thigh, in which the moisture dissolves the salt. In turn, the salty-water reabsorbs back into the thigh, and retains much better. Without a dry-brine, chicken thighs can be more unforgiving and dry if you accidentally overcook it. With a dry-brine, it can still retain a lot of flavor and meat even if you overshoot your temperatures. If you decide to use chicken breast as a healthier alternative, then this brining is even more essential for maintaining juiciness.

References
Cooking Classy’s One-Pan Autumn Chicken Dinner Recipe
MeatScience.Org “Does Muscle Tissue Contain Different Types of Protein?”

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