by Erin McNelis
A lot of attention and emphasis has been paid to eating both locally and seasonally in the past few years. With farmers markets happening all over the county on several days of the week, it is easier than it has been in decades to do that. Now that it is fall, and the glut of tomatoes and corn is gone, some people may wonder if it is back to the grocery store and to prepackaged food until spring. That used to be the case for me and my family. In summer there was fresh produce from my grandfather's garden, and then we went back to eating meat and metallic tasting canned green beans. But since I was eight, I have learned a few things about how food is grown and what is in season. A fall food season exists. People just have to be willing to change the menu up a little.
This fall, I learned about the amazing taste of a mushroom I had never heard of. The mushrooms, foraged by wildcrafter Chris Darrah and available at the Doylestown, Wrightstown, and Lansdale farmers markets, are called Hen of the Woods. They are a brown and gray, leafy mushroom with an earthy aroma, good for tossing with pasta, added to chicken dishes, or made into a bruschetta with a shallot, some salt, and sundried tomatoes. That's what I did with mine at the recommendation of Chris's wife, Patty. You can find her at the farmer's markets, too. The couple runs the Mainly Mushrooms table at the farmer's markets, and they offer recipes with all of the mushrooms they offer.
To follow my Hen of the Woods bruschetta, I roasted some chicken legs and cauliflower, another vegetable in season at the moment, meaning that now it has the best flavor. The following recipe uses so much garlic and cooks the cauliflower just right so that it has none of its characteristic bitterness that some people find off-putting. The cauliflower was soft and sweet and just the thing on a chilly fall night. I threw together some mixed greens, an apple, and some dried cranberries for a side salad.
For the main dish, the first step is chopping up a lot of garlic. The recipe calls for 12 cloves, which is one bulb, give or take a few cloves. The recipe simple says to season the chicken legs. Because it was my first time with the recipe, I only used salt and pepper. The next time I make it, I will use a little paprika as well. Other herbs that might go well with the dish include rosemary, sage, or thyme or any mix called poultry seasoning. Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan and cook the chicken meat side down for about 8 minutes or until it is brown. Then flip them over and cook them on the other side for another 5 minutes or so. Then you take them out and put the garlic and cauliflower florets in the pan, cooking them until the cauliflower browns a little. I transferred my cauliflower mixture into a Pyrex baking dish, put the chicken on top, and baked it in the oven at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes. Its simplicity makes it great.
Roasted Chicken and Cauliflower from rachaelraymag.com
4 whole chicken legs
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 c cauliflower florets
12 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
- Transfer to plate.
- Cook until cauliflower begins to brown, 5 minutes.
- Top with chicken; bake until chicken is cooked through, 25 minutes.