KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Dinner for a Crowd -- Roasted Chicken and Italian Sausage
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Saturday, February 09, 2008
Dinner for a Crowd -- Roasted Chicken and Italian Sausage



When I was a kid, my mom would make these fabulous and enormous dinners when family and friends came to our house. She’d work for two days making heaping piles of meatballs, stuffed artichokes, baked ziti, eggplant Parmesan, and a host of other delicious Italian dishes. I loved all these dishes (and still do) but came to really appreciate the easy simplicity of her baked chicken and Italian sausage dish once I started hosting my own parties.

Roasted chicken and sausage is really the perfect meal for a crowd (although it’s also pretty darn good for a family dinner). First of all, it’s incredibly easy to make and you can finish most of the dish before your guests come over. Then, as the dish cooks, you get the extra benefit of having your home infused with the lovely aroma of roasted meat that will prime your guests for their upcoming meal. Another bonus is that it’s an economical meal to serve to a large group.

Easy and affordable are great, but in the end, it’s really about taste. The biggest reason I make this dish is because I love chicken and sausage, and in this dish, the comforting appeal of roasted chicken is intermingled with the savory deliciousness of baked sausage to form a beautiful marriage of flavor. I often use Molinari sweet Italian sausage from Piedmont Grocery. I really like the flavor of this sausage, as well as the fact that Molinari and Sons is a San Francisco company that has been selling sausages locally since 1896.

For the chicken, I use a nice organic Petaluma Poultry Rosie, also from Piedmont Grocery. It warms my heart to think of all those little chickens running around outdoors, gobbling up organic corn and soybeans before they meet that great chicken in the sky. As a mother, I appreciate the fact that there aren't hormones in it, and, as someone who tries to buy locally, I love that it's sustainably farmed nearby.

I ask my butcher to cut my Rosies (I usually make two for a dinner party) into eight pieces each (legs, thighs, and quartered breasts). When I get home, I split these into two baking dishes. I then halve my sausages so they are smaller. Most people will eat one half sausage with a piece of chicken, so it’s easier to cut them up before you cook them. Cutting the sausages also helps those lovely pork juices spill into and fuse with the chicken drippings. I then divide the sausages into the two baking dishes and cover everything with a healthy portion of extra virgin olive oil. I toss on some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to season the meat, and then throw on some fresh rosemary. I round the seasonings out by grating off the zest of a lemon with my zester/grater. Now comes the fun part -– I mix it all up with my hands, making sure that the olive oil and seasoning are massaged under the chicken skin and onto the actual meat. My kids often want to do this, but I’m too paranoid to let them touch raw meat. Sorry, girls. Maybe when you're sixteen.

After the meats, olive oils, and seasonings commingle for at least an hour in the refrigerator (and up to a day), I'm ready to cook. While preheating the oven, I thickly slice some russet potatoes and slip them under the chicken and sausages. I’ve found that by tucking these under the meat, they capture the pan juices, which seasons the potatoes. Also, as the potatoes sit at the bottom of the pan, the bottoms crisp during baking. I then add wedges of yellow onions, which help to flavor the meat and also caramelize in the oven. Finally, after the dish is about half finished, I add a few red and yellow peppers, their sweet fresh flavor nicely accenting the roasted meat.

I’ve served this dish probably over 50 times. It’s perfect for family meals, as most kids love chicken and sausage, but you can also lay everything out nicely on a pretty platter for grown up dinners. Served with a nice bottle of wine, some crunchy Italian bread, and a pretty salad, it's the perfect dish for company. Now I know why my mom made it all the time.

Baked Chicken and Italian Sausage

Ingredients
2 Rosie chickens cut up
8 Mild Italian Molinari sausages
3 Medium yellow onions
6 Large russet potatoes
2 Tbsp rosemary leaves
2/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil (This measurement can vary. You want to use enough oil to thoroughly coat the meat without making it super oily. Use your best judgment.)
The zest from one large lemon
3 Large red or yellow peppers
1 Tsp Salt and Pepper each

Preparation

1. Divide chickens and sausages into two baking pans and top with the rosemary, salt, pepper and lemon zest, along with enough olive oil to thoroughly coat the meat (Divide everything between the two pans).
2. Mix seasonings into the meat with your hands, being sure to get the seasoned oil under the chicken skin and onto the meat.
3. Let marinate for at least an hour and up to a day in the refrigerator (if you don’t have time, you can bake it immediately, but the chicken will have more of a lemony-rosemary taste if it marinates first).
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
5. Peal potatoes and cut them into ¼-inch thick slices
6. Slide potato slices under the chicken and sausage pieces.
7. Chop onions into wedges and add them to the mix.
8. Drizzle more olive oil on top.
9. Cover pans with aluminum foil and bake for a half hour.
10. After a half hour has passed, uncover the pans and cook for another 15 minutes.
11. Remove the pans from the oven to add the red and yellow peppers. Turn the sausages over so the undersides get a chance to brown.
12. Bake for another 5-15 minutes or until the chicken and sausage are browned and reach 170 degrees.
13. Place bread in the oven for about five minutes to heat it.
14. Serve on a platter with the bread.

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