Quick Roasted Chicken with White Beans and Chard

I’m up early–before the kids and my husband.  I relish this time of morning when I feel as though I can accomplish anything.  Even sitting here in my messy office, I can forget that I fell asleep while putting my 2 year old to bed last night and didn’t run the dishwasher, or even finish loading it.  Or pick up the stragglers from the toy room that I’ll trip over as I’m rushing to get my oldest off to school.  Oh, well.  That’s life.  More often than not, it’s cluttered and disorganized.

The other night I pulled together a really good dinner.  Good dinners are few and far between as my husband and I both get busier and busier with the various projects we have going–which is a good thing.

At first glance this recipe seems a little complicated.  But truly, I threw it together in an afternoon.  The prep time isn’t a significant amount of time and the cooking time only requires that you check in periodically to see how things are coming.  It’s no 30 minute meal, but the extra time and bit of effort pay off in the end.

Quick Roasted Chicken with White Beans and Chard

One 3 lb. whole chicken cut into parts, do not remove skin or bones (save the wings and back for making stock)
Brine:  1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup sugar, a lot of cold water
4 tsp. olive oil, divided
4 cups cooked white beans (canned or homemade)
1 onion
Chicken stock (about 4 cups, see below)
1/2 cup white wine (optional, use extra water or stock)
32 oz. canned tomatoes, diced or whole (use a knife to quarter whole tomatoes before using)
1 large bunch chard (whatever you have, or spinach), rinsed well and sliced crosswise into thin ribbons
salt and pepper, to taste


Prepare the brine:  Fill a very large bowl 3/4 with cold water.  Add the salt and sugar and stir to dissolve.  Rinse the chicken pieces under cool water and place into the bowl.  Allow the chicken to sit out in the brine at room temperature for 30 minutes.  (This is a quick brine and does not need to go into the fridge.  The chicken should be at room temperature or slightly cooler for cooking anyway.)

Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse well under cool water.  Pat dry with paper towels.

To make the stock:  While the chicken is in the brine, make a quick stock with the wings, neck and back.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot (at least 3 quarts).  Add the wings, neck and back and brown evenly in the oil.  Add cool water to cover by an inch or two.  Bring to a simmer and skim the surface frequently to remove the foam and extra fat.  Continue simmering until ready to use.  Add more water as necessary to keep the chicken parts covered.  Strain to remove the solids.  Skim the surface of excess fat.  (It doesn’t have to be totally free of the fat.  It will add more flavor when you use it.)  Set aside.

For the chicken:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Heat a 12″ heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  (I used a cast iron, see my notes on that below.)  Add 2 tsp. of olive oil to the pan.  When it shimmers, add the chicken breasts, thighs, and drumsticks to the pan, skin side down. Work in batches if the pieces don’t all fit at the same time.  Turn down the heat if needed to prevent burning.  Allow the skin to brown sufficiently, about 4 minutes, and turn the chicken pieces over.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove from pan and place in a glass baking dish skin side up.  Place the chicken into the oven and roast, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, remove most of the excess fat from 12″ skillet, leaving about 1 tsp.  Add the onions and saute until they start to soften and brown.  Add the beans, tomatoes, wine (if using), and enough of the reserved stock to cover.  Simmer on low, adding more stock, if needed, and stirring occasionally so the beans don’t dry out or stick to the bottom of the skillet.

When the chicken has cooked through, remove from the oven.  Place the chicken pieces on a plate and cover with foil and let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving.  If desired, strain the juices from the glass pan, skim off the excess fat and add the remaining drippings to the beans and tomatoes.

Add the chard to the beans and tomatoes right before serving and cook for about 5 minutes until the leaves soften and wilt.  (Don’t overcook it!)  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a good amount of the beans on the plate and top with a piece of the roasted chicken.  (Or, if it’s my house…remove all the chicken from the bones and slice, giving each person their fair share of dark and light meat and crispy skin.  My son and daughter love the skin–they call it chicken bacon.)

Makes enough for 4-6 people with ample leftovers for lunch the next day.

Side note about using cast iron skillets:  I would not use my cast iron for this if I had a stainless steel 12″ skillet with deep sides.  I don’t, so I use what I have.  The acidity from the wine and tomatoes will remove some of the seasoning from your cast iron.  If that bothers you, then by all means use a large enameled or stainless steel Dutch oven or stock pot.  Just make sure whatever you use is heavy-duty so the beans don’t burn on the bottom.

To make this vegan or vegetarian:  Don’t use the chicken or the chicken stock.  We eat the beans with the chard (or spinach) all the time this way.  My kids and hubby were ready for some chicken, so I made it that way this time.  It is still very filling and nutritious.

I have to tell you something I was able to do in Lightroom as I was editing these.  (I LOVE LIGHTROOM!)

The two pictures above are not perfect.  By the time we sat down to eat dinner, the sun had set and no natural light was to be had.  So, I had to use our overhead lights in our dining area.  Not the best for taking pictures, I can assure you.  I tried my flash, but the pictures were absolutely terrible.  So, I did my best and adjusted my white balance in camera.  (Refer to your camera’s manual if you don’t know what I am talking about, or e-mail me.)  I have only been shooting RAW files since I learned how much better that is on my trip to San Francisco.  Totally worth the extra space on the card.

In Lightroom, you can play around with the white balance even more.  The wiggle room you have is so much bigger when you shoot RAW files.  With JPEGs, the camera makes some decisions for you and you can’t change them later on.  RAW records all data, which is why the files are so much larger.

I used the custom tool to find a neutral color and pick that as the reference.  It happened to be the black of my cast iron skillet.  A little more tweaking and I got rid of all the yellow.  One day I will know exactly what I’m doing and I’ll be able to tell you exactly what I did.  For now, it’s good enough to say that the tools in Lightroom are much better than what I had been using.  Totally user friendly for people like me who really need a Photo Editing For Dummies book.

You can see in the before and after how much better it looks. Still not perfect, but a little more appetizing, right?

Would anyone be interested in me sharing my vast knowledge of food photography with you occasionally on ye olde blogge?  (Please note the sarcasm with the word ‘vast’.  I’m still learning too.)

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  1. i would love for you to share your knowledge b/c i have none. i hate when there is no light and then i just don’t want to take pictures.

    i love seeing glimpses of you kitchen in the background….the red scale, etc. the food looks delicous too.

  2. Lightroom is awesome I totally agree. Your dinner looks great. The plan is to make roasted chicken tomorrow. The plan was to make it today but it never happened. Tomorrow it will all happen and if not we’ll eat quesadillas again.

  3. I really, really love the photographs in this post. That chicken looks so crisp, and that is the freshest I’ve ever seen swiss chard look – beautiful ! I also must say I quite like the change in white balance – do you do all of your processing in Lightroom? And, do you always shoot RAW, or JPEG+RAW as well ?

    Looks really delicious, I hope you don’t mind that I printed the recipe for this one : )

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