A reader asks for a vegetarian appetizer suitable for a Halloween-themed party. Learn why a jack o’ lantern isn’t your best pie pumpkin, and check out three vegetarian appetizers, on the Great Pumpkin page.
Do you have an hour? You can make this meal.
The key is to break down the chicken rather than roasting it whole, because the parts will cook within 30 minutes. Meanwhile, as the chicken roasts and then rests, make the soup and prep the brussels sprouts.
1 chicken, broken down, breasts and leg/thigh quarters only
1 oz cold butter, flaked with fork
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp espelette pepper (or black pepper with a tiny pinch of cayenne)
2 sprigs thyme, leaves minced
1/2 lb sprouts, ends trimmed, halved
2 slices Nueske’s bacon or other smoky bacon, diced (1/4″)
Butternut squash soup:
1 leek, white only, washed well and julienned
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced (1/2″)
1 quart chicken stock
4-5 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
kosher salt, celery salt
espelette and cayenne pepper ((or black pepper with a tiny pinch of cayenne)
2 oz butter
handful sage leaves
Chicken: 40 minutes
Cut the leg-thigh joint (do not cut through meat). Combine butter, salt, espelette, and thyme. Gently lift the skin on the chicken but do not remove; stuff bits of the butter mixture under the skin. Season the skinless side lightly with salt.
Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a small amount of olive oil when hot. Add chicken, skin side down. Baste meat as butter melts. Turn chicken over, baste again, and place in oven. Roast, basting twice, for 20 minutes. Test for doneness (165F). Remove and rest. Immediately before serving, return to pan skin-side up and baste skin with melted butter. Place under broiler and heat to crisp skin.
Soup: about 30 minutes
Sweat the onion and leek until tender in a small quantity of vegetable oil in a stock pot. Do not allow to caramelize. Add the squash and sweat until tender. Saute for about ten minutes until the squash has begun to soften. Add the herbs and the stock. Simmer until the squash is tender enough to fall apart when pressed with a fork.
Remove the thyme branches and bay leaves. Puree in a blender, in batches if necessary. Process the purée through a tamis. Return the purée to a sauce pot and bring to a simmer; reduce to the desired texture. Season with salt, cayenne, and espelette. Seasoning with a small amount of celery salt in lieu of salt reduces the sometimes too-sweet taste of the squash.
To serve: heat butter until foamy and beginning to turn light gold; add sage and fry until crisp. Add a squeeze of lemon and pinch of salt. Add sage leaves and brown butter to soup.
Brussels sprouts: 10 minutes
Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and fry until crisp. Remove bacon but reserve fat. Add halved sprouts, cut side down, and reduce heat to medium-low. Flip over when beginning to turn golden brown on cut side. Return bacon to pan and cook 2 minutes more. Season with salt.