My mother’s recipe for this dish calls it “balsamic chicken”, a title that hides what I love most about it. It’s all about the veggies. Asparagus. Red bell peppers. Carrots. Mushrooms. Onions. The wealth of veggies makes the meal a vibrant one, pleasing to look at as well as to eat.
Appealing to senses besides taste and smell is an important feature for a meal. (Though I continue to make and enjoy meals that are completely un-Instagramable.) The chef Tamar Adler writes about this in the most profound cookbook I’ve ever read, An Everlasting Meal. “Scientists continue to study what satisfies us in eating,” she writes. “It’s not a simple chemistry of starches and proteins. We feel sated when our senses have been animated.”
This meal animates the senses straight away, and then continues to do so with each bite. The marinade’s tangy-sweet balsamic vinaigrette ensures that. It’s a fresh, flavorful meal that I now beg my mother to make every time I’m visiting.
It’s an especially good meal to make this time of year, when the long-awaited asparagus heralds the beginning of the local produce season. It’s easy enough for a weeknight meal, but fancy enough for company.
And, for easy food prep, you can make it in stages. The day before you plan to eat this meal, you can throw the marinade together. In fact, my mom recommends making the marinade a day ahead of time because then the flavors have time to blend. You could also clean and chop the veggies the day before and keep them in the fridge until ready to use. On the morning you’re planning to cook the meal, start to marinade the chicken. Then, that evening, you can throw dinner together in a matter of minutes.
This kind of planning ahead always makes me feel almost like someone else has done my cooking for me, even if that someone was my past self.
- 8 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- fresh black pepper, to taste
- 10 medium asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in half
- 2 red bell peppers
- 1 onion, chopped in large chunks
- ½ cup carrots, sliced in half long, cut into 3-inch pieces
- 5 oz sliced mushrooms
- Olive oil to grease the pan
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1½ tablespoons fresh rosemary
- ½ tbsp dried oregano or thyme
- ½ tbsp dried basil
- Make the marinade, and then divide it in half.
- Season the chicken with salt & pepper. Marinate in half of the marinade for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven 425. Rub baking trays with olive oil. While the oven is heating, toss the veggies in the other half of the marinade.
- Arrange the veggies and the chicken onto prepared baking sheets in single layer. Veggies should not touch chicken or it will steam instead of roast.
- Bake 20 to 25 minutes, till the chicken is cooked through and veggies roasted and tender.