Dressing up the menu for Sunday dinner


Brunch on Sunday seems to have taken the place of the meal that once anchored the week. But there's something to be said for a leisurely midday or evening dinner. Instead of rushing about on Sunday as if it were just like any other day in the week, why not take time one Sunday to gather with family and friends for a delectable meal and easy conversation.

Roast Chicken With Citrus and Thyme

Serves 6 (with leftovers)

1 orange, scrubbed and cut in half

1 lemon, scrubbed and cut in half

1 7-to-8-pound roasting chicken, giblets and neck reserved

salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

8 sprigs fresh thyme

2 onions, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups defatted reduced-sodium chicken stock

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water

Place oven rack at the lowest position. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut 1 orange half and 1 lemon half into wedges. Squeeze the juice from the remaining halves into a small bowl and set aside. Remove any excess fat from chicken. Rinse the chicken with RTC cold water and pat dry. Season the cavity with salt and pepper and stuff it with the orange wedges, lemon wedges, 4 pieces of the garlic and 2 of the thyme sprigs. (The fruits flavor the chicken; they are not served.) Tie the legs together with butcher's twine and tuck the wing tips under the back.

Working from the edge of the cavity, gently lift the skin covering the breast, taking care not to tear it, and place a thyme sprig between the flesh and the skin on either side of the breastbone.

Scatter onions, carrots, the remaining garlic cloves and thyme sprigs in the bottom of a roasting pan. Chop giblets and add to the pan; place neck in pan as well.

Set the chicken on the vegetable mixture in the roasting pan and season with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and roast for 1 1/2 hours longer, basting occasionally with the reserved citrus juice. The chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees. Tip the bird and let the juices run into the roasting pan. Transfer the chicken to a platter and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.

To make the gravy, place the roasting pan on the stove. Pour in white wine and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, scraping up any brown bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Add chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes more. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the fat to rise to the surface. Using a bulb baster, transfer the juices to a saucepan (leaving the fat behind) and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add 'D mustard and the dissolved cornstarch; whisk until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the twine from the chicken and carve, discarding skin. Serve with the gravy.

241 calories per serving; 27 grams protein; 7 grams fat; 15 grams carbohydrate; 322 milligrams sodium; 77 milligrams cholesterol.

Sage-Scented Cornmeal Biscuits

The biscuit dough can be mixed and formed about an hour before baking; set it aside in the refrigerator. Bake the biscuits while you are making the chicken gravy.

Makes 12

1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour

1/2 cup cornmeal, preferably stone-ground

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg, lightly beaten, mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat it with nonstick cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, sage, baking powder, sugar, baking soda and salt. With two knives or your fingers, cut in cream cheese and butter until you have lumps the size of peas. Stir in buttermilk until just combined. Do not over-mix or the biscuits will be tough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat into a circle about 9 inches in diameter. Cut into 12 wedges with a sharp knife.

Transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet. Brush them lightly with some of the egg mixture. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are firm to the touch and very lightly browned. Serve warm. Makes 12 biscuits.

118 calories per serving; 4 grams protein; 4 grams fat; 18 grams carbohydrate; 223 milligrams sodium; 26 milligrams cholesterol.

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