Lemon and herb chicken with braised spring vegetables for a pandemic aniversary

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Today is my coronavirus anniversary.

Everyone has one, even if they don’t fall on the exact same day. For me, that day is March 12, 2020, the day that school shut down. This is when it became clear to me that I was living through a global crisis, unlike anything I, or anyone I knew, had ever faced.

On March 2nd, I was drinking at an AIPAC reception with friends from all over the world. On March 12, we stopped leaving the house. Ten days from normal to utter crisis.

This week, I felt compelled to look at pictures of my family during the early days of the pandemic. I found a tentative homeschooling schedule, screenshot and texted to my husband, that was so detailed and ambitious I burst out laughing at my carefully calibrated, hour-by-hour plan to simultaneously work and homeschool my then 3-year-old, complete with ballet and yoga. Less funny was a panic-stricken grocery list, detailing how much rice and pasta we had with question marks about how much to buy.

I took a ton of pictures that spring. If my child stumbled upon these pictures one day, she would think it was a beautiful time in our life —- gardening, drawing obstacle courses in chalk, playing hide and seek between the trees, cuddles in our pajamas, and lots of baking, a truly endless amount of pictures of us baking and eating cookies and pies and cobblers and cakes and perfecting pareve hot fudge.

We aren’t wearing masks, we hadn’t been told to yet. The only hint of something amiss is that all playdates videos take place ten feet apart, through the fence in our yard, and only with her best friend, our neighbor. They are dancing or racing or playing Simon says, anything that can be done from far away. I wondered how I was really feeling at the time. Why was I smiling in all the photos?

Finally, I found a text to a close friend, most likely screenshot by accident. I was terrified we wouldn’t make it as a family. I was out of my mind with fear, and the sudden loss of childcare was extremely challenging. Maybe if I never stop moving, between the zoom calls, the work, the homeschooling, the family fun time, the beautiful pictures, I could keep the dread away. Ahh, there it was. The truth. It’s okay, my friend texted back. We all feel that way. Just try to breathe. We are all faking it. How else can you behave when the unthinkable is happening?

One year later, it still feels unreal. What’s worse, the before time - drinking with friends at a bar, ripping challah in a crowd at synagogue, scooping up a friend’s fussy baby - feels unfathomable, like it never was or could have been. Did I really share a slice of cake with a friend in a crowded room? Did I really shake hundreds of hands at a conference? It’s not possible to comprehend a return to life before.

Somehow, unbelievably, spring is here - and with it the potential for renewal, for growth, for the hope of normalcy. This deadly winter is over. 93 million Americans have been vaccinated. There is the possibility that we can see the end of this.

I’ll mark the beginning, my beginning at least, with the ultimate Jewish comfort food - roast chicken. There is nothing more comforting and homey than the smell of a roast chicken filling a home. This recipe is full of spring, bright lemons, fresh herbs, and buttery-tasting braised radishes. I created it before the pandemic and it was designed to be an effortlessly elegant dinner party dish. I had been saving it for my first Shabbat with indoor company. But life is short, and it can change so quickly, and radishes are in season.

Lemon and herb chicken with braised spring vegetables

_This recipe is designed to bring you some sanity. It’s elegant, easy, and can be done while drinking a large glass of wine. You are forbidden from doom scrolling while cooking this - it causes the radishes to burn. The recipe is a great one-pan dish and pairs nicely over your favorite rice, farro, or couscous. _

Ingredients


12 chicken thighs ( You could cut this down of course, but your gonna want seconds and leftovers)
1 ½ pounds radishes (If your tired from pandemic fog, you can buy them precleaned and trimmed)
2 cups peeled garlic (Buy it pre-peeled. I don’t care that it’s $3 instead of 50 cents. You’re worth it. Unless you find some meditative self-care in peeling garlic in which case knock yourself out)
1 pound carrots
2 sticks warm margarine
½ cup each thyme, parsley, chives, and whatever other springy, chickeny herbs are in the fridge
Garlic salt
Olive oil
1 lemon
A box of the one grain your kid will agree to eat without argument to serve it over.

Preheat the oven 400 degrees. Take a deep breath. Put on some music. Take out the chicken thighs so they are room temperature when they go in the oven.

Slice the carrots into thick slices. Quarter the radishes. Dump them in a large casserole or roasting pan with the peeled whole garlic cloves. Sprinkle with olive oil and season to taste with garlic salt. Set aside.

Wash and chop herbs. They should be chopped roughly, not fine. Dump in a bowl with margarine. Grate lemon and juice ( I know, annoying but worth it. Jarred lemon juice won’t work here). into margarine. Mix with your hands until well integrated. Season the chicken with garlic salt and then rub it all over with herb butter. Place chicken in the pan and coat with herb butter, slather it on thick. Put in the oven until the radishes are buttery and soft and the chicken is golden brown with crispy skin and the whole house smells like herbs. This will take about an hour. Please use that hour to do something for yourself. Serve lemon sorbet with blackberry jam or fresh raspberries on top for dessert for an easy dessert.

How was your week? How are you spending shabbat? Let us know at #tweetyourshabbat! Everyone is welcome at this table!

Lemon and herb chicken with braised spring vegetables for a pandemic aniversary

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Lemon and herb chicken with braised spring vegetables for a pandemic aniversary

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