Saturday night I had planned to bake up some chicken leg quarters. Originally, it was going to be a devilled chicken, with a breading of sorts. But then I was digging through the pantry looking for something when I stumbled on half a package of Cranberry Beans. They had my attention for a moment, because I couldn't remember when we'd first had them, and I also had no idea how long they'd been in the pantry. I decided I needed to use them somehow for dinner, but at that moment, I had no idea how these beans were going to go with chicken. I also found that one of my butternut squashes in the basement had the tiniest of spots on it, so I needed to cook that up and use it before it infected the other squash. I still was unsure of dinner, but I set the squash to baking and the beans to simmering and softening, and then I headed out to the garden to debate on the turnips and beets.
While gazing at the turnips and beets, wondering if I should pull them or let them be yet, I glanced over at the remaining brussels sprouts stalks. These stalks I'd just left because there were very few sprouts on them, and what was there was the size of marbles. Teeny-tiny brussels sprouts. But as I eyed these tiny round orbs, I was overwhelmed by a need to try them, and wouldn't you know, even the tiniest sprouts were sweet and wonderful. So I grabbed a bowl and a knife and removed the last handful of minuscule sprouts from the garden, and a plan began forming in my head.
I was baking chicken, and once upon a time, I read somewhere about someone roasting brussels sprouts with chicken. I was certain that would be great, and filed it away for another moment. This was going to be that moment. I washed the sprouts and placed them in my baking dish. I drained my softened beans and added them to the brussels sprouts. Then I grabbed a carrot, diced that up and added it, as well as a stalk of celery and half an onion. Salt, pepper, and a tiny drizzle of olive oil completed the melange, and then I grabbed the chicken.
I seasoned the chicken lightly with seasoning salt, pepper, and some fennel spice rub, and laid it on top of the vegetables. Oh yes. My vegetables were going to bake while lovingly being bathed in chicken fat. The butternut squash would be served on the side, and we were going to have an incredible fall dish.
The end result was exactly what I what I had been craving. It was earthy and comforting and packed with flavor. I was reminded how wonderful cranberry beans are, and if you have a chance, do try some, they have to be the best dried bean I've ever had. They are so creamy, with a flavor that's unlike other beans. Paired with the brussels sprouts and aromatics, and then cooked with the chicken, the vegetables were clearly the star of the show, and the chicken almost an afterthought. There are only two changes I would make to this in the future. The first would be to add some chopped fennel to the vegetables. The second would be a squirt of fresh lemon juice just before serving to heighten and highlight the earthy flavors. Definitely delicious, the leftovers are going to make a great lunch today!