Mabon is the time of the harvest feast. At the Autumnal Equinox, we celebrate and honor Earth's bounty by feasting on goodies from the home garden, farmers' market, and green grocer. This autumn dinner represents harvest cooking at its best. A mélange of autumn vegetables roasts with a juicy whole chicken. Julienned vegetables in a tart vinaigrette provide a zesty complement to the main dish, while a moist, dense apple cake speaks to the harvest itself. Spread a cloth over a table outdoors and dine al fresco on nature's bounty!
Maple Roasted Chicken with Root Veggies
This recipe is an old autumn favorite: it's simple to make, delicious and soul-satisfying to eat, and makes a beautiful presentation. A chicken roasts atop a baking pan of fall's best root vegetables. A drizzle of amber maple syrup and fiery spices caramelizes during the roasting and takes on a deep, complex flavor, echoing the earthly correspondence of the maple and the season.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1½ hours
• 6–8 cups assorted root vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, beets, fennel, etc. I recommend using an onion; after that, try a few you're unfamiliar with
• 1 whole chicken (about 8 ounces per person)
• ¼ cup real maple syrup
• ¼ teaspoon each red pepper flakes, black pepper, paprika, allspice
Lightly grease a 13 × 9-inch glass pan or coat with cooking spray. Peel the vegetables. Cut into 1-inch chunks and arrange in a single layer.
Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Make sure to remove any paper container of giblets from the cavity. Cut away any obvious large pieces of fat. Set the chicken on top of the veggies.
Stir the red and black pepper and allspice into the maple syrup. Use a pastry brush (or your fingers) to drizzle the maple syrup mixture over the chicken, coating the entire bird evenly. Sprinkle chicken and exposed veggies lightly with salt.
Roast in a 325 degree F oven for 1½ hours. After a half hour, baste every 15 minutes with pan drippings and the remaining maple syrup. Remove the chicken after 1½ hours; cool on a platter, tenting the bird loosely with foil. If needed, roast the veggies until they're soft. Serve the chicken and vegetables drizzled with the pan juices.
This salad is easy to make, but gorgeous to look at and even better to taste. The watery, feminine cucumber; fiery-Mars carrots and fennel; and a sweet-sharp vinaigrette nicely contrasts the earthy main dish.
Prep time: 15 minutes
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
• ½ cup seasoned rice vinegar
• 1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
• 1–2 cucumbers; peeled, seeded, and julienned
• 1–2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
• 1 small head fennel, trimmed and julienned
At least two hours before serving, blend the oil, vinegar, and garlic in a lidded cruet or screw-top jar. Shake well to blend. Chill.
Julienne the vegetables and toss in a medium bowl. Cover with a damp towel and refrigerate for up to a few hours.
To serve, toss the chilled vegetables and vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. (Store the remaining dressing in the refrigerator. As you use it, simply add more oil and vinegar. The garlic will keep— and continue flavoring the dressing for months.)
This might be the world's most perfect cake. It stirs up with only a bowl and spoon, bakes without complication, doesn't require frosting, and keeps for days. And it's also rich, spicy, and delicious!
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40–60 minutes
• 2 cups white sugar
• 1 cup vegetable oil
• 2 eggs
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 3 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 3 cups finely chopped apples (about 6 big apples; I recommend Golden Delicious or Jonagold)
Grease and flour a 13 × 9-inch pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, with a mixing spoon, stir together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon, stirring just until blended. Stir in the apples.
Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake 40 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean and the edges are beginning to pull away from the pan. Start testing at 40 minutes.
Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack. This is a moist, delicious cake that keeps well at room temperature. It's also sturdy: ideal for picnics, potlucks, camping, etc.
Hot Spiced Wine
Finish off your harvest feast with a steaming glass of spiced wine. Chill the leftovers—cold spiced wine is also quite refreshing.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
• 4 cinnamon sticks
• 10 whole cloves
• 8 cardamom pods
• ½ teaspoon whole coriander seed
• 8 whole allspice
• 8 black peppercorns
• 2 bottles of good red wine—Cabernet or Shiraz work well
• 3–4 thin slices of fresh lemon
• 1 small orange, sliced thin and seeded
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• ½ cup brandy
• Additional cinnamon sticks
Heat a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, coriander, allspice, and peppercorns to the pan and toast for about 30 seconds. Quickly stir in 1 cup hot water.
Add the wine, lemon, orange, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Simmer for 30 to 60 minutes. Do NOT boil, as this will cook off the alcohol.
br> Before serving, stir in the brandy. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Strain into mugs and serve with a cinnamon stick swizzle.
From Llewellyn's Sabbats Almanac: Samhain 2011 to Mabon 2012. For current-year calendars, datebooks, and almanacs, click here.