Roasted Chicken with Okra (Bamies)


Roasted chicken is a classic dish for many cultures. In Greek cuisine, it is often flavored with a generous amount of oregano and lemon juice and usually accompanied by potatoes. In the spring, okra (bamyes) are in season and make a fine side dish for roasted chicken or other meats. Stewed with tomatoes, they can be a vegetarian main course as well.

Okra probably originated in Africa and made their way throughout the Middle East and into the Mediterranean region. The name bamya for the plant is from Arabic and was used by the Egyptians and Moors in the 12th and 13th centuries, according to Texas A&M’s Aggie Horticulture article on okra. The plant is also called gumbo, a corruption of the Portuguese corruption of its West African name.

Gumbo is also the famous southern Louisiana stew which contains okra. Rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K, okra also contain folate, thiamine, and magnesium. The recipes that follow are the traditional Greek ones. To reduce the mucilaginous texture, young frozen okra, preferably Greek ones, should be used.

Roasted Chicken 

1 whole organic chicken
2-3 lemons
Dried oregano
Olive oil (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If your oven has a convection roast feature, use it, but raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees since the convection fan may lower the overall temperature of your oven.
Rinse the chicken with cold water and place breast side up in a roasting pan with space enough for the potatoes. Squeeze the lemons and drizzle over the top of the chicken and into the cavity. Stuff the cavity with one or two of the squeezed out lemon halves. If using, drizzle with some olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground pepper and oregano, preferably from Greece, or your favorite oregano-growing region.

Roast the chicken for 30 minutes or until the breast begins to lightly color. Then, using a fork, or two forks if the chicken is large, turn the chicken breast side down, sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano and continue roasting until the skin is golden brown, then turn the chicken again and roast until the breast side is golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and tent with foil to allow the chicken to rest 15-20 minutes before carving.

The resting time keeps the chicken moist. If there are pan drippings left, drizzle them over the cut chicken pieces before serving. During the roasting process, you may need to add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan in case it dries out to prevent burning. Serve the chicken with the stewed okra (bamyes).

Stewed Okra (Bamies)

1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes or 5-6 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
Greek sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 packages (15 oz. each) frozen okra (bamyes)

In a large deep pot, heat the oil over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add the diced onion and a dash of salt and sauté until translucent. Then, add the chopped tomatoes, two cups of water, 1 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer until the sauce is reduced slightly, for about 20 minutes. Rinse the okra with cool water and add to the sauce. Simmer until the okra are cooked about 20 minutes. Test for doneness and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Serve warm with roasted chicken.
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