Food From the Farm: The Many Benefits of Roasted Chicken

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In talking with a few farmers about their CSA membership, I have several times heard the observation that some members just don't know how to cook. This could certainly be a problem, with a dozen different vegetables coming your way every week. I am a believer, with the late, great food writer Laurie Colwin, that everyone should have a couple of meals that they know how to prepare well. These need not amaze anyone with their creativity; they should be good, solid meals that satisfy.

One of mine is centered around roast chicken. The advantages of a good roast chicken are many. First, it is easy. Second, unless you serve a crowd, it offers plenty of leftovers that make subsequent dinners a snap. Third, you can use the carcass to make a wonderful chicken stock which will become the basis for two soups the following week. I could go on and on. A roast chicken once or twice a month makes menu planning and weeknight cooking simple and enjoyable.

Here is my recipe for roast chicken, taught to me by my friend Teri when I was leaving vegetarianism behind. It is not the fanciest way to roast a chicken, but if you buy a good quality bird, it does not take much to make it taste delicious. The birds we buy cost $3.29/lb and run about four pounds. It sometimes feels expensive when I'm writing out the check, but we always get two dinners for three people out of the bird, sometimes three, plus some lunches - about $1/meal in meat.

It takes me 5- 7 minutes to get the bird ready for the oven, and an hour or so to cook it. At our house we like to use the cooking time to drink a glass of wine, make a pot of mashed potatoes and a side vegetable, and pick up about 400 Legos.


Easy Roast Chicken

Preheat the oven to 425.

Take the bird out of the plastic and rinse it, inside and out. Remove any organs/neck that may be inside the bird. Put it on its back (wings sticking up) in a 9x13" baking dish. Many people pat the bird dry at this point, but I do not. Pour some olive oil in your hand and rub over the whole bird. Wash your hands and then sprinkle a good amount of salt and pepper over the whole bird. Rub it into the skin. Wash your hands again. Put a bay leaf, 1/2 a lemon, a couple of sprigs of rosemary, or 1/2 an onion in the cavity. Wash your hands again. Put 1/2" of water in the pan and bake on a lower-middle rack until the skin browns nicely and the kitchen starts to smell good. Take it out and use a meat thermometer to make sure the breast is 160 degrees and the meat deep in the thigh reads at least 170. Let the bird rest for 5-10 minutes, and then cut off enough for supper.

After supper, cut the remaining meat off the bird and refrigerate. Put the carcass in a stock pot with a carrot, one or two stalks of celery, a handful of fresh parsley if you have it, a bay leaf, an onion, thickly sliced, a few cloves of peeled garlic, a few shakes of dried thyme, 1 T. of vinegar, and 2 t. salt. Cover the carcass with water, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a very low flame, and simmer 45 minutes. Every so often, take a peek at your stock. If a gray scum is forming, skim it off and discard. After 45 minutes, turn off the heat. When the stock has cooled, fish out the carcass and discard. Strain off all the solids. Pour the liquid into glass jars and refrigerate or freeze. This is a wonderful base for soups.

By: Kristin Behr | Jan 26, 2011 12:14 PM | Permalink
I do so love roasting chicken. I've even stuffed it with sliced orange with some fresh thyme and rosemary!

By: | Jan 26, 2011 12:02 AM | Permalink
If you are in a hurry, try Pam Anderson's method of roasting chicken. She cuts out the backbone, flattens the chicken, which then roasts in much less time and tastes just as good. For the many who never learnt to cook, I think her book "How to Cook Without a Book" is an excellent place to start.

By: | Jan 25, 2011 07:23 PM | Permalink
I use a roasting method similar to this - but instead roast at 450 - this yields super-crisp, lovely browned skin. Then, instead of stock in a stock-pot, I make mine overnight in the Crock-Pot - just throw in all your aromatics, the bones/etc. and set it to low - in the a.m. skim & strain and enjoy! I call this my "roast chicken twofer."

Sarah http://www.semisweetonline.com

By: | Jan 25, 2011 07:04 PM | Permalink
A fine recipe - very much like the method that I use, too, including the terrific instructions for making broth with the carcass.

Cooks with less experience (and maybe those who have forgotten a thing or two about food safety) should appreciate the reminder to wash their hands and avoid contaminating kitchen surfaces after contact with uncooked poultry. Please keep in mind that current food safety advice says not to wash chicken before cooking it. Apparently water splashing off the chicken can contaminate sponges, utensils, other parts of the sink, etc. - greatly increasing the risk of food-borne illness. Cooking to the proper temp. kills the dangerous bacteria, not washing. Nonetheless, old habits die hard, and I still wash my chicken.... but v-e-r-y carefully.

By: Allison Ledet | Jan 25, 2011 05:44 PM | Permalink
Although I haven't yet tried this specific recipe, it is similar to the one I use to bake my chickens, and it it delicious! Soon after I began looking into eating only humanely raised, organic chicken I realized that I would also have to learn to bake a whole chicken instead of just the processed parts. With the expense of organic chickens being significantly higher than with supermarket chain chicken, I also wanted to get my money's worth and use all of the parts. I love that this recipe combines both the roasting and the stock recipe, as it moves us all a little closer to a world where food, cooking and eating are processes more valued than they have been in the past few decades.


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