Last week, I asked y’all if you’d be interested in an occasional cooking post from me. The feedback I got was that you might be, provided I don’t do it very often and if I include my usual irreverent commentary. I’m going to go ahead and start today, but don’t expect these posts to be like The Martha’s or Pioneer Woman’s, because I am not those people. Simply put, I do not enjoy cooking.
I cook because 1) I want my family to eat in a certain way and 2) because we don’t have the money to hire a chef. I’m a big fan of the Slow Food movement — I use simple ingredients and almost never use processed foods or boxed mixes. I don’t use complicated recipes — actually, I don’t often even use recipes, period — and I’m not interested in things like fancy salts, obscure ingredients, or fads. I like good, simple food.
Today I’m going to talk to you about one of the easiest and most versatile things you can make: roasted chicken.
I went through a period of time in my 20s when I didn’t eat poultry because I thought it was disgusting. When I was pregnant with Graceful, I craved fried chicken, so I put my disgust on a back burner and bellied up. For a number of years, I only knew how to cook chicken breasts, but 10 years ago, I discovered the magic of rotisserie chickens.
Imagine this: Walking in the grocery store and buying an already-cooked chicken and then bringing that warm, herby goodness home to your kitchen without having to do any actual cooking. Yum.
I quickly learned that rotisserie chicken can be a valuable tool in your kitchen – pull the meat off the bones and you have the makings for an easy dinner (just add side dishes) or the building blocks for soups, casseroles, Tex-Mex recipes, and more. Even better, depending on the size of your household, a whole chicken can used for several meals.
My source for rotisserie chickens used to be Sam’s Club, but then we started eating more organic foods. I think we all can agree that the large, plump, and juicy birds sold at Ye Olde Sammy’s Mart are most definitely not organic, free-range, mollycoddled hens. A few years ago, I decided to learn how to cook my own chickens, even though the idea of handling raw birds freaked me out. My first step was to go to Whole Foods and buy a bird that was already cleaned, seasoned, and ready to go. All I had to do was pop it in the oven. I didn’t kill anyone with raw poultry germs, so I bought my first completely raw naked bird, read a lot of recipes, said a few secular Hail Marys and dove in.
The bird was delicious.
Important lesson: Fear is often a silly thing. Get over it.
Now I pray at the altar of roasted chicken at least once a month. In fact, what I often do is do two chickens at once, remove all of that yummy meat from the bones and then freeze the meat in smaller containers for future meals. (And at that time, I also make chicken broth too.) My girls know more or less how to roast a chicken, although handling the bird is not their favorite thing.
I get our birds through a local butcher called The Organic Butcher. I feel comfortable about the origins of the birds I’m buying and know that they weren’t fed shit (literally) or pumped full of other shit. Yes, these hens cost a little more than, say, Food Lion or Kroger, but I’m willing to pay that difference. It also helps that I stretch those birds for multiple meals, plus my family just doesn’t eat that much poultry. Over the course of a year, we might go through 20 or maybe 25 birds at the most, so even if I’m spending a few dollars more per bird, overall, it’s not that large a part of our annual grocery budget.
There are a zillion recipes out there that will tell you to brush this stuff on the bird or stuff those herbs under the skin. Go and do all that if you want. Or, be lazy like me and do the following:
- Depending on the size of your bird, allow around three hours for baking, cooling, and de-boning. If you’re going to put stuffing in the bird, allow more time.
- Heat the oven to 350F. (Don’t try to cut corners and boost the oven temp to 400 or higher; you’ll just end up with a dried-up bird.)
- Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray or brush it thoroughly with oil. (Fancy pans are not necessary; I use this kind.)
- Plop your bird onto the pan breast-side down so that the dark meat juices drip down to the breast. Try not to think about how it looks like a newborn baby.
- If you remember, sprinkle salt and pepper on the bird. If you forget, don’t worry about it.
- Stick the chicken in the oven and walk away for a while. It’s going to take at least 90 minutes for your bird to cook, depending on the size. Go check your email or even better, send me an email about your yummy dinner.
- After about 60 minutes, flip the bird over so that the other side browns too.
- After another 30 minutes or so, check to see if the bird is done. If you look online, you can find instructions on using a meat thermometer. (I’m not even sure if we own one of those.) Just cut into the breast and see if the meat is still pink. Pink = poison. Very pale pink is okay.
- Pull the bird out and let it sit for about 15 minutes or you’re going to burn the shit out of your hands when you try to cut it up. Cut open the skin in a few places to vent the heat. When it’s cool enough to cut, either cut it into different parts (legs, breasts, etc.) or completely de-bone and remove all meat.
Note: Some cookbooks will tell you to wash off and rinse the bird and pat it dry; I never do because I spend extra money on mollycoddled organic birds and I expect them to come to me pristine. (Plus, I’m lazy.) (If germs don’t bake off after a couple of hours at 350 degrees, then you need to call the CDC and report a new bio-weapon.)
If you pull all the meat off the bones, you have the makings for other meals. Chicken meat freezes really well and is a great ingredient to have in your freezer for quick meals. If I have have broth and cooked chicken meat in the freezer, I can have some sort of soup on the table in less than 30 minutes.
Anyway, I hope this is helpful. I’d love to hear about how you cook chicken or some great recipes you might have. Also, feel free to leave requests in the comments for other foods you want me to blog about. I’m thinking my next Reluctant Cook post will be about Thursday nights at Jenworld. You know what I’m talking about.
Don’t forget about the giveaway!