Day 34 - Chicken: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

OK, so after thinking long and hard about my meat consumption and the environmental impact of livestock, I made a choice to cut back.  My aim is to eat mostly vegetarian, with the very occasional beef and pork, and the intermittent chicken and fish. 

I’m also challenging myself to, when I do eat meat, use every bit of it that I purchase, which means making stock from the bones.   

This week, I bought a roasting chicken, and tonight am roasting it up with some leftover vegetables that I have in my fridge, and serving it with a very simple salad. 

Roast chicken is one of my favorite dishes to make for guests because it always seems like I went to an impressive amount of effort to make it.  On the contrary, roast chicken is one of the laziest yet most delicious dishes known to man.  It just requires some prep, and the courage to handle, wash, dry, and dress a raw chicken. 

Get Yourself A Bird

Go to your butcher, farmer’s market, or grocery store and pick up a whole roasting chicken with the skin on.  When you get it home, preheat your oven to 375 F (190 C), unwrap the chicken, and let it come to room temperature.  Depending on the source of your bird, you may need to cut off the neck and/or remove the giblets from the inside.  If you do have the neck and giblets, set them aside to use for stock.

Clean

Wash the bird in lukewarm water, gently rubbing the skin with your hand.  Rinse out the cavity, too.  Set it on a dish towel on the counter, and with a second dish towel pat the skin dry.  You’ll want to put these dish towels straight into the laundry after you’re done drying the chicken to avoid spreading bacteria to the rest of your kitchen. 

Season

Place the bird on a roasting pan (if you have a slotted one that drains, great - I usually use a glass baking dish and it works fine).  Designate one hand your chicken hand and the other your seasoning hand.  With your chicken hand, prop the bird so that the cavity faces up.  With your seasoning hand (or your friend/partner/spouse’s seasoning hand), liberally salt and pepper the inside of the bird.  Then lay the bird back on the pan, breast side down. 

Cut a lemon in half.  With your seasoning hand, squeeze the juice of half the lemon over the skin of the chicken, and then rub it with the skin of the lemon itself.  Again with your seasoning hand, liberally salt and pepper the back side (non-breast side) of the bird.  Flip it over.  Repeat with the other half of the lemon, and salt and pepper.  The lemon juice helps the salt and pepper stick to the skin nicely. 

Stuff

Cut a whole head of garlic in half width wise and stuff it inside the cavity of the chicken.  Put your discarded lemon halves in there also.  With some kitchen twine (or, if you’re me, a cut strip of an old muslin carry bag), tie the legs of the chicken together at the ankles (drumstick bit). 

Give Your Bird Some Friends

Grab a potato and cut it into wedges.  Take a few carrots, and cut them nicely on the diagonal into 2 inch chunks.  Cut an onion in half through the root, remove the outer skin, then cut each half into 4 wedges through the root, so that the bits of root hold each wedge together.  Put them in a bowl with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss. Place them around the chicken like a little vegetable posse. 

Roast

Pop it into the oven and give it 20-30 minutes per pound of bird.  My three pound chicken took an hour and a half.  When it’s done, a knife in a joint should produce clear juices.  Move the chicken to a cutting board to rest for 15-20 minutes, covered with a kitchen towel.  Remove your veggies from the pan.

Bonus Points

If you want to go the extra mile, and you’ve roasted your chicken in a pan that’s safe to put on the stove top, put it over a low flame, add some water, and scrape up the brown bits.  Add a handful of flour, and whisk until it thickens.  Strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a gravy boat, (but let’s be real I don’t have a gravy boat so I just used a bowl) and serve with the chicken and veg. 

And Don’t Forget

After you’ve carved your chicken and picked all the meat off the bone with your fingers, set aside the carcass along with the neck, giblets, gunk that’s leftover in the sieve after straining the gravy, and any vegetable scraps you have saved.  This will be the base of your stock, recipe here.  Last week I used mine for cooking lentils and beans, both turned out delicious.

I haven’t fully given up meat, but I feel good about the fact that this chicken will keep on giving even after it’s roasted and carved.  Happy roasting!