Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Three Dinner Chicken: Part I

I can’t believe I am posting a picture of uncooked chickens. The lyrics to the Talking Heads’ Song, Once in a Lifetime are playing in my head ….

‘You may ask yourself,
how did I get here?’

… good song.

But to the point: let’s talk about how thrifty it is to cook a whole chicken. Quite simply, the leftover possibilities are endless. Over the last couple of years I developed a three night routine where I roast a whole chicken on the first night, followed by crispy chicken tacos the second night and homemade chicken noodle soup on the third night. There is something so satisfying about thoroughly using and enjoying every component of the chicken. I thought I would mix up this routine a little for the next couple posts and experiment with two new recipes I have been eyeing for a while, but lacked the time to make.

For me there are three degrees of difficulty for roasting a chicken. The simplest of all is to pick up a grocery store rotisserie chicken; a ready to eat meal for two, with leftovers for the next two nights. The second degree is a simple and satisfying roast chicken recipe like one I inherited from my mom and dad. (They cooked it so often when we were growing up I think my sister needed a three year hiatus from the dish.) An example of the third degree of difficulty would be the meal I cooked last night, roast chicken the Zuni Café way (with bread salad). I have to admit it was really good; the skin was crisp and salty and the meat tender. It was a little complicated to prepare, especially when you are tired after a long day.

Below are two roast chicken recipes, one from my parents and the second a simplified version for Zuni Roast Chicken adapted from the Zuni Café Cookbook (Rodgers, 2002). I have to admit that each consecutive night as I prepare these meals I think about my single great grandmother feeding five kids through the depression era. This series makes me optimistic that I have a fraction of her “waste not, want not” mentality.

Note: To pull off the three consecutive night dinner plan, you probably want to count on one 3-4 pound chicken feeding 2 people for three nights.

Mom and Dad’s Roast Chicken

An instant read thermometer is a great kitchen tool, and in my humble opinion, totally worth the investment especially when cooking chicken. I usually surround this chicken with olive oil coated russet potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes to accompany the chicken. If you go this route it may increase your cooking time, so good to have that instant read thermometer on hand.

Servings: 2 (the first night)
Cost: $4 (Cost divided by three nights for a free range, antibiotic free, happy chicken)
Time: 20 mins active and 45 mins – 1 hour baking, total approx 1 hour and 15-30 mins

One chicken (3-4 pounds)
4 cloves garlic
Herbs such as thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, 4 ½-inch sprigs if fresh or approximately 1 tsp dried
1 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove giblets and lump of fat from inside the chicken. Rinse and pat dry. Split one garlic clove length wise and rub interior of clove on the body of the chicken. Place second garlic clove inside chicken cavity and remaining two cloves at the base of the chicken. Cover chicken with (chopped fresh or dried) herbs, olive oil and salt and pepper. Place chicken breast side up in a baking dish barely larger than the chicken, and place in the center of the oven for approximately 45 minutes to an hour, or until instant read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the bird registers 165 degrees. This time will vary depending on the size of the chicken and if other food is also cooking in the oven. Remove chicken from oven, tent loosely with foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the meal. Carve, serve and savor.

Zuni Roast Chicken
Adapted from the Zuni Café Cookbook by Judy Rodgers

The Zuni recipe includes a bread salad, something I had never experienced before last night, and REALLY enjoyed.

Servings: 2 (the first night)
Cost: $3.50 (Cost divided by three nights for a free range, antibiotic free, happy chicken)
Time: 40 mins active, 45 mins – 1 hour baking, total approx 1 hour and 30-45 mins plus 1-3 days for seasoning

One chicken (3-4 pounds)
4 ½-inch sprigs fresh herbs such as thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper

One to three days prior to serving prepare the chicken by removing the lump of fat inside the chicken, rinsing and patting very dry. Use your finger to lift up the skin along the two breasts and thighs, making a total of four pockets. Insert a fresh herb sprig into each pocket. Season the chicken liberally with salt (Zuni suggests ¾ tsp sea salt per pound of chicken) and pepper. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Choose a flameproof baking dish or well seasoned skillet for roasting the bird. Place dish on stovetop and preheat over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry (IMPORTANT to keep skin from sticking) and set breast side up in the hot pan. It should sizzle.

Place chicken in center of oven and listen and watch for it to start sizzling in about 20 minutes. If it doesn’t raise the temperature progressively until it does. If the skin starts to char, turn the temperature down 25 degrees. After 30 minutes, flip the chicken over and return to the oven. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size (e.g. 10 minutes for 3 pound chicken). Flip back over to re-crisp the breast skin, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour. Turn off and remove the chicken from the oven, tent loosely with foil and leave to rest while you finish preparing your meal (5-10 mins). Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve on warm platter.


Bryn said...

i was lucky enough to get to partake of part I last night, and it was super delicious. one thing i don't think ms. thrifty kitchen mentioned is that she also made the bread for the bread salad, which was fabulous. maybe post that recipe sometime?

i also saw the original version of the zuni kitchen recipe and it looked like a novel. like one of those novels i should pretend to like but i don't really because i don't get it. so i guess what i'm saying is that a summary of one of those recipes is a true gift.

also i hope you post the apple strusel muffin recipe - i was lucky enough to get those on the way to work as i passed by the thrifty kitchen. as if the crumbly stuff on top of the muffins and the perfect little nibbles of apple inside and the cute foil wrappers weren't enough, she gave me a muffin "to go" in a wax paper bag - it was so effortlessly quaint and awesome it killed me.

Amy Gus said...

Emily - your blog is a great idea and quite inspiring. It's fun to read your musings. Are you going to post the recipe for the bread salad? I'm intrigued.

Emily said...

Hey guys - great idea about posting the bread salad recipe... I think I will do a little more experimenting. Put it on the list!