Wednesday, April 16, 2014

using the whole chicken // part 1 (roasting a whole chicken)

use the whole chicken

As part of meal planning, I always roast a whole chicken at least once during the 2 week period that I shop for. Sometimes I do it twice. I've also heard of people roasting two chickens at the same time and using them over the course of a week or so (Also, buy the double pack of chicken when you shop and then freeze one or both. It's cheaper!). I may start doing this as we head into the summer months and I begin to use my oven less and less. If only we had a chicken rotisserie I could just cook them on the grill! But alas, we don't and I do really enjoy the smell of our home on the nights when I roast a chicken.

My goal with this post is less about sharing my recipes (there are a million really good recipes out there for roasted chicken, chicken stock, chicken noodle soup, etc) and more about encouraging you to use every single little bit of a chicken. I hate waste because waste means money being tossed down the drain. If there is food or flavor to be used, I'm going to use it!

To use the whole chicken, in our home that means first roasting the chicken. My recipe is super simple and quick. I have two small children and not a lot of time or patience for fancy recipes. Here's what you'll need:

1 roasting chicken (about 4-5 lbs)
1 orange (or clementine or tangerine or whatever orange-y citrus you have laying around)
1 lemon
1 onion
3 cloves garlic (or more if you like garlic!)
2 Tbsp butter
Olive oil
Your choice of dried herbs: basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, sage etc.
Chicken stock/broth or water

Preheat oven to 425* F.

Before I even open the chicken package, I prep all of my ingredients. Once the chicken is open and on the board, I don't want to have to keep washing my hands a bunch of times. If everything is prepped, you won't have to.

Cut up oranges, lemons, onions into big chunks and put aside in a bowl. Smash garlic cloves, leave them whole and add them to the bowl.

For the herbs, I pre-make a mix that I'll use over and over again each time I roast a chicken and also when I make chicken noodle soup. It's equal parts whatever herbs I have on hand (see, this is simple and there are no rules!). If you prefer specific directions, I recommend parsley, basil, oregano, and thyme. Store in a zip lock baggy or small tupperware.

Clean out the chicken and rinse it until the water runs clear. Dry very, very well. You want the butter and oil to stick and it won't if the chicken is still wet! Put chicken on a cutting board breast-side down. Spread one Tbsp butter all over the skin of the bottom of the chicken. You can either use a butter knife or your fingers. Then drizzle olive oil all over the same side and rub in as well. Sprinkle salt and pepper (to your taste) all over, followed by the herb mixture (again, to your liking and taste).

Salt and pepper the cavity well.

Flip the chicken over and place in an oiled roasting pan (I just use an old cake pan. You don't need anything fancy!), breast-side up. The secret here is to rub butter in between the breast meat and the skin. If the skin isn't already detached from the breast, it will come up pretty easily. I'd say you should split about 1/2 Tbsp of butter between the 2. Make sure the butter covers the breast meat. Take the rest of your butter and spread it over the skin of the chicken (like you did on the other side) and drizzle with olive oil. Rub in. Salt and pepper, as you did before and then sprinkle herbs to taste.

Last, you're going to stuff the cavity of the chicken with your orange, lemon, onion and garlic. But first, use a few of your lemon and orange slices to squeeze juice all over the top of the chicken.

Finally, pour some chicken broth into the bottom of the pan, so that the chicken juices don't caramelize to the bottom of your pan. Also, if you plan to make a gravy once the chicken is done, this will make it super delicious and easy. If you don't have broth, you can do this with some water. You want about 1/2 inch of liquid.

Bake for 1.5 hours. You can check it about an hour in to make sure the top isn't burning. You definitely want a good crust, but you don't want it to burn. If you find that it is, take a good-sized piece of foil, fold in half so there's a crease and place it over the chicken as a tent for the remainder of the time. Depending on your oven, you may not need to leave the chicken in the entire 1.5 hours.

When the breasts register at 160* on a meat thermometer, it's done. Pull your chicken out and leave it to cool outside of the oven for at least 20 minutes. This allows all the juices (and flavor and moisture) to reincorporate before you cut into it.

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*A note about trussing your chicken: Some people swear by it. I don't do it. I actually never have. One, because it's too much work. Two, because I've just never bought cooking twine. Three, because my chickens turn out really well without it. It's definitely a preference thing. But in my opinion, it's not a requirement.

Now, once the chicken is roasted, how do you eat it? What do you serve it with?
Here are some ideas. We use all of them:

-Shred chicken. Serve with hot tortillas, fresh pico de gallo, fresh guacamole, cheese, lettuce, etc. and let everyone make their own tacos or tostadas.

-Roast the chicken on a bed of root veggies (potatoes, carrots, parsnip, sweet potatoes, etc)- same exact recipe but just set the chicken on hefty slices of the vegetables in the roasting pan. Serve with veggies and a side of couscous or quinoa.

-Use the chicken drippings from the bottom of the pan to make a gravy. Serve sliced pieces of chicken over rice with gravy and a side salad.

We generally eat half of the chicken the night I roast it and then the rest of the meat I'll use the next night for another recipe.

Part 2 of this series will include recipes and ideas of how to use the rest of the chicken for other meals during the week.
Part 3 of this series will be how to make a quick, simple and super delicious chicken stock with what is left of your chicken after you've eaten all the meat.
Part 4 of this series will be how to use the chicken fat rendered from the chicken stock and your questions answered.

If you have any questions at all for me during this series, leave them in the comments or on my Instagram account: @jessibridges. I want to hear them all!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jessi! Great post. I've probably only roasted like 3 chickens in my life, because we usually eat meatless at home or have boneless skinless breasts. But I'm tired of buying boxed broth for other recipes and I want to start making my own stock.

    Anyway, if you roast on a bed of root veggies, do you still add 1/2 inch of liquid? Thanks!!!