Monday, April 16, 2012

Simple Roast Chicken

What's better than a roast chicken for dinner on the weekend. It's simple, easy, and folks will think you've slaved away for hours over something that you can do in less than 20 minutes and then stick in the oven.

I've several ways that I do a roast chicken, I always mix things up a bit.  We've had some great successes and some, well, not so much.  This is the fall back on, the go-to way, when I don't feel like experimenting and just want a delicious dinner that makes for great leftovers.

I use an herb butter to coat the chicken with and usually cook over a bed of celery, carrots and onions.  I rarely make a chicken that I'm not going to get at least 3 meals from.  When you're on a budget and have little time, this is a lifesaver.

You'll need:
-1 large roasting chicken
-5 or 6 celery stalks, cleaned and chopped into about 3" sections
-1 or 2 cups of carrots, peeled and chopped in large chunks (an easier way is to buy the baby carrots that are already peeled and they are the perfect size)
-1 or 2 large onions, I love to use a Vidalia type onion, just a nice sweet onion for this, peeled and chopped into quarters.
-5 or 6 cloves of peeled and chopped garlic
-2 to 3 cups of chicken broth or stock

Optional stuffing for chicken: Either a traditional Homemade Stuffing or 1 onion, quartered, 3 cloves garlic, peeled and 1 lemon quartered.

If you're not using an herbed butter, you'll also need about a stick of softened butter and whatever herbs you like to use.  I suggest thyme or rosemary as well as garlic and salt and pepper of course.

Clean the chicken well and then pat dry with paper towels. Rub the herb butter or plain butter all over the bird, take a spoon and spoon butter in between the skin and the breast on both sides of the center and then smoosh the butter down along the breast to evenly distribute.  If you're going to do stuffing, now's the time, just don't over stuff or your stuffing will increase your cooking time making the chicken a bit dry.  Instead of stuffing, I put a quartered onion, a couple of cloves of garlic and maybe a few slices of lemon inside.  Makes it lovely and fragrant.

In a large roasting pan, arrange the carrots, celery, garlic and onions around the bottom of the pan, place chicken on top.  You might also sprinkle a bit of salt over the top of everything.  Pour some chicken broth around the pan to help start the base of the broth that you're going to get. After the chicken is done, this broth is liquid gold!  You can make gravy or save it for chicken and noodles the next day.

Cover loosely with foil and make at about 375º.  Depending on the size of the bird, your oven and how much room is in your roaster pan, this should take about 1 1/2 hours.  But could be as little as an hour. Once the internal temp has reached about 160º, remove the foil and allow the top skin on the chicken to brown, about another 15 to 20 minutes.  Just check your temperature and make sure the internal temp is about 165º to 170º.

Allow the pan and chicken to rest, covered lightly with foil for about 15 minutes before carving.

Save everything from the pan, the drippings, the cooked veggies, all of it!

Depending on how large the chicken was and how many people or how hungry they were, you will hopefully have enough leftovers to at least get one more meal out of this wonderful stuff.  I knew I was going to want to do several left over dishes so I also put a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the pan right along with the veggies so I'd be sure to have enough meat left over.

After dinner is over, you can either cover and put the entire roaster pan in the fridge, or pour all the broth and vegetables into a container and strip the meat from the chicken and either store that separately or just put in with the broth and veggies.

The next day, the butter will all have separated and risen to the top, you can then just spoon that off and use the broth for chicken and noodles chicken soup.  The veggies should be in fine shape to just chuck those right in, you might want to chop the celery up a bit smaller if you're doing soup though.  You can save the butter and drop in by small amounts if you're broth needs a bit of flavor or add a bit to mashed potatoes for extra flavor.

We have a favorite casserole that we always make if we do stuffing and chicken and it's super easy and a great way to use up all the little bits you end up with.  That recipe will follow.

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