Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How to Make Dinner: December 9, 2009

First, what I made for dinner tonight: Chicken quesadillas, black beans and rice.

My inner Depression-era housewife absolutely loves that one roast chicken yields so many meals. (I've done this little project several times now and I get a little happy charge every time.) On Monday, we had a nice roast chicken dinner. That dinner yielded enough leftovers for one chicken salad lunch; a giant vat of chicken soup, of which we ate half and froze half for later; and tonight's chicken quesadillas. We're now out of meat, but I still have the leftover roast veggies to use tomorrow.

I really think there is no meal more satisfying and, as it turns out, thriftier, than roast chicken and vegetables. And it's so easy. I learned how to do it as a kid from watching my mom, and then my Aunt Dawn showed me how to refine my technique.

Use a large roaster chicken, say eight pounds. Make sure the chicken is completely defrosted. Preheat the oven to 400.

Put an array of cut-up vegetables in a large bowl and toss them with a few tablespoons of olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper. Put them in a large roasting pan, like so.

Try to cut them roughly the same size so they cook at the same rate. The types of veggies can vary, but my standards are carrots, potatoes, sweet onion, and artichoke hearts. In this photo there's eggplant, because we happened to have some. I've used sweet potatoes in place of the potatoes and carrots. Whole cloves of garlic are good, too. One time I put in celery and I thought it made the whole thing taste like soup.

Take a chicken and make sure you've removed the neck and giblets from the cavity. Rinse it and pat it dry, and then put it on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan.

Spread olive oil or melted butter all over the chicken skin. Add herbs, kosher salt, and ground black pepper. I think this chicken has butter, garlic, fresh sage and thyme on it.

Rosemary is good too, except rosemary makes me nauseous ever since I was pregnant with Josh and cooked a big meal with rosemary and then had morning sickness for three months. I try to avoid it. Dried herbs are fine too—in fact, they're better because they don't burn the way fresh herbs do. (Minced garlic tends to burn too.) Quarter a lemon or an orange, or both, squeeze a little of the juice over the chicken, and put the pieces in the cavity.

Put it in the oven. It will take about 90 minutes.

If the skin starts to get too blackened before the chicken is done, cover it with foil. But that's a matter of taste; we like really crispy skin. It's finished when the juices run clear and the drumsticks become very loose. And then you'll feast for a week!


  1. Woo hoo! It's going on the list to do the week we come home - I'll make it and we'll have the leftover stuff to do all week when I'm trying to re-entry to home!

  2. Where, oh WHERE does one purchase an eight pound chicken?! I must know the answer . . . for I am likely to head there immediately and purchase enough large capons to stock my freezer.

    Looking forward to the baking extravaganza, my friend. Call me and we'll finalize our plans.

  3. It's getting harder to find big roasting chickens. Locally, sometimes Hy-Vee carries them, and you can always find them at Hen House for a thousand dollars. If I can't find a big roaster, I use two smaller fryers.

  4. How can some anonymous person finalize plans with you? I can't get you to make plans with me no matter what I do?

    I'm going to try your roast chicken too - looks great.

    Good think my Hen House only charges $998 for an 8 pounder.