Today was one of those days when the cooking doesn’t stop from sun up until sun down – the kind where you fall into bed at the end of the day with tired muscles and a smile on your face. With the exception of an hour-long walk with my pal, Macy, this afternoon and some time budgeting and paying bills with Jeff this morning, I was cooking….and what could be better than that?
The cooking started with a hearty breakfast – cornmeal pancakes (Jeff’s favorite), sausage links, and a delicious warm apple and thyme compote. It was savory with a hint of sweetness (my kind of breakfast – I typically like my sweets better in the evening) and was an excellent foreshadowing for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday! With a great cup of Green Mountain coffee, it was a perfect start to the day.
I decided to make a roast chicken today. Had I made my usual recipe, I could practically have done it in my sleep; but I was up for something different. As I got started with the spice mixture, Jeff began to get nervous. You see, he’s not much for change and when it comes to roast chicken I tend to agree with him. Roast chicken is one of those things that remind me of my mom’s cooking. One of my favorite meals that she makes is roast chicken, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots.
But I was feeling adventurous today and I wanted a really flavorful chicken so that Jeff and I could eat it for dinner this evening, I could make a yummy cold salad for tomorrow, and I could make a great soup for later in the week. So here’s what I did.
I rinsed and dried the chicken. I created a spice mix to season the cavity and the outside of the bird. In a small bowl I combined:
- the zest of two oranges
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 Tbsp grated Ibarra chocolate (Mexican chocolate)
- 1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
- 2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
I placed the chicken in a roasting pan, seasoned the cavity with about 1/3 of the spice mix and then stuffed the cavity with a diced orange (one of the ones I zested), 1 head (yes, a whole head not a clove) of garlic cut crosswise, and 6 sprigs of fresh rosemary. I tied the legs and then drizzled the outside with some olive oil to coat and the sprinkled on the remaining 2/3 of the spice mix and rubbed the outside.
I covered the roasting pan and put it in a 350 degree oven for approximately 1 hour (until the chicken thermometer just popped). About half way through the cooking time, I baste the bird with the pan juices. I removed the chicken from the oven and let it rest until the juices had time to settle back into the bird – approximately 1/2 hour.
Click here for an excellent illustration from the French Culinary Institute of how to carve a chicken. When I carved my chicken today, I only removed the drumsticks and the breast meat from both sides of the breast bone. Because I will be making soup, I left the thigh meat on the bird.
For dinner this evening, Jeff and I will share the breast meat from 1/2 of the chicken and he will likely eat both drumsticks. I will reheat it in 1/2 of the pan juices so that the chicken has a simple au jus and will serve it with a cold roasted beet salad (see vinaigrette recipe below). I roasted the beets earlier in the week and they are in the fridge for whenever I need them.
For tomorrow, I made a salad with the remaining breast meat. I shredded the meat and added it to:
- 1/4 of a cabbage shredded thinly
- 1 green pepper, julienned (in match sticks)
- 1 red pepper, julienned
- 1 cup roasted butternut squash (which I had in my fridge from earlier in the week)
- 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
- 1 cup cooked wheat berries
- 1 orange, segmented (the other orange I used for zest in the chicken spice rub)
- 1/2 cup (may need to add more tomorrow) Vinaigrette
I made a little more than one cup of vinaigrette with:
- 4 ounces of good quality olive oil (I like one with a nice peppery finish)
- 3 ounces of white balsamic vinegar
- 1 ounce of Pumpkin Spice white balsamic vinegar (which my mom purchased at Tastemakers in Lemoyne, PA and was kind enough to share with me)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp honey
As I am writing, an enormous pot of chicken stock is simmering on the stove. To make the stock, I used the chicken carcass (with the thigh meat remaining), 1/2 of the pan juices from the roast chicken, some Parmesan rind that I have in the fridge, some kosher salt, a handful of pink peppercorns, and the following from my freezer:
- Chicken bones – when I roast chicken breast, I do it on the bone and with the skin so the meat remains more moist. I discard the skin and save the bones in the freezer for when I make stock. I just keep a big zip lock bag in the freezer that I add to periodically and pull out and use when I roast a whole chicken.
- Veggie “ends” – any time I cut veggies I save the scraps in the freezer as well. Things like pepper cores, onion greens, beet greens, carrot tops and ends and anything that I pull out of the garden that I don’t use in its peak. Again, I keep a big zip lock bag (actually it usually ends up being more than one bag) in the freezer and I add to it whenever I am cutting veggies. Whether I am cutting them for a recipe or for a veggie tray or simply making veggies from the garden easier to store in my fridge. When I am ready to make stock I have all kinds of vegetables.
After I put everything in the stockpot, I filled it to about 2/3 full with water. Normally I would add some white wine to the stock, but I am fresh out! No big deal. I brought the contents of the stockpot to a boil, reduced the heat and have been simmering it for about an hour. I will let it simmer for another hour and then strain it and refrigerate the liquid. Tomorrow I will skim the fat off and then I can add any ingredients I want for a great soup – a small shaped pasta (orzo or ditalini or acini de pepe) or rice, some carrots and possibly celery, I have some spinach and kale in the garden that would make a great addition, and if I’m feeling like some protein, I’ll either add some chicken or some small meatballs.
As you have probably gathered, I believe in thinking ahead when it comes to meals. If you’re going to go to the trouble to roast a chicken (which to me is completely worth the effort), you might as well get more than one meal out of it. And when you’re chopping veggies for something, think ahead to the next time you make stock. Oh, and if you’re going to get out all the ingredients for a lasagna, for Pete’s sake, don’t just make one! Make as many as you can store in your freezer – either for your family to have later or to share with others. If you have some time on a weekend, roast some squash and/or some chicken that you can use in meals the following week. Make the most of your time!
In fact, I better run – I have to go check my chicken stock and the Pizza Rustica (a fantastic Julia Child recipe) that I have baking for Monday!