Thursday, February 5, 2009

Multi-Purpose Meal

A very simple - yet very satisfying - meal is a roast chicken. Although the roasting itself takes time, the technique and hands-on preparation is fast and simple. Roast meat is incredibly tender, and you can make a full dinner by simply chopping up some potatoes, carrots, and onions and throwing them in the pot with the the bird. One 4-5 lb. chicken usually provides enough meat for me and Noe to have a decent-sized dinner with some leftover for sandwiches, salads, etc.

The finished product ready for carving...
something I am not very good at.

I like the Martha Stewart method of roasting, which calls for about 55 minutes in the oven at around 450 degrees. This lets the skin get nice and crisp without drying out the meat underneath.

I start the process by removing the innards from the cavity, trimming any excess fat, and patting the chicken dry. Once I'm done with that, it's sort of a free-for-all. I usually salt and pepper the cavity and stuff it with some aromatics - whole springs of rosemary or thyme, some chopped garlic - along with some lemon slices. Sometimes I rub Herbes de Provence under the skin, or slide thinly-sliced lemons between the skin and the meat. Sometimes I just liberally apply salt and pepper. Then I usually rub the skin with butter, truss up the legs, and throw it in the pan along with my potatoes and carrots (which seem to lend themselves well to roasting).

In the oven, about halfway through the process.

Anytime you embark on roasting a whole chicken, you get a bonus after you've carved it: a chicken carcass. This may not seem like a great bonus (after all, most people do choose to buy just the cuts of meat they want to eat at the time with the bones already removed) but if you have a chicken carcass, you can make homemade chicken stock. I use chicken stock excessively, not just in soups and sauces but also often as a substitute for water when making couscous or certain types of rice. By boiling my couscous in chicken stock (and throwing in some finely chopped garlic) it gets infused with a subtle and slightly more rich flavor.

I digress. The point is, chicken stock has a ton of useful applications in any kitchen.


I usually make a very simple, standard stock that I sort of adapted from an old Sarah Moulton recipe. I hack my carcasses into a couple big pieces, throw them in a stock pot, and cover them with water (usually an inch or two over the meat/bones). I bring it to a boil, turn down the heat and let is simmer for about 25 minutes, after which I skim off any fat that has risen to the top. Then I throw in some halved carrots and celery sticks, some quartered onions, a couple thyme sprigs, maybe a bay leaf, whole peppercorns if I have them, and simmer it for about three hours, occasionally skimming the top. Then I strain it into containers, put it in the fridge or freezer, and viola! Chicken stock any time I need it.

I used about four cups of this particular batch of chicken stock in one of my favorite winter recipes, cauliflower chowder. I never would have made cauliflower chowder if I had not eaten at Amanda's - she made it one night for Kevin and I took a bowl as well. Glorious. My chowder is a combination of Amanda's recipe, another Sarah Moulton recipe, and whatever I feel like throwing in at the time. Amanda's version is meatless, but because Noe thinks a lack of meat is a lack of meal, I sometimes throw in chopped ham, bacon, or even chorizo. I serve it with a green salad and garlic baguette. Yum!

Cauliflower chowder simmering on the stove.

If you would like any of these recipes, please email or comment. I am glad to share!


Alison said...

I'd love the recipe for cauliflower chowder - it sounds delicious!

Alex! said...

Are we the same person? I do the roast chicken, I do the couscous thing, and I do the chicken stock.
But I do need the recipe for cauliflower chowder.
I made the onion soup for the first time last night, but I think I'll replace the chicken broth with homemade chicken stock. How amazing would that be?!?
BTW - the Martha Stewart recipe looks very similar to the Thomas Keller recipe I use.

Jessica Watkins said...

Cauliflower Chowder is an excellent lower carb solution to potato soup.