Weekend Dinner Project – Roast Chicken and Vegetables

IMG_4244A roasted chicken is a beautiful thing. Two of them are even lovelier. Roasting chicken fills your home with mouth-watering aromas, and fills your refrigerator with useful, flavorful leftovers. Roasting two chickens over a generous bed of potatoes and vegetables creates a complete meal, plus ingredients for at least one weeknight meal that can be ready in 20 minutes, perfect for the Monday night blues. A whole chicken (or two) usually takes well over an hour to roast, so this meal is better to attempt on a weekend. Why not this weekend?

IMG_4230This is my roasting pan, full of sweet potatoes, Yukon gold potatoes, onion, carrots, celery, and herbs. Use what your family likes; in addition to, or instead of my choices, you could also use celery root, fennel, parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, or butternut squash. Everything’s in large chunks because the cooking time was about an hour and a half, and smaller pieces would be sadly overdone by the end of that. All the vegetables were tossed in plenty of vegetable oil, salt and pepper. This is your best chance to add flavor to the vegetables, so don’t be shy with the salt and pepper, and you don’t want them to burn, so don’t be shy with the oil. They should glisten and sparkle with oil, salt, and pepper when you’ve done it right. Dump them right into your roasting pan, no rack required, and spread them evenly to cover the bottom. Lay whole sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary over the top. Your oven should be on, your oven rack should be in the middle position, and the temperature should be set at 450 degrees F. Trust me.

IMG_4238Each of these chickens is about 4 pounds, which is a great size for roasting, because it can be done in under two hours, and two of them fit in the roasting pan. All you have to do to get them ready is remove their packaging (there will be juices collected in the package, so do this with care and you won’t make a mess) and pat them dry with paper towels. Check in the cavity for any giblets (organ meats and the neck, sometimes packaged in a clever little sack) and remove them. Make the chickens glisten and sparkle with oil, salt, and pepper, and lay them on top of the bed of vegetables in your roasting pan. What about washing the chickens? Recommendations about this have changed; now washing your chicken is not recommended, because that is more likely to spread bacteria over more of your kitchen surfaces.

Pop the roasting pan in the oven; immediately lower the temperature to 350 degrees F. Roast for about 1 1/2 hours; if you notice your oven browns the chickens unevenly, you can turn the pan front-to-back about halfway through the cooking time, otherwise just let it all roast. Check for the chicken’s doneness by taking its temperature with a meat thermometer in the thigh meat. It should be about 165-170 degrees. Don’t worry; the chicken will rest on the cutting board for about 10 minutes, tented with foil, and the temperature will rise a bit more. The vegetables should be tender enough to yield to a paring knife.

IMG_4240After you remove the chickens to the cutting board, and tent them with foil, scoop the potatoes and vegetables out of the roasting pan with a slotted spoon, into a large bowl. I left the celery in the roasting pan; it was really there for flavor, and doesn’t have much left to offer. Taste, and add any salt and pepper you think you need. Also, a great finishing touch is a handful of minced fresh parsley. Don’t use dried parsley here. It doesn’t have the fresh, herby flavor of freshly minced parsley, and that’s what you’re looking for.

I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of carving up the chickens. We were really hungry, so The Husband carved off two of the wings for himself, and a slice of breast meat and skin for me, and we tucked in. However, Gourmet Magazine has a great video tutorial to carving a roast chicken, which you can view by clicking on this link: Carving Roast Chicken. I did not make a sauce either. Keeping it simple. However, the pan drippings are the beginnings of a fabulous sauce or gravy, so if you’re ambitious, brave, and know how, jump in and make some. If you aren’t into sauce, don’t stress out about it.

The best way to store your leftover chicken, so it’s easy to pull together a quick weeknight meal, is to carve both chickens completely. I like to store the breast meat separately from the rest, because it’s most likely to end up in a sauce or casserole. The legs, thighs, and wings are the parts my family prefers to eat right off the bone, so that’s how I store them in the refrigerator. You aren’t done with the carcasses yet; place them in freezer bags, chill in the refrigerator, and then freeze them. They are the base for homemade chicken stock that rocks so much more chicken flavor than any stock or bouillion you can buy.

I invite you to roast some chicken and vegetables this weekend. You will be glad you did, in more ways than one. I’ve got Monday taken care of, too. Hint: it involves egg noodles and bechamel. Make your grocery list now.

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