Make the Most of Your Roast with This Adaptable Method
Saturday mornings in my house are spent cooking, especially foods that need to be cooked (lest they expire) and will provide delicious, nutritious meals throughout the week. It’s a relaxing time to enjoy cooking and put together odds and ends in savory, cohesive dishes. This challenges my practical and creative muscles while eliminating food waste, something that’s very important in a world that’s far too wasteful.
This Saturday, I was dealing with an acorn squash that was getting a little tired and a whole, uncooked chicken waiting in the refrigerator wings. I decided to cook the squash my favorite childhood way, halved and filled with butter, cinnamon, stock, and a little maple syrup. Normally, I would roast this in a roasting pan and cover it with foil, but I realized I was out of foil. My small Le Creuset Dutch oven happened to be out from a post-soup washing, so I used it as a great, hassle-free roasting vessel (complete with top cover) alternative. Meanwhile, aromas of butter and cinnamon wafting seductively through the air, I decided to put my larger 5.5 Le Creuset to use for roasting the chicken. The enamel coated cast iron is such a great conduit for even cooking and is easier than dealing with a hard-to-clean rack.
Instead of placing the vegetable aromatics underneath the rack, I scattered them on the bottom of the Dutch oven along with some halved lemon and fresh rosemary sprigs. In the center, I arranged an upside down oven-proof ramekin as a throne for the bird that would encourage air flow for even cooking and browning. I left the onion, garlic, and well-scrubbed carrot skins on, since they add to both nutrients, color, and flavor both for the chicken and the stock that will eventually make a soup. Rosemary is prolific in my garden this time of year and pairs well with chicken. In summer months, or according to preference, tarragon, thyme, parsley, sage, oregano, basil, mustard, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, ancho chile, and many other herbs and seasonings work fabulously with the culinary juggernaut, multiple meal-maker otherwise known as a whole roasted chicken.
Getting the Chicken Oven-Ready
Here’s what you’ll end up with!
One whole six pound chicken
Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion quartered, skin on
6 large cloves garlic, whole with skin on
1 lemon, rinsed and quartered
2 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into 2″-lengths
2 stalks celery, scrubbed and cut into 2″-lengths
5 branches fresh rosemary
Wing tips, chicken neck, gizzard, liver if provided with chicken
2 cups chicken stock for basting
Prep the chicken as described in “Getting the Chicken Oven-Ready,” above. Preheat oven to 475F. Place the chicken on top of the ramekin. Place the Dutch oven in the center rack of the oven. Cook for twenty minutes. Pour 1/2-cup of the stock evenly over the top of the chicken. Reduce heat t0 400F. Pour another 1/2-cup of the stock over the chicken. Cook another 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325F. Continue cooking another 1 1/4 hours (count on roughly 20 minutes per pound), basting with 1/2-cup increments of the stock every 30 minutes. The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F. Allow to rest at least 15 minutes before carving. Serve warm and enjoy the flavors and aromas!
To make a stock for next week’s soup, remove the rosemary and ramekin from the roasting pan. Chop the carved carcass into four or five large chunks, add to the roasting pan with roasting vegetables and lemon. Cover with water up to 1-inch of the top of the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for an hour, skimming and removing any fat or foam from the top. Cool and refrigerate.
Next week – We’ll turn this chicken into a week-long feast of soup, sandwiches, and hearty casseroles. Talk about the meal that keeps on giving. In the meantime, please take a few minutes to look over the details of this fabulous cooking and cookbook writing retreat I’m hosting with my friend and colleague Beckie Carrico Hemmerling in March. Come join the learning and delicious fun! And, please share the details with interested friends who may want to come along, too.