Indeed, the chicken is a wondrous bird. Roasted and served hot with oven-baked vegetables and perhaps the ever-popular mashed potatoes, it makes a never-fail hearty dinner, simple enough to serve to a family. Dressed up, it becomes a party piece. However, one of the best aspects of a chicken dinner is leftovers (I like to think of them as ‘planned-overs’). If every morsel is gobbled up (excuse the pun), then you need to do to roast two chickens instead of one, because leftover chicken is a time saver for week-night dinners.
For best results, choose a fresh, air-chilled chicken and, depending on the number of servings you want, roast an additional bird to ensure you have the required leftovers. Many chickens come with their own thermometers which tell you when the chicken is done. This feature ensures perfect cooking and simplifies the dish even more. However, if you have your own thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the breast, making sure it does not hit the bone. For the chicken to be done, it should reach 185°F (90°C). One 3 1/2 to 5 pound bird should give you four to five servings with a small portion left for a lunchtime sandwich, to add to a salad, or with the help of the carcass, to make a nourishing soup. As I said, the chicken is a wondrous bird!
1 or 2 chickens (3 ½ – 5lb/2.2 kg)
1 or 2 lemons
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme or fresh if available
Salt and pepper
1 onion, peeled and halved
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Spray a baking pan (for ease use a disposable foil pan) with baking spray and add about 1 cup (250 mL) water to pan. Arrange chicken(s) on rack; check the inside of chicken and remove any giblets if reserving for soup.
Halve lemon(s) and squeeze juice over the chicken(s). Sprinkle chicken with rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Place a sprig of rosemary and a half onion inside each chicken. Cover with foil and roast 1 ½ to 2 hours, removing foil for last 30 minutes to brown and crisp skin. Roast until internal temperature reads 185°F (90°C) or pop-up thermometer pops up on bird.
Remove chicken from oven to cooling rack; keep covered and let rest, covered, for about 20 minutes before carving into serving portions. Meanwhile, remove any pan drippings, scraping up any brown bits, and reserve for gravy.
To carve 3 ½ – 5 pound/2.2 kg chicken: Using a sharp knife, cut chicken at the joints into leg and thigh portions, slicing the breast to give about four to five portions. There will be still be some meat clinging to the carcass, ideal for soup or a sandwich. Remember for food safety to keep chicken covered and refrigerate immediately after carving.
For soup – if you cannot make the chicken stock immediately, remove any meat from the carcass and place the meat and carcass into a freezer-proof bag and freeze for up to two months to make into stock at a more convenient time.
Quick and Easy Chicken Pot Pie
An all-time favourite, this is a super easy version ideal for a weeknight dinner. If you have leftover chicken gravy, add up to ½ cup/125 mL to vegetables to enhance the flavour.
2 cups (500 mL) reserved chicken meat
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 leek, carefully washed and thinly sliced
8 oz (250 g) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each, grated lemon rind, thyme and tarragon
Enough water to cover and reserved gravy
1 can (10 oz/284 mL) cream of mushroom soup
1 9-inch (23 cm) prepared pie shell.
Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Spray 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate with baking spray. In a saucepan combine celery, carrots, leek, mushrooms, lemon rind, thyme and tarragon with just enough water to cover vegetables. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer just until vegetables are tender, about eight to 10 minutes. Gradually stir in mushroom soup, stirring constantly to prevent lumping. Stir in reserved chicken gravy. Spoon filling into prepared pie plate.
Invert pastry over chicken filling and press down onto edge of pie plate. Make several slashes in pastry lid to allow steam to escape. Place pie on baking sheet and bake in pre-heated oven about 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Cut into four wedges and serve with salad and crusty bread. Makes four servings.
Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer ~ email@example.com