In days gone by, a roast chicken dinner was a special treat, perhaps a celebration or a Sunday dinner. Now, with chickens plentiful and relatively inexpensive, a chicken dinner can be prepared simply and reliably because we have top quality, fresh, air-chilled chickens available.
This makes roasting dead simple with guaranteed juicy, tender results. Not so much in the past. Also, roasting a whole bird guarantees yummy leftovers for the week’s menu, a prized commodity in a time-tight world. Of course, chicken is a popular choice, making a win- win combination for the cook.
For a fool-proof meal, with a minimum of fuss, roast a chicken with delectable results and glorious leftovers.
Simply Roast Chicken
A fresh air-chilled chicken, already trussed and giblet-free, is the basis for the fastest, simplest oven dinner ever. Fifteen minutes of preparation and you are guaranteed a yummy dinner with enough leftovers for another meal and a carcass suitable for making chicken broth for soup. Who could ask for anything more?
Tips when roasting chickens:
- If you wish more leftovers or have a large family, simply roast 2 chickens rather than one.
- There are two schools of thought about temperature for roasting: start with a high temperature (425 F/ 220 C) for 20 minutes then reduce heat (350 F/ 180 C) or simply roast at a continuous lower temperature. I prefer the higher temperature to brown and crisp the skin and get a head start on cooking.
- Adding water or stock to the pan while roasting ensures moistness and enough pan juices for gravy or stock.
- Recipes suggest basting the bird every 20 minutes, a nice touch but not necessary with this streamlined technique.
- Air chilling refers to the butchering process where a chicken is quickly chilled by cold air instead of water which produces a more tender, flavourful bird.
1 or 2 trussed, giblet-free chickens, fresh air-chilled
1 or 2 lemons, skins washed and one sliced
Salt, pepper, tarragon and/or thyme leaves
Pre-heat oven to 425 F (220 C). Spray a baking dish or roasting pan large enough to accommodate chicken(s) with baking spray. Arrange chicken(s) on oven rack.
Squeeze juice of l lemon over bird(s). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, tarragon and thyme. Arrange lemon slices over bird(s).
Pour about 1 ½ – 2 cups water or chicken stock in bottom of pan to keep bird moist while roasting.
Cover birds completely with foil and roast in the oven at 425 F (220 C) 20 minutes. Baste with juices; recover and reduce heat to 350 F or 325 F (170 C) depending on how hot your oven is for 1 ½ – 2 hours or until pan juices run clear, and the internal temperature of bird is 180 F. (Chicken leg should wiggle easily.) Remove foil for the last 20 minutes of cooking and if desired baste again with pan juices for a golden bird.
Risotto with Mushrooms
A true comfort food, risotto calls for Arborio rice which produces a creamy dish different from long grain rice. Risotto can be made with numerous ingredients; however, include the tasty stock leftover from the roast chicken and if you wish, some of the leftover chicken.
Make sure you chill the stock well and discard any fat from the surface before using. If homemade stock is unavailable, use commercial low-salt stock.
4 cups (1 L) chicken stock
2 tsp (10 mL) grated lemon rind
1 tbsp (15 mL) each, extra-virgin olive oil and butter
1 onion chopped
2 cups (500 mL) sliced cremini or white mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
1 cup (250 mL) Arborio rice
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh chopped Italian parsley
In a saucepan bring stock and lemon rind to the boil; cover and keep warm.
In Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat.
Stir in onion; cover and cook until softened about 2 minutes.
Stir in mushroom, garlic and pepper; cover and cook stirring occasionally until mushrooms and onion are tender about 5 minutes.
Stir in rice. Gradually stir in stock and wine about 1/2 cup at a time cook stirring until liquid is absorbed; continue adding stock until it is used up and the rice is just tender and creamy. The process will take about 15 – 20 minutes.
Just before serving, stir in cheese and parsley. Serve immediately. Makes 2 main course servings or 4 accompaniment servings.