There’s nothing better than a great home-cooked meal. Except one that can turn into two or three home-cooked meals. My favorite three-fer is roast chicken. For many years I bought wonderful roast chickens from a neighborhood rotisserie. When it closed, I decided to learn how to roast my own. Now I find it easy - and less expensive.
Framed with potatoes that crisp up with the cooking juices, a five-pound roast chicken serves my family of five with some to spare. To go with it, I usually prepare steamed broccoli dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt, and a green salad. The whole meal costs less than $20, about $4 per person. After dinner, I pull any remaining meat from the bones and then place the carcass in a Crock Pot together with carrots, onion, celery, and plenty of water. A few hours later I have about a gallon of chicken broth, some of which I use for soup the next day and freeze the rest for later. The leftover chicken meat I use in a green salad or to make chicken salad sandwiches.
Meal #1: Roast Chicken
1 roasting chicken, about 5 lbs (free range if possible)
6–7 medium-size potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 or 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil (less if desired)
Sea salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450 °F. Remove the gizzard bag and wash and pat the bird dry. Place in a roasting pan breast down. In the bird’s cavity, place the onion halves and rosemary sprig, reserving a few leaves, if desired, for the potatoes.
- Place the potatoes around the bird in the roasting pan. Place a few leaves of rosemary on the potatoes if desired. Remember you can lift up the wings and get more potatoes under them.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the bird and the potatoes. Heavily salt the top of the bird and add pepper if desired. Place in the oven and roast for about 60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer shows it is “well done.”
- Baste the bird with its juices every 20 minutes or so. When cooked, remove the potatoes promptly before they absorb too much juice and lose their crispiness. You may need a spatula to pry out the crispiest potatoes. Carve the bird and serve with sides of your choice. Reserve the onion from the cavity for the broth.
Meal #2: Chicken Broth
1 chicken carcass
2 large carrots, washed, trimmed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, washed trimmed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 onion (from roasted chicken cavity if possible)
1 garlic clove, peeled
Salt to taste
- Place all ingredients in a large stock pot or Crock-Pot. Fill with water. On stovetop, bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer with lid just askew. Cook for 1–2 hours, adding water as needed if it evaporates.
- When cooked, remove broth into large container. Add cooked vegetables, if desired, to broth. Broth may be used to make chicken soup, as chicken stock for other recipes, or frozen for later use.
- For soup: In a separate soup pot, place broth and desired vegetables. Bring to a boil. Add desired pastina (soup-sized pasta) or rice. Simmer until done. Serve hot. (I sometimes make grilled cheese sandwiches to accompany this soup.)
Meal #3: Green Salad with Chicken & Avocado
1 head fresh organic lettuce of your choice
Cooked chicken meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 ripe avocado
1/4 fresh red onion
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Wash and dry the lettuce. Tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces and set aside. In the bottom of a salad bowl, place the olive oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard.
- Slice the onion thinly and add to the vinegar mixture. With a fork, mash the onion and mix the ingredients until blended. Add a pinch of sea salt.
- Let macerate while you halve and pit the avocado. Add the lettuce to the bowl. Add the chicken. Slice the avocado into the salad. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts, sea salt, and pepper. Serves 2–4.
- Pia Hinckle