A few weeks away, unplugged and without expectation. A time of renewal, focus, and rest. I decided to take a little blogging break over the holidays, and today, after spending time last night with friends who are so dear to me that I want to squeeze them tight and never let them go, my heart is full and eager to share.
Darkness, when present, is like a heavy blanket that is both blinding and weighty. Fog fills the mind and discernment is lacking; strength is exerted but progress is not made. It’s exhausting and lonely and sometimes infuriating. While there is no evident rhythm to it, I’ve started to notice little glimmers of hope, as if someone is pulling up a corner of the blanket that threatens suffocation, letting light flood in like the dawn. It’s happening more and more. I shared with you the blessing of visiting the food bank recently, and I’ve had a few moments since then, including last night, in which I feel for just a moment the enormity of the love that God has for me. I want to soak it up and never forget.
Dinner has been quite simple around here lately. Nothing fancy most nights, just trying to be resourceful in using up leftovers and things that we already have on hand. I’ve gotten some killer deals on meat, including hormone-free whole chickens at only 89 cents a pound (!), so we’ve been rolling with that. Boneless skinless chicken breasts have always been my go-to poultry of choice, but this Simple Roast Chicken is changing my tune. It’s super easy to make, the price is right, and it has the added bonus of being able to make stock from the remnants. Carve the bird and serve it as a dinner entrée, or shred the meat for use in meals throughout the week (you could try this one, this one, or maybe even this one). Whatever works for you, I say.
Crispy skin. Juicy meat. That’s all you really need to know. Drying the bird thoroughly prior to roasting is the key to a tasty exterior, and seasoning with salt and pepper makes this dish easy to prepare even when I don’t have a lot of ingredients on hand. If you’re feeling fancy, try stuffing the cavity with fresh herbs, garlic, or a chopped onion, but there’s no need to add oil or butter to the skin prior to cooking. Fold chopped herbs into softened butter and spread it over the chicken once it’s done cooking for a bit more indulgence and a burst of fresh flavor.
(The photos above? They were all taken within 30 feet of my house. I’m striving more to see beauty in the ordinary and quite enjoyed my little nature walk.)
- 1 5-6 pound whole chicken
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
- Remove the giblets from the cavity of the chicken and set them aside; clear the skin of any residual pinfeathers. Rinse the bird under cold water, then dry it thoroughly inside and out using paper towels. Note that moisture inhibits the crisping of the skin, so it’s important to get it as dry as possible.
- Season the cavity generously with salt and pepper, tuck the wings under the chicken, truss the bird (here’s an excellent tutorial for how to do that), then season the outside on all sides (I use about 1 tablespoon of salt for the entire chicken and then just sprinkle pepper till it looks right).
- Place the chicken breast-side up on a rack in a roasting pan, transfer it to the preheated oven and allow it to cook for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, until juices run clear when the meat is pierced between the leg and the thigh (the internal temperature should register 180 degrees if you are using a meat thermometer). If the chicken starts to become very brown during cooking, you may loosely cover it with foil to prevent overbrowning. Just be sure to remove the foil for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking to ensure crisp skin.
- Cut away the twine and allow the chicken to rest for 20 minutes prior to carving.
- Carcass and skin from 1 5-6 pound chicken
- Neck bone that is usually included in the cavity of the chicken upon purchase
- 4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- Handful of fresh parsley and/or thyme
- Enough water to cover the ingredients
- Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 4 hours, keeping it at a very low simmer (note that cooking the stock at too high of a temperature will result in increased evaporation and you might not be left with much stock; however, if the water level starts looking too low, feel free to add some more). Skim off any scum that appears on the surface of the stock.
- After about 4 hours, carefully pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer to remove the solids, skim the fat from the surface of the liquid if desired, use the stock immediately or refrigerate for future use.
Tips and Tidbits
- A note on prepping the bird: I realized after the chicken was already in the oven that I neglected to tuck the wing ends underneath to keep them from overbrowning. Next time!
- Parsnips would be another excellent addition to the stock, as would leeks or even mushrooms. The idea here is that you are taking plain old water and infusing it with tons of flavor, so you have a lot of flexibility to add whatever you desire. Emily of Emmy Cooks has a very helpful list of vegetables that go well in stock, and she also identifies those that do not. Lastly, you might be wondering about my choice to add the chicken skin to the stock. If I’m serving the chicken as an entree, I’ll serve it skin-on, but if I’m shredding the meat and don’t really want the skin for eating, adding it to the stock is an excellent way to prevent all that deliciousness from going to waste. If you are concerned about fat, just skim the fat from the stock once it’s made, or – even easier – wait until it’s chilled and scrape the fat solids off the top.
- Oh, and one more thing – since it is a bit of a production, feel free to freeze leftover skin and carcasses until you have several, then make a giant pot of stock (multiplying the other ingredients as needed, of course). Make a small batch or a big one – it’s totally up to you!