[Eating Rainbow | Yellow | Lemon and Chicken]
When we think of super foods, or even the slightly less powerful “health foods,” it is fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts that always seem to come up.
Blueberries. Kale. Oats. Walnuts.
We don’t immediately think of proteins, but they do come up, mostly from plant sources like quinoa and tofu. Animals are a rare protein breed on the superfoodfarm, but they do make an appearance in the form of fish, namely salmon (though not salmon from a farm, salmon caught in the wild).
An animal that we’ve never thought of as a health food, though, is chicken.
Not Just Breasts, Man
That is, we’ve never seen nor thought of chicken as a health food until we came across RealSimple’s list of the 30 Healthiest Foods.
RealSimple’s recommendation is for boneless, skinless chicken breasts as a source of low(er) calorie, lean protein, and the New York Times Health section recommends poached, shredded chicken breast as the side dish to a mostly plant-based plate. So, we might be missing the healthy point of chicken when we eat a whole roast chicken, decadent dark meat, fatcrisped skin and all — and not just one, but two whole roast chickens but we’re going to go with the argument that chicken is still (probably) better for you, than say, bacon-wrapped French fries dipped in ice cream.
(No one said we were required to make fair comparisons.)
Cooking Two Birds with One Stove
Yes, two whole roast chickens. We’re not sure why, in all the time that we’ve been roasting chickens, and at Thanksgiving, roast two turkeys, we never thought to roast two chickens. We don’t like to waste food, whether it’s measuring efficiently from the beginning or using up every last scrap of leftovers, so why should we also waste energy? If we’re going to crank up the oven, why not make use of all that energy and roast two birds in the same space and time it takes to roast just one? One to eat fresh from the oven now, and one to break down and save for later along with the “now” leftovers.
Leftover roast chicken might not seem as healthy as the boneless, skinless variety that RealSimple and the New York Times like, but we do think that having something somewhat lean readily available in the fridge during the hectic week makes it less likely that we’ll try to make a “meal” out of stale tortilla chips and condiment packets or worse yet, fast food from the drive-thru. One roast chicken goes a long way, but two? Starting with a whole roast chicken as a Sunday supper centerpiece, we can stretch the rest of the leftovers well into the latter half of the week.
Winner, Winner, Leftover Dinner
You’ve already seen what we did with some of the “leftovers” — a Yellow Flannel Hash with golden beets and chicken. Everything else can play out in any number of ways: simmer the carcass to make chicken stock to use in a soup or stew, chop breast meat for salads, shred meat for taco or quesadilla fillings, and we’ve even been inspired to doubly crisp the skin to stand in for bacon in CSLT sandwiches (Chicken Skin, Lettuce, Tomato).
Our favorite method of roasting chicken is Thomas Keller’s Favorite Simple Roast Chicken from the Bouchon cookbook, but recently, we’ve been adding some “flair” with different herbs, spices, and aromatics. This week, to match our yellow fever, we stuffed lemon halves into the cavity along with garlic and thyme we pulled from our fledgling garden.
Lemon Herb Roast Chicken
The instructions here are for one chicken. If you’re smart like we are, roast two. If your oven has the space, go crazy and roast three.
1 chicken can serve 4 for dinner. Or one person 5-6 successive meals. You choose. Of course, with two chickens, you don’t have to.
1 whole chicken, giblets removed, rinsed, and patted dry with paper towels
about 2 tablespoons salt
2 lemons, cut in halves
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled and gently smashed
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Generously sprinkle inside chicken cavity with about 1 tablespoon salt. Place lemon halves, garlic cloves and fresh thyme inside cavity. Truss the chicken, loosely closing up the cavity and tying the legs together.
Sprinkle the outside of the chicken with the rest of salt (more if needed) and a few hard turns on the pepper mill. Place the chicken breast side up in an oven proof pan, and roast for about 1 hour, or until juices from the thigh run clear (or until a thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh registers at about 175°F).
Remove pan from oven and allow chicken to rest/cool for about 10 minutes.
You can move the chicken to a serving platter and make a sauce from the pan drippings to serve alongside the chicken.
Or you can be like us. Just roll up your sleeves and go for the chicken with bare hands right from the roasting pan.
How to Use Your Roast Chicken
First: Just the Roast Chicken
After roasting a chicken, enjoy as much of it as you can for lunch or dinner as is. After dinner, pull all the meat off the bones in the largest pieces you can, put in an airtight plastic bag or container, and keep in refrigerator.
Second: Chicken Stock
The first thing you should “make” is roast chicken stock with the carcass(es). Just throw the picked over carcasses in a large stock pot along with carrots, onion, celery, parsley and some other herbs and spices. Cover with water, and simmer. There are slightly more thorough instruction for How to Make Chicken Stock on a previous post here.
Chicken stock is a staple in the kitchen, so you can use it for pretty much anything. When we feel under the weather, we love drinking a mugful of steaming hot plain chicken stock seasoned with a little salt and pepper.