Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 13, 2013

Roast chicken: From picnic lunch to dinner table

BY CHERYL GROSS Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — FRANKFORT — Busy times call for the streamlined preparation of wholesome, healthy food — whether you are single or part of a couple or family.

Enter the whole chicken. While many cooks purchase chicken parts for individual dishes, purchasing and roasting the whole bird will result in prepared meat for a whole host of quick, delicious, homemade and healthy meals, from Saturday picnic to Sunday dinner.

When you puchase a chicken, buy the best bird you can afford. Read the packaging and avoid birds that have been injected with broth or a sodium solution or pre-treated in any way. I buy my chickens through the May Farm Grazing Guild here in Benzie County. Should you be unable to find a ‘plain chicken,’ skip the brining step.

Brining

Meat is brined to add moisture and flavor. I brine my whole chickens and turkeys 8 to 12 hours. To brine a chicken, find a pot that will hold the entire bird with a little width to spare and several inches of depth. A too-big pot will dilute the salt and a too-little pot will leave some meat out of the brine. Fill the pot one third with cold water and add one cup of Kosher salt. Kosher salt is absolutely necessary as it is less salty than either mined or sea salt. Do not use table salt. Stir to dissolve. Add the bird to the pot and add additional cold water to cover. Refrigerate 8 to 12 hours.

Roasted chicken

Preheat the oven to 375°. Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry. Using cotton string, secure the legs and wings close to the body. Place the bird in a roasting pan with a rack, breast side down. Add carrot, celery and peeled onion cut into chunks to the roasting pan and in the cavity. Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the chicken breast side up and return to the oven. Roast the chicken about 20 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer registers 185° at the thickest part. All juices should run clear or you will have some undercooked meat.

Let the roast sit covered out of the oven 20 minutes prior to cutting and serving.

Serve with skillet or baked stuffing, roasted or mashed potatoes, a cooked vegetable, a fruit salad and, of course, cooked cranberry relish. Or wrap and refrigerate for a delicious picnic lunch.

Save every bit of juice, fat and pan roasted vegetable left in the pan. Add a cup of water to the pan juices to scrape up every bit. Store this mixture in the refrigerator in a covered container. Save every bone not licked clean. Save all of the leftover carcass. Add any juices left on the cutting board or serving platter to the pan juices. Pick much of the meat off of the carcass and save for the recipes below.

At this point in the process, you may store the liquids, the cleaned meat and the carcass and bones to use another day. Or you may go ahead and make the stock that evening. Getting it out of the way or saving it till later has no effect on the stock.

Chicken Stock

Cut the mostly-stripped carcass along the ribs, separating the front from the back, and place in a pot. Add all other scraps and bones. Just cover with water. Skim the fat from the top of the chilled pan juices and add juices to the pot, roasted vegetables and all, and set to simmer for a couple of hours. Once the carcass has reached the falling-apart stage, remove from the heat and strain the stock through a mesh sieve. Pick off bits of meat from the bones and store separately. This stock is now ready to use in some of the following recipes.

Short-cut Chicken Fricassee

A Fricassee is meat cooked or braised in liquid then served with the liquid reduced. It may also have added cooked vegetables such as mushrooms and onions or celery and carrots. This short-cut uses previously roasted meat. It is a favorite at my house over buttermilk biscuits.

2 c. or more chicken, cooked, deboned and chopped

3-4 T. butter

3-4 T. flour

2-3 c. chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Turn down the heat and whisk in the flour to form a roux or paste. Slowly add the stock to the roux over medium heat, whisking to incorporate the liquid into the roux. Bring to a simmer to thicken. Add the cooked chicken and heat through. Correct the seasonings.

Serve over mashed potatoes, egg noodles or biscuits.

Chicken Divan

2-3 c. chicken, cooked, deboned and rough chopped

2-3 c. broccoli florets, cooked slightly

2-3 T. butter

2-3 T. flour

2-3 c. chicken stock

2 c. bread cubes, plain or herb-seasoned

1 egg

1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, divided

Dash (or up to 1/4 t.) cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

Prep the chicken and set aside. Cut and partially cook the broccoli and set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Turn down the heat and whisk in the flour to form a roux or paste. Slowly add the stock over medium heat, whisking to incorporate the liquid into the roux. Once the sauce thickens, whisk an egg into the mixture and add a 1/4 c. of Parmesan cheese. Season with the cayenne pepper and correct the seasoning.

In a 7 x 11 pan, spread the bread cubes on the bottom. Top the bread cubes with the chicken. Top the chicken with the broccoli. Pour the sauce over all and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake in a 375° oven for 30 minutes till hot and bubbly.

Chicken Soup

6 c. chicken stock

1/2 c. onion, finely chopped

1 c. carrot, cut into medium chop

1 c. celery, cut into medium chop

1/2 fennel bulb, cut into medium chop (optional)

2 c. chicken, cooked and cut into medium chop

8 oz. cheese tortellini or 1/2 c. white rice or 2 c. egg noodles

1 T. parsley, dried

Salt and pepper to taste

Pour the chicken stock into a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and simmer until almost soft. Add the chicken and tortellini, rice or noodles, and the parsley. Cook 10 minutes for the tortellini and noodles and 20 minutes for the rice. Serve piping hot.

Chicken Cherry Salad

2 c. chicken, cooked and cut into medium dice

1 c. celery, cut into medium dice

1 c. dried tart cherries

1/2 c. walnut meats, broken

1/4 c. sweet onion, chopped

1/4-1/2 c. mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

Chicken Quesadillas

8 fajita-sized tortillas

1 1/3 c. chicken, cooked and diced

8 heaping T. salsa

3 c. Colby-Jack cheese, shredded

Place four tortillas on baking pans. Top each with a 1/3 c. layer of chicken, drizzle each with 2 T. of salsa and sprinkle each with 3/4 c. shredded cheese. Top each with a second tortilla. Bake in a 400° oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and tortilla is crispy. Cut into 6 wedges.

Cheryl Gross is a Benzie County-based freelance writer.