The last time I did a cooking post, I got a nice email from a reader that was also a student. She complained that even though she wanted to learn how to cook, some of the recipes I posted required either an expensive trip to the store (e.g.: turkey with red & green mole) or expensive equipment (e.g.: an outdoor grill, as with the grilled whole fish). Would it be possible, she asked, to do a cooking post for someone relatively new to cooking on a shoestring budget?
I’m a little late in following through, but over the next three days I’m going to do three cooking posts for people on a budget. Today’s post will be simple roast chicken. Tomorrow, I’ll look at taking the leftover meat and making enchiladas with a simple homemade red sauce. And then on Sunday, I’ll show how to take the last of the carcass and use it to make a Thai coconut & lemongrass soup. All will be simple; all will be inexpensive; all will be delicious.
First, a few quick notes on roasting the chicken:
- If you’ve never roasted a chicken, fear not. Roasting a chicken is about the easiest, hardest-to-screw-up recipes ever. If you’re the type that avoids the kitchen because it can be intimidating, this is the recipe you.
- In this recipe I am asking you to use a free range chicken. You can, of course, save a few dollars by getting a cheaper chicken than free range. Don’t. Free range chickens are grass fed and thus have actual chicken flavor, while the Foster Farms types are flavorless. The big meat-processing plants feed chickens stuff designed to make them grow fast at the expense of taste. Remember, this chicken is going to be used to flavor three different dinners, so spend the extra two bucks and get free range and – if its available where you are – local.
- I would also recommend spending a little extra money to get either kosher or sea salt as opposed to table salt. This probably doesn’t increase any meal even as much as a penny, and the flavor difference is enormous – and well worth it.
- One of the inherent problems in cooking any bird is that the breast is the least fatty part, and since it faces straight up and can cook faster than the rest of the bird. This usually forces you to overcook the breast, and is the reason breast meat so often turns out dry. In this recipes the breast will be on it’s side for over 80% of the time it’s in the oven, forcing the fatty thighs and legs to be cooked quicker, which allows the breast to stay moist and juicy.
- The only equipment a student or new cook might not have in this recipe would be a roasting pan. If you don’t own one, you can buy a cheap one at a place like K-Mart for a few bucks.
Recipe(s) after the jump.
1 Whole Free Range Chicken – ($9.00)
1 1/2 Tbl. Staple Olive Oil – ($0.05)
2 Clove Garlic – ($0.10)
1 Sprig Rosemary – ($0.35)
Salt & Pepper to Taste
1 lb. Red Potatoes – ($2.00)
1 Bunch Greens – ($1.50)
Total time from start to finish: Somewhere between an hour to an hour and a half, depending on whether you have one oven or two.
Amount of time you’re actually doing stuff aside from drinking wine: About 15-20 minutes total.
Cost per Each Dinner: – $3.25
Preheat the oven(s) to 450. – If your kitchen only has one oven, you’ll want to do the potatoes first.
- Cut the potatoes half and then half again, so that they are quartered. (If they are baby potatoes, just cut them in half.)
- Drizzle about ½ a tablespoon of olive oil into a roasting pan, and then sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper in the pan as well.
- Using a spatula, lightly toss the potatoes so that they are all covered in the salt, pepper and olive oil.
- Put them in the oven. Take them out every 5-10 minutes and toss with the spatula, until they are a golden brown. (Usually about 20-30 minutes in total.)
- If you are using one oven, put them aside until the chicken is done.
- Chop up the leaves from the rosemary sprig, crush one clove of garlic, and stir both together with ½ tablespoon olive oil.
- Find where the flap of skin separates from the meat of the breast. This will be along the cavity (the large whole you’d be putting stuffing in if this were a Thanksgiving Day turkey). Stick your hand in gently, separating the skin for the breast, while leaving the skin intact and on the bird. Take your olive oil mixture, and rub it in between the breast meat and skin.
- Put the bird on its side in a roasting pan, and stick in the oven for 25 minutes.
- After 25 minutes, flip the bird to the opposite side. (You can use kitchen gloves, or two large spoons, or tongs.) Place back in oven for 25 minutes.
- After the second round of 25 minutes, roll chicken right side up, so that the breast faces upward. Cook for 10 more minutes.
- Take out of the over, let sit for about five minutes. If using one oven, stick the potatoes back in (with oven turned off) for a few minutes to reheat while chicken is cooling.
- While chicken is in the oven, roughly chop the greens.
- Right before you pull the chicken out of the oven, heat a pan over medium-high heat on the stove.
- As soon as the chicken is out, pour the remaining olive oil in the pan. Crush garlic and stir for about 1/2 minute.
- Stir in mixed greens, until mostly coated with oil. Pour a very tiny amount of water in to help greens steam. Salt and pepper if you wish.
- Stir, occasionally dripping in water as needed, until greens are dark and wilted.
- To make the greens extra yummy, take a spoon or two of the chicken pan juices and stir them in with the greens just before serving.
That’s it. You’re done! Cut some meat off that bad boy, get some potatoes and greens, and sit down and eat.
One last note: If you have leftover potatoes and greens, don’t throw away! The greens will go great in the enchiladas, and the potatoes will add some hardy texture to the soup. (Neither are required, however.)