Chicken practice before the ‘Turkey Show’

You don’t have to be too chicken to cook a whole chicken.

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Not that I am scared, but I usually opt for picking up a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken at the market because they are fast, unintimidating, hassle-free, really tasty, and cheap. (I can never understand why, in most cases, the cooked chicken at the supermarket is cheaper than the uncooked chickens?) However, as a warm-up for the impending November holiday (You know the one? Need a hint? Let’s talk turkey.) I have been cooking my own chickens and it’s been quite rewarding. It’s great practice in preparation for Thanksgiving, because you do not want to have any turkey cooking snafus on the big day!

Chickens take much less time but the technique is basically the same. Additional benefits are: 1. You are able to cook and season the chicken to your temperature and liking (I find the rotisserie chickens tend to be slightly over-cooked and under-seasoned) and 2. A whole chicken provides my family with at least three meals. Of course, the first is a chicken dinner, easily the best of the three. There is nothing better than a piping hot, fresh, crisp, and juicy chicken. We usually have our chicken with baked potatoes, using the leftovers later for soup, and baked vegetables (broccoli, carrots and/or brussels sprouts are our staples and can also be used later for soup), and homemade gravy made from the drippings. Simple, healthy, and delicious! Then I carve the chicken and we use that meat for sandwiches, stir fry, wraps, and more as the second nosh, and finally, homemade soup is a must for a third meal. 

The Chicken

First, I start my adventure with leaving the chicken out for a half hour or so while the oven preheats (to 350-400 degrees), allowing the chicken to warm up to room temperature. In a bowl, I mix in dry seasonings (to your liking) and chopped garlic with soft butter. I massage that butter onto the chicken and stuff a large portion of it under the chicken skin. I then season the outside of the chicken liberally with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. 

I then prepare my aromatics to stuff into the bird. I loosely chop parsley, one small apple, one lemon (or orange), one onion, several cloves of garlic, and a couple of stalks of celery. (Insider tip: double up the aforementioned to use later for your soup stock). In a large bowl, I place all the chopped aromatics, drizzle it all with olive oil and then season it all as I did the outside of the bird. Then stuff the cavity with as much of it as I can.

Now the bird is ready for the oven. I put it in the oven in a pan and cook for approximately 20 minutes per pound. Halfway through, I re-season the top of the chicken, this time with Italian seasoning (parsley, basil, oregano) and then a light dusting of paprika, which gives the chicken lovely coloring.

Lasty, I lower the temperature for the last 20 minutes or half-hour to 250° (I think this helps to keep the breast meat from getting dry). Then I put the oven on broil for the last (less than) 5 minutes, giving the skin a tiny bit of char and crispiness.

I let the chicken sit for 10 minutes or so and then I usually carve it before we sit down to dinner. Separating the legs and thighs (my favorite) and the white meat for the table. I save the wings and the rest of the chicken for the soup. Don’t forget to save the drippings from the pan. Use some for the gravy and the rest goes into the soup stock.

The Gravy

Super simple. I use some of the drippings from the chicken and put them into a small pot. To this, I add just a bit of chicken stock. Let it cook down. Add a bouillon cube or sift some flour to thicken. Insider tip: My wife is British and we always have marmite in the cupboard. I add a large tablespoon or two of marmite to my gravy. It adds a great depth of savory flavor and color to the gravy and also thickens it up a bit. Get a jar of marmite — as they say, you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. I am a fan!

The Soup

Place all the chicken bones in a large pot, add the cooked aromatics and the raw veggies that didn’t fit into the chicken, adding enough water to cover all the aforementioned easily. I bring it all to a boil. I then strain the soup stock into a bowl (allowing some bits of onion or garlic or celery to slip through), and pick off any meat of value off the boiled bird. Any leftover potato and veggies from dinner (broccoli, carrots, and/or brussels sprouts) go into the soup. I also like to add cooked cabbage. I always have cooked pasta at the ready in a Tupperware bowl that I can add. To serve the soup, I heat up a portion of the stock with the chicken and veggies. After it is piping hot, I add pasta, potato, and finish off with a handful of spinach and/or sprouts … so good!

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