I am not a daily meat-eater; I tell people that I am a “non-practicing vegetarian.” Many of the meals that I prepare are vegetarian, and some are even vegan. However, one meat dish that I cannot stop making is my baked chicken. Why? Because it is my husband’s favorite meal. According to him, “it is how a home-cooked meal should feel.” That and my four-year-old daughter “M” is by my side every time I take the roasting pan out of the oven, saying “Mom, I want some chicken in my mouth! I want skin!” as she opens her mouth and points to the center of her mouth like I don’t know where her mouth is. How could anyone resist that? Not me!
Use the Animal
I respect the animal; I believe that if we are going to use the animal, that we should not waste any useable part of the animal. When I first started making baked chicken, we ate the meat, threw out the bones and that was that. A few years ago, I started making various soups. I realized that I could use the bones, fat, and grizzle to make stock. Hence, baked chicken – chicken stock – soup. Here is how I do it:
Preheat the oven to 475. Put a little olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan. Turn the chicken around in the pan so the top and bottom are oiled. Place breast-side down. Squeeze the juice of one lemon all over the top.
Season with garlic salt, dehydrated onion, and pepper. Remember to season the gravy – I make sure to put plenty in the bottom of the pan.
Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. While the chicken is browning, prepare the vegetables. In the past, I just put potatoes and carrots around the chicken. Lately, though, I’ve been putting potatoes under the chicken and using them to make mashed potatoes. Since they cook in the juices of the chicken, the mashed potatoes are full of flavor!
After taking the roasting pan out of the oven, turn the temperature down to 425. Take the chicken out of the pan and put the potatoes (cut in half lengthwise) and garlic in the bottom of the roasting pan. Put the chicken back in the center and surround it with carrots. Add 1/2 to 1 stick of butter (for me, it depends on what I have in the fridge) and 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon. Add 2 cups of hot water (from the tap is fine), cover, and bake for one hour.
After the chicken is done, I set the chicken in the roasting pan lid (after all, why get another dish dirty) and the carrots in a dish.
The potatoes and garlic go into a pot with 1/2 to 1 stick of butter (again, it just depends what I have in the fridge). Mash it up with a combination of minced herbs and greens. I like to use whatever I have in the backyard: garlic chives, parsley, green onions, spinach, and kale. You could also add parmesan or asiago cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Side note: I don’t like to peel potatoes. In fact, I never peel potatoes for anything anymore (sorry mom!). I like the rustic look of my mashed potatoes – I use a handheld potato masher rather than an electric beater. After all, chunks of potato, garlic, and herbs never hurt anyone!
To make the gravy, put the roasting pan on the stove (again, why dirty another pot!), and turn the heat onto high. Let it reduce down. To thicken, I put some flour in a bowl (maybe 2 tablespoons or so), then spoon some of the hot liquid into the bowl. Dissolve the flour in the bowl thoroughly, then add it back into the pot. I find I end up with less lumps of flour in the gravy. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
Homemade Chicken Stock
With the baked chicken dish done, it’s time for the stock. The chicken I buy comes with the giblets. I put them in a crock pot with a pasta strainer insert. (This makes straining the stock so much easier in the end!) Then that pot basically becomes my compost while I prep various vegetables for the soup. I add garlic ends/peel, onion ends/peel, carrot ends/peel, celery ends, and lemon rind.
(Yes, dad, I throw in the liver. I don’t fry it up and eat it for breakfast. Gross, dad, gross!)
When the chicken has had time to rest and cool, carve it up, throwing as many bones and pieces of fat and tissue as possible into the pot. Add salt, pepper, dried thyme, and dried rosemary. Fill the pot with water and boil for a while – I never really time it, but it sits on the stove boiling and simmering for at least 2 hours. Here it is boiling away:
Here it is a little further along:
After a couple hours, turn off the heat, pull up the strainer and allow the remaining liquid to drip down. Using this strainer insert is so much easier than what I used to do (pour the stock into another pot with a pasta strainer in it to catch the solids – so many extra dishes and so much more effort!).
Here is the finished stock:
In the meantime, prepare the soup ingredients. There are a variety of soups that I make – Lentil Potato Kale Soup, Potato Carrot Pasta Soup, Vegetable Soup, etc. Today, I made my sour soup. The ingredients are a variety of greens, potato, onions, garlic, the juice of 4-5 lemons, and my homemade stock.
First, put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot. Chop up the vegetables and throw them in the pot. I use the “chop and drop” method – onions and garlic first, followed by cubed potatoes, celery, cabbage, and any other leafy greens. After the vegetables have had a chance to cook a little, add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Then pour in the stock. Let simmer for a while on medium-low heat.
Side note: If you are using pre-made stock that was previously frozen or refrigerated, be sure to heat it up on the stove. Add hot stock to your soup, not cold!
Today, I had about a quart of leftover stock. I refrigerated it, and will probably use it to make risotto. Whatever you use it for, don’t let it go to waste!
And here’s what you can enjoy with just one chicken! Yum!