Things to do while “underemployed”: Eat healthier. (Don’t laugh, not nice.) Start going to the gym again regularly. Make (and keep!) various doctors’ appointments. Figure out new career plan, as my industry is on its way to extinction. Launch food blog with Jill. And, for heaven’s sake, cut back on the spending. So far, I’m one for five. Maybe one and a half, if you’re generous and count last night’s meal as a good step in the thrifty direction.
The March issue of Gourmet includes a feature on getting four meals out of two roast chickens, which seemed to meet that last mandate on my list. This is Gourmet we’re talking about, though, so one of those recipes is for a squid risotto (on my to-try list for less impecunious times), and another is for a chicken and mushroom lasagne with pricey Gruyère, but the concept is a solid one, even if my leftovers wind up being a bit more pedestrian.
Although the writer couldn’t resist using the “killing two birds with one stone” line, she didn’t lie when she called this a truly excellent recipe for roast chicken. While most standard chicken recipes call for room-temperature butter to be slathered onto and under the bird’s skin, this one instructs you to melt that magical dairy product in a pan with smashed garlic, then brush that infusion over the skin, and therein lies the genius. The subtle butter complements the smashed garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs of your choosing that are stuffed into the cavity (I had thyme and oregano, so that’s what I used). An hour later, after frequent basting, you have crisp skin, juicy, aromatic meat, and the makings of a velvety, citrusy pan gravy.
I paired the gently flavored chicken with zucchini, simply sauteed in olive oil and (more) garlic, and roasted potatoes, tomatoes, and kalamata olives tossed in a bold Dijon dressing and topped with nicely crunchy breadcrumbs.
It was the kind of meal I normally associate with the weekend, but thanks to all of the free time currently at my disposal, it was a Thursday-night breeze. Let’s hear it for the recession!
Roast Chicken with Pan Gravy
Adapted from Gourmet, March 2009
Serves 4 with leftovers
The full stick of butter called for may seem to negate the first item on my list above, but I rationalized this by figuring that it’s really only half a stick of butter split between two chickens; the other half goes into the pan gravy, and I only used a spoonful or so of that. If that logic doesn’t work for you, those four tablespoons in the gravy could be cut down to one or two, and you’d never miss them.
2 whole chickens (about 3½ lb each)
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, divided
6 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 lemons, halved
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups water
3 sprigs each, fresh thyme and oregano
1. Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.
2. Pull off excess fat around cavities of chickens and discard, then rinse chickens and pat dry. Melt 4 Tbsp butter with garlic and brush butter all over chickens. Season both chickens inside and out with 2½ tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper (total). Put half of garlic and 1 lemon half in each cavity and loosely tie legs together with string.
3. Roast chickens on a rack in a large (17- by 11-inch) flameproof roasting pan, basting with pan juices using a spoon (remove pan from oven and tilt if necessary) every 20 minutes, rotating pan, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into fleshy part of a thigh of each chicken (do not touch bone) registers 170°F, 50 to 60 minutes total. Baste chickens once more, then carefully tilt them so juices from cavities run into roasting pan. Transfer chickens to a cutting board (reserve pan) and let rest 15 minutes before carving.
Make gravy while chickens rest:
1. Pour off all but 2 Tbsp fat from pan, then cook remaining drippings over medium-high heat until deep golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Stir in water and simmer, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Whisk in remaining 4 Tbsp butter, a few sprigs of herbs from cavity, and lemon juice to taste (from remaining lemon halves). Season with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a gravy boat. (If you’re anything like me and not quite grown-up enough for a gravy boat, a bowl works equally well.)
Dijon Vegetable Roast
Adapted from Cooking Light, March 2008
1 (1-ounce) slice white or wheat bread
5½ teaspoons olive oil, divided
5 teaspoons country-style Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon grated lemon rind
1½ pounds small red potatoes, quartered (I used 5 russet potatoes, cut into 2″ pieces)
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges (about 8 ounces)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
12 pitted kalamata olives, halved (about 1/3 cup)
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure ½ cup. Spread crumbs on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until golden.
3. Increase oven temperature to 450°.
4. Combine 4 teaspoons oil, mustard, salt, pepper, and rind in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk.
5. Combine potatoes, onion, and remaining 1½ teaspoons oil in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Place potato mixture on a foil-lined jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 20-30 minutes, or until crisp outside and soft inside. Add tomatoes and olives to pan. Bake an additional 20 minutes or until potatoes are brown. Add potato mixture to mustard mixture; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.