Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Basic Roasted Chicken - Prep Ahead Meals

On the run?  Don't have time to make meals when you get home from work or running the kids around to various sporting events?  Still want something nutritious?  Here's one simple solution when it comes to making foods ahead while keeping them healthy.  I cook everything in bulk, especially meats, and freeze them. This recipe is all about making a basic roasted chicken and having it ready for when you need a quick, easy and healthy meal.

Basic Roasted Chicken

Basic Roasted Chicken
Yields: Approximately 5 pounds of meat, depending on the size of the chickens

2 medium sized roasting chickens, organic free-range is preferred
2 large yellow onions
6 stalks celery
1 small bag baby carrots
poultry seasoning, as needed
minced garlic, as needed
sea salt, as needed
black pepper, as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash chickens in cold water, making sure to remove any extras from the cavity - lol ;)  Tuck the wings behind the top of the chicken (as it it were putting its hands behind its imaginary head).  This helps to prevent the wing tips from burning. Although not mandatory for this particular recipe, this might help you with a turkey for example.

Roughly chop the onions, cut the celery into chunks and place both in the bottom of a large roasting pan.  Add carrots.  These 3 veggies are known as a "mirepoix."  It usually consists of 50% onions, 25% carrots and 25% celery.  It is the base to a lot of basic, simple staple cooking, is used to make soups, stews, stocks, broths, sauces, etc.


Place chicken on top of mirepoix, breast-side up. Sprinkle chickens liberally with poultry seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper.  *You may use any combination of herbs and spices here - rosemary and thyme also make a wonderful addition and you can stuff the chicken with those herbs too*

Before Seasoning
After Seasoning

I normally do not stuff my chickens with anything that I would eat.  The internal temperature of any stuffing must meet 165 degrees F for food safety reasons and by the time you get that up to temp, the rest of the bird is overcooked.  If you do stuff it with anything, try fresh herbs, spices, chopped veggies and other aromatics that will add flavor to the meat.

Pan spray the inside of a large piece of industrial foil (so the chicken doesn't stick to the top of the foil).  Tightly wrap the entire pan, making sure to leave NO open vents.  Roast in the oven for approximately 60-90 minutes, depending on the size of the chickens.  Remove foil and continue roasting for another 20-30 minutes to develop and nice roasted color and flavor (be careful not to burn the spices & garlic when the foil has been removed).  The chicken will be done when all juices run clear and the meat starts to pull away from the leg bones and the rest of the chicken.

Seal Tightly With Foil
Legs Will Pull Away & Juices Clear When Done

Remove pan from oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes.  This is critical as all of the moisture is directly in the center of the meat (as if it is scared of the 350 degree heat).  If you hack into the meat at this point, the moisture will come shooting out of the bird like a fire hose and leave nothing but dry meat.  If you let it rest, the moisture starts to redistribute throughout the fibers and makes for a nice and moist chicken.  I do this with EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF MEAT I COOK.  This is absolutely critical.

Roasted Chicken - Resting Phase
Once the meat has rested I remove all of the meat and either place in a large bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 days or portion into small baggies to be frozen for later use.  I save the carcasses if I want to make a chicken stock ahead of time (to be frozen for future use).  

At this point you can save the roasted veggies for a soup.  In order to remove some of the fat, I refrigerate the veggies & drippings and then scrape off the fat layer.  I then can make a soup out of the meat and chopped up veggies.  

Roasted & Chilled Chicken

Portion If Desired

Portion Into Small Bags for Convenience

Freeze Small Bags & Take Out When Needed

To make a chicken stock:  Roast the carcasses on a sheet tray until golden brown.  Saute or sweat a new mirepoix, add the roasted chicken carcasses and add a bouquet garni (with peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, garlic and other aromatics as desired - tied in cheesecloth with butchers twine).  Add COLD water just above the bones and let simmer GENTLY for about 4-6 hours.  Strain, then refrigerate.  Freeze if desired. (You may even freeze in ice cube trays for added portioning convenience).

You may use the meat for various purposes such as chicken fajitas, quesadillas, soups, stews, chicken pot pie - or do what I do, just eat the plain roasted chicken - YUM!  You can add it to your kids' pasta for a boost of protein, make chicken salad with it - the options are just endless.  What I do is freeze small portions for lunch and in the morning when I'm ready to pack my lunch, I grab a bag of the frozen chicken and a bag of the frozen spinach from one of my past posts (or zucchini & summer squash and go.

Happy Cooking!