Friday, March 28, 2008

Chicken Run

I do most of the cooking in the MetaHousehold. For the most part, MetaDaddy gets home too late to really be able to cook anything. It's hard to start a meal from scratch at 6:30 when you've got to get the little critter down by 8:00. That said, there are meals he makes better than me (e.g., fish). And there are those I just really don't want to bother with, but I enjoy eating (e.g., BBQ). So I'll make a side dish and do all of the prep (e.g., chop, marinade) for his portion, he'll cook it when he gets home, and dinner's usually done within 20 minutes of his arrival with minimal stress.

Since I do most of the cooking, I do most of the meal planning as well. I ask for input, but he's pretty blase about it, so most of the selections are mine. Whenever I make something new, I ask for feedback. But I think he keeps it vanilla because he's afraid of hurting my feelings. Well, that whole thing led to the "bland stew crisis of 2006" where he finally broke down and confessed..."I don't really like your stew." I loved my stew bland because I grew up with it, but we found a way to fix the flavor to keep both of us happy. What annoyed me was that I'd made it several times, and each time he just swallowed it. Where's the honesty and communication, man?!? So, I do hope he learned his lesson and shares his opinions. Overall, he might say something here or there, but he's very cautious. Keeps me wondering, I must say.

But I digress. My point is that as the primary cooker and meal planner, the weekly menu is tainted by my palate. Since my palate is currently pregnant, we've been having a lot of chicken. I don't know why, but chicken is really good these days. And I don't mean the plastic chicken with the fake grill marks you find in mediocre salads. I want the tender, juicy chicken loaded with flavor and salt. You don't need gravy if the chicken is nice and moist. And don't you think you're keeping the skin away from me because I will hunt you down and take it back. The skin is arguably the best part.

So Tuesday, I had a chicken lunch from my favorite chicken restaurant California Chicken Cafe. Yesterday, I made a roast chicken cooked in a variety of vegetables. And today, after my chicken leftovers for lunch, I made spicy chicken drumsticks, courtesy of Simply Recipes.

I included our roasted chicken recipe below because we love the recipe, and I know some people are scared roasting a whole chicken. I know because I used to be one of those people not long ago. That recipe used to be exclusively MetaDaddy's, but it takes too long for him to make during the week, so I reluctantly took over. And honestly, it's not that bad :-)

As for the spicy chicken drumsticks, I found that recipe because I bought some drumsticks at Trader Joe's this week. Since I prefer to buy chicken that hasn't been chemically treated (e.g., antibiotics, etc.), I tend to pay more on average. Most people prefer white meat, so dark meat tends to be exceptionally inexpensive by comparison. Drumsticks were only 99 cents per pound, so I figured I'd try them out and see what happened. I went in search of a recipe, and voila! Jerk chicken with lots of flavor and kick (as much as you can handle ;-). It's quick and easy...I'd say about 40 minutes all in, including the 5 extra minutes we needed to finish the chicken.

On that note, a 4.25 pound organic chicken with farmers' market vegetables of cauliflower, wee potatoes, carrots, white beets gave us 6 portions for about $20 (~$3.33/portion). The drumsticks with a leftover salad served 2 and came to about $2.50 per portion. Interestingly, not that big a difference despite the fact that pound for pound, the whole chicken was more expensive than the drumsticks. So if you're looking to save a buck in these days of inflation, consider your recipes as well as your per ingredient cost.

Roast Chicken

The roast chicken used to intimidate me, and occasionally still does. I use gloves because I still can't manage the thought of touching a whole dead animal. I don't know why, but it's harder than touching it if it's in parts (e.g., leg, breast). I think the reality of it all is still too much for this city girl. The lemon makes the chicken insanely moist, and the paprika gives the skin beautiful golden color, as well as a nice flavor enhancer.

As for the vegetables, I change it up depending on what's in season at the farmers' market. Cauliflower, beets, potatoes, carrots, leeks, fennel, jerusalem artichokes, and so on. I lightly coat them in olive oil and add them as the chicken cooks. For example, if the veg needs 30 minutes to cook, I add them when 30 minutes remain for the chicken. Couldn't be easier.

1 chicken
1 lemon, halved
4-5 cloves of unpeeled garlic
olive oil
2 onions, cut into segments

Preheat oven to 400F.

Get out your roasting pan and cover it in foil to avoid clean up. Unwrap the chicken and rinse with water in and out. Pat dry and set in the pan breast-side down. Drizzle on some olive oil and rub in. Sprinkle on some salt and paprika. Put the garlic and lemon inside the bird. Disperse the onion segments around the chicken and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Put in the oven for 15 minutes per pound, plus 10 for good measure (e.g., 5 pound chicken = 85 minutes = 1 hour 25 minutes).

Add vegetables as desired. When 30 minutes remain, turn the chicken over (should now be breast-side up) and sprinkle on some salt and paprika. Put back in the oven to finish.