The dilemma: packaged chicken tenders and thighs suffer neglect in our freezer, and are often frost-bitten within the month. Hence, we regularly throw away $5 of the $7 spent on pre-cut chicken parts (leaving less room in the fridge for useful things like asparagus and potstickers). The other problem: meat-eating hubby does not prefer to partake in the post-work cooking hour his wife so enjoys.
This is a week of particular budgeting, and meals that work with ingredients in the fridge (always an effective method for a frugal menu): tacos, spaghetti, bok choy with potstickers, and tuscan white beans with grilled bread. The common denominator: these all work with chicken. And Chicken is Andrew’s middle name.
With my birthday dutch oven in mind, I picked up a 5 lb. chicken at Trader Joes for $6.17. That’s less than (quality) chicken breasts alone.
Now, I created A Pear to Remember to be a place for accessible cooking, and I realize many cooks do not own a dutch oven. Well let me tell you that I made my very first roast chicken in a 9 x 13-inch ceramic casserole, and it worked out just lovely (read more about Tweety McCluck, and my adoption story, here). Do not allow the lack of a handsome green pot (known affectionately here as Monsieur Pesto) to hinder you from conquering a little chicken.
On a personal note, there is something wholly satisfying about preparing and presenting a juicy, golden bird to the chicken lover(s) in your life. This recipe produces a truly succulent, flavor-packed entrée to last throughout the week. And the house will smell fantastic.
Poulet en Cocotte
“Chicken in a Pot”
adapted slightly from February 2008’s Cook’s Illustrated
1 whole roasting chicken (about 5 lbs.), giblets removed and discarded, wings tucked under back
2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, sliced into wedges
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 medium spring of rosemary
1/2-1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add chicken breast-side down; scatter onion, garlic, bay leaf and rosemary around chicken.
Cook until breast is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon inserted into cavity of bird flip chicken breast side up and cook until chicken and vegetables are well browned, 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove Dutch oven from heat and cover tightly with lid.
Transfer pot to oven and cook until an instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in the thickest part of the breast and 175 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, 80 to 110 minutes. Clear juices from the thigh are also a simple indicator of doneness.
Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil and rest 20 minutes. Actually, I placed the chicken on a large serving platter with a lip to catch the juices, and moved it to the cutting board just before carving. This is a handy time to watch a video on carving a chicken, in case you also needed a little guidance (I found this one incredibly helpful).
At this point, I let the chicken cool and packed it all in one container for Andrew to enjoy throughout the week. Okay, let’s be real: I first took photos while Andrew pulled bits from the carcass. Two thumbs up from a very happy husband.
If you are interested in serving it right away, you can continue with the following: Strain the chicken juices from pot through a fine-mesh strainer into fat separator, pressing on solids to extract liquid; discard solids (you should have about 3/4 cup juices). Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then pour into saucepan and set over low heat. Carve chicken, adding any accumulated juices to saucepan. Stir lemon juice into jus to taste (jus: a sauce from natural juices; pronounced zhoo). Serve the chicken, passing jus at table.
Not to brag, but for a vegetarian carving a chicken for the first time, I was pretty dang thrilled the cuts resembled recognizable pieces of meat.
And the onions? Beauty incarnate.
See more of my food budget and shopping tips here.