The other day, in a discussion about this blog, my granddaughter Emma said, “Mom told me that when she was growing up you only knew how to cook five things.” Well, yes, actually this is more or less true. I cooked pasta (but many varieties!), soup (again, many different kinds!),Thanksgiving dinner (surprisingly I’m very good at this), a strange vegetarian kidney bean chili that no one really liked, a few tofu dishes out of Laurel’s Kitchen, and whatever chicken casserole was popular at the time for company. That’s about it.
My current chicken dinner for friends is called Writer’s Chicken because if you’re busy writing, or whatever it is you do, and have no time, no interest in cooking, but in a moment of madness invited friends for dinner, this is one of the easiest meals on earth. Many, many friends of mine have had this every time they’ve come to dinner for the past decade. It’s embarrassing how often certain friends have had it; I believe our friend Rob has had it at least 47 times. (Before I came up with this chicken I microwaved salmon for friends. However Trader Joe’s stopped selling the ginger marinade I used and I got a new microwave that didn’t have a Seafood button.)
Here’s the recipe:
– One 4 – 5 pound chicken (I used to rinse off chickens and turkeys but I’ve recently read that this isn’t necessary because cooking will destroy any bacteria. But if it makes you feel better to wash it go ahead, and then pat dry with paper towels.)
– Carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, or whatever vegetables you have in the fridge that can be roasted.
– Olive oil and lemon
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Place the chicken in a roasting pan and squeeze a lemon over it. Stuff it with fresh parsley, cilantro, basil or rosemary plus the squeezed lemon. Quarter potatoes, or use whole little potatoes, and place around the chicken. Add carrots (I use those bagged baby carrots) and mushrooms. Salt the chicken a bit, add a little paprika if you want, drizzle olive oil over it and tent with aluminum foil. Place in 425 degree oven for half an hour and then turn down to 350 degrees for an hour. Take the tent off, baste and brown (continuing at 350 degrees) for thirty minutes, cooking it for two hours total. I’m sorry not to be more specific with measurements etc. but that’s the kind of recipe it is. This can serve four people so figure on enough potatoes and vegetables for everyone.
You can just serve this with French bread and be done with it, or include a salad.
The only important thing to remember with this chicken is to cook it for two hours. I’ve forgotten to turn down the oven and it didn’t make any difference. I’ve basted it a few times or not, and nothing seems to ruin it. Once I cooked two chickens together for a family gathering and when I took them out of the oven the chickens looked peculiar, like they were kneeling. I realized I had cooked them upside down. So I turned them right side up, put them back in the oven for ten minutes to brown, and they were fine.
The next day you can throw the carcass and any leftovers into a pot with a few stalks of celery, an onion, and cover with water. Simmer for a few hours, strain, and you’ll have the basis for soup. It’s the chicken that goes on giving.
“When you hate to cook, you should never accept an invitation to dinner. The reason is plain: Sooner or later, unless you have luckily disgraced yourself at their home, or unless they get transferred to Weehawken, you will have to return the invitation.” – Peg Bracken