Thursday, January 13, 2011

Buy the Whole Chicken

In preparation for Restaurant Week here in DC, I am trying to spend as little money as possible.  I want to enjoy my three meals out without concern of financial restrictions!  So when I went to the grocery this week, I wanted to spend as conservatively as possible while restocking my pantry to avoid last week's debacle.

I was going to grab my usual pack of chicken breasts, when I looked down and saw some whole chickens.  In the back of my head I hear the voice of my father saying, "whole chickens are cheaper than chicken breasts"!  I looked at the price per pound, and low and behold he was right.  The price per pound for the whole chicken was half as much as the price for the chicken breasts!  This difference in price is derived from the amount of work done by the butcher...the more bone/skin left on the chicken, the less it costs!  So I bought the chicken (only $6 for a 5 pound bird!) and began to research how to properly roast a chicken.  I think it turned out pretty well! Now I can eat for days with very little effort!

How to roast a tasty chicken:
1) Prepare. Sometimes whole chickens come with giblets in the center of the bird.  You want to make sure you pull those out!  You then want to rinse the chicken inside and out with cool water, then pat the outside dry with a bit of paper towl.

2) Season. This is where you get to get creative!  The only thing you must always do is season the inside cavity heavily with salt and pepper.  Then, you want to add some standard "aromatics" like onions and garlic. The onions help to keep the chicken moist while the garlic gives great flavor. The rest of your stuffing is up to you!  I put in one whole medium onion (skin on) cubed, 1/2 of a garlic bulb (just cut the bulb in half and leave the skin on), 1/2 a lemon quartered, and thyme.  You then brush the outside of the chicken with melted butter, and season well with salt and pepper.  The reason you use butter and not my old standby of olive oil is that the milk fats brown the skin of the bird better than the oil.

3) Arrange.  After you've finished seasoning your bird, you wrap the legs together using kitchen twine, or unwaxed floss.  If you use the floss, make sure to wrap the legs more times than you think it needs, just in case the floss breaks in the cooking process.  Then tuck the wings under the body of the chicken.  Don't skip this step as it keeps the legs and wings from burning or becoming over cooked.

4) Cook!  I roasted my 5 pound chicken in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, noticed it was over-browning, reduced the temperature to 400 degrees and covered it lightly with aluminum foil for an additional 40 minutes.  As with any baking, just make sure you are keeping an eye on not only the timer, but the food. 

5) Is it finished? To check if the chicken is fully cooked, you can use a meat thermometer, or simply cut gently between the leg and breast.  If the juices run clear, your chicken is ready to go!  Just make sure that you let the meat rest for 10 minutes so that the juices reincorporate in the meat.  Otherwise you'll have a dry chicken.

Enjoy your awesome handiwork and the money you've saved!

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