WHY YOU SHOULD BE ROASTING A CHICKEN EVERY WEEK
There’s nothing more satisfying than having a plan of attack for dinner for the entire week, but we all know that doesn’t happen too often. Planning ahead takes too much...planning, and we frequently find ourselves at the grocery store on Wednesday with no idea what to make! One of the things I love to do is roast a chicken at the beginning of the week. That way, I have the option of using the cooked chicken over the next few days in fun and creative ways AND cutting down my prep and cooking time. Feeding only 2 “1/2” people in my home, a 4-5 lb chicken can go a loooong way!
MONDAY: BUTTERFLIED ROASTED CHICKEN
Last week, I started off the week with Harissa-Butter Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas, Cauliflower and Onions....the harissa-butter rub in combo with the schmaltz made the chickpea-cauliflower mix one of the more delicious things I've tasted in a loooong time! A lot of people asked for this recipe, so I'm going to give you the shorthand. Cooking the chicken “spatchcocked” or butterflied means removing the backbone (and the sternum) of the bird and flattening it out before cooking. This allows the chicken to roast faster than the traditional technique (30 - 45 min vs 1 - 1 1/2 hours!) as well as more evenly, and the skin is also more exposed for yummy crunchiness! But remember to save the backbone and sternum for stock later!
Basically, butterfly a chicken (technique: here in a grilled butterflied chicken recipe) and preheat the oven to 450˚ F (sometimes I walk on the wild side and go up to 500˚ F). Combine a half stick of softened, unsalted butter with 3 tablespoons harissa and rub all over the bird. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a roasting pan, toss together 2 cans drained/rinsed chickpeas, a chopped onion, 3 or 4 cloves regular or roasted garlic, a half head of cauliflower chopped into florets, a bit of oil and salt and pepper. Layer the chicken on top of the veg, breast-side up, and pop into the oven legs first. After 5 minutes, drop the temperature to 400˚ F and continue roasting for another 40-45 minutes until done. I like to check for done-ness with a cake tester or (very) small knife inserted at the thigh joint - if when inserted to the bone and pulled out it's hot, the meat is done. You can conversely make sure it's cooked to about 150-155˚ F.
TACO TUESDAY: SHREDDED CHICKEN TACOS!
Who doesn’t love Taco Tuesday!? Such a quick and easy dinner….AND the chicken is already cooked. Just shred and sauté with a little butter, cumin, and coriander! Or not. You do need salsa though, and I love to make a fresh salsa for my tacos. For this, I take a couple dried guajillo chiles, ancho and some serranos, a chopped onion, a couple smashed garlic cloves and place in a saucepan with enough water to cover the chiles. Bring to a boil and then let sit for 20 minutes or so before blending in a food processor or vitamix. When I'm blending, I add a couple tomatoes, lime juice for acidity and season (if you want to add a little smokiness to it, I sometimes add a few canned chipotles in adobo sauce; another staple in my pantry). Once the sauce is smooth, heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a saucepan and add the sauce and simmer for 20 minutes. Super easy, super authentic Mexican salsa! I also love to whip up a fresh pico de gallo (diced red or white onion, cilantro, tomatoes, fresh jalapeños, and lime juice). And of course some avocado, cotija cheese and thinly sliced fresh radishes for a nice crunchy topping.
WEDNESDAY: CHICKEN & WILD MUSHROOM PASTA WITH EGYPTIAN DUKKAH
Pasta is another simple dinner for the workweek. Fresh pasta is my go-to, I always have some tucked away in my freezer, but fresh store bought is just as good! I like a wide flat noodle like pappardelle for this recipe. The flavor for this dish really comes from the Egyptian Dukkah spice topping. I also like to have this fresh (and have the recipe in my cookbook), but you can find it in many specialty spice stores.
You can toast hazelnuts, pistachios and various spices (coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel, dried mint, black pepper, salt) then crush with a mortar and pestle of throw in a blender. Hard sear the mushrooms in a hot pan and set aside. The sauce is simple: sautéed shallots and garlic until soft, add heavy cream then simmer and reduce until thickened (add a little lemon juice for some acidity and to brighten the sauce if you like). Then add the shredded chicken and mushrooms, once the pasta is cooked, toss in the sauce with a little of the pasta water to move around if you find the sauce too thick. Serve the pasta with the Egyptian Dukkah spice sprinkled on top and, if you like heat, with some pickled hot cherry peppers.
THURSDAY: CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES
Curried chicken salad is now everywhere, and that is my inspiration for Thursday’s dinner! By this point, most of the meat is almost gone, hopefully there is enough left to whip up a little chicken salad. I like to take my basic chicken salad recipe (diced shallots, celery (peeled and diced), mayo, lemon juice, chopped chives, salt and pepper) and kick it up a notch by adding golden raisins, toasted curry powder and a couple tablespoons of mango chutney (you can find in specialty stores and some major grocery stores: Major Grey’s Mango Chutney). Serve this with a side of salt and vinegar potato chips or a simple green salad with a lemon vinaigrette! And if you happen to pick up a croissant in the morning, stuff it between that and thank me later!
FRIDAY: CHICKEN BROTH
Nothing comes close to homemade chicken stock. This should be a freezer staple, and having the leftover chicken carcass plus the original backbone and sternum makes this a cinch. You just simmer these with onions, carrots, celery, garlic and parsley for an hour an a half - could not be easier. Here are some good ratios for it.