Well, I am sorry to say I am a bit off-course; a minor family medical matter took me out of town for a few days, so I only got as far as roasting (and eating) my chicken before I had to throw it in the refridgerator and take off. I’m back now, though, and will pick up the threads.
Night One: Roasted Chicken with Autumn Vegetables. They say no two cooks roast a bird the same way; there are many excellent ways to achieve a good roast chicken. I am of the school that says you preheat the oven to a rather high temperature (say, 450 degrees) meanwhile seasoning the bird’s cavity with salt and garlic. Unlike some cooks, I don’t truss the drumsticks together, and haven’t noticed that this dries the bird out unduly, as some fear it does. I do salt the top of the chicken generously on the outside, so that the salt forms a bit of a crust on the skin. This make for a nice crispy skin. I arrange the chicken in a large baking dish and then chop a selection of veggies to arrange around it. For my roast, I used early-season beets and potatoes with late-season yellow squash and bell pepper. I also sliced and pared some chunks of pumpking left over from my Halloween jack-o-lantern. (I can’t bear to waste a good vegetable!) I pour a bit of olive oil over the veggies, stir them around to make sure they are coated, and arrange them around the chicken. Then I pop the whole thing into the oven. I roast at 450 degrees for about twenty minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 and roast for another 40 minutes or so. Total roasting time should equal about 20 minutes per pound of bird. (A 3 lb chicken takes 60 minutes, a 4 lb chicken takes 80 minutes, etc.) You can check for doneness with a meat thermometer (should read 160-165 degrees) or I like to insert a skewer or thin knife blade into the thickest part of the drumstick; juices should run clear. If they are pink, continue cooking. After the chicken is done and comes out of the oven, I let it “rest” for 10-15 minutes — slice it any sooner and you will lose some of the juiciness.
My chicken turned out a beauty. I am so sorry I didn’t take a picture, but it was dark when I got finished and I was hungry. For those of you who do not know what roast chicken looks like, it looks like this:
Day Two: Cold Pasta and Chicken Salad. This is an easy one — it took me about fifteen minutes to throw it together after I got home from the airport. Boil some pasta. Chop some of those lovely late tomatoes. Some black olives from a can. All the white meat that was left on the chicken bones. Toss together with a little bit of olive oil and salt, and some rosemary or sage of you have it. Done.
Day Three: Making Soup Stock. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, this is the fun part! If you do it first thing in the morning, you will have chicken stock by dinnertime. Simply pull apart and dismantle the chicken bones. Put everything — bones, skin, fat, the whole enchilada — into a large soup pot. Add enough water to just cover everything, and bring to a boil on the stove, then reduce heat immediately. This is also an excellent time to add garlic, salt, and pepper. Some people simmer vegetables in their stock, too, although I myself prefer to add my veggies at a later stage.
Since I work from home, I can simmer the pot for the rest of the day, and have lovely fresh chicken stock to use in any recipe that suits my whim by supper time. For those who don’t have this luxury, just throw the bones and water into a crockpot or slow cooker and leave on the lowest setting while you go about the normal course of your day. When you get home, your stock will be ready for you.
You can make a lot of broth from a single set of bones. I will usually reboil the bones again the second day to make a second, just-as-delicious, batch of stock. If it’s a big bird — say, over 4 lbs., I might boil as many as three times. As long as the stock keeps tasting rich, I’ll keep going. And then….oh man, I love soup. Recipes to follow.