Roast chicken, in theory, is the perfect food for penny-pinching households. Depending of the size of the bird and your household, you can make a single roast chicken span several (or 17?!) different meals AND end up with a freezer full of homemade chicken stock. It’s economy in a roasting pan. Sort of. I say “in theory” because for some reason, a four-pound roasting chicken that’s led a happy life, playing outside and eating real food and not taking antibiotics, costs $15 to $25 here, depending on whether you buy it at the supermarket or your favourite local butcher. Which, I guess if you can get five meals out of it is still pretty reasonable, but the initial investment can seem pretty steep, especially if you are buying other things.
Maybe that’s just me?
It probably is. I’m very cheap. Roast chicken, for me, has become synonymous with warmth and comfort and all that is wholesome. I don’t know how that happened – I don’t roast that many chickens. On occasion, I have roasted some pretty terrible ones. And Nick is pretty sure he doesn’t like roast chicken, but can’t explain why he never wants it. Maybe he ate too many roast chickens as a child – I still bear ill-will to all manner of Shepherd’s Pie (my parents think I’m joking when I tell them where they’re retiring … and it’s my sane young word against theirs that they’re not a danger to themselves and others … *insert sinister laugh here*), so I can understand if that’s the case, I guess.
I did not have too many roast chickens as a child, and may never have too many roast chickens. I even like the weirdly coloured, unnecessarily salty rotisserie chickens you buy from the supermarket. Love them. We used to get those sometimes and Dad would cut them up and we’d stuff the meat in white buns with Mississippi Sauce (which I can’t find a link to online … it’s a honey-mustard mayo-based sauce, and if you put a jar in front of me I’d eat the whole thing like pudding and then ask for seconds). It was very good.
When I got to be an “adult,” I thought roast chicken was something I should know how to make. I subsequently over-cooked, under-cooked, over-seasoned, and just plain wasted a series of chickens, never knowing where to quit with the spices and seasonings and fancy crap. A proper roast chicken is not complicated. It would be a few years before I’d figure that out.
And you don’t even need a recipe, though there are some good ones here, here, and here. Take a chicken, a fat, salt and pepper, and a spice or herb (optional), rub the first with the latter, and then place in a pan, maybe with some veggies, and cook uncovered in the oven until the internal temperature of the bird reaches 160°F to 165°F. It will take about an hour and a half, give or take, and will require an oven temperature about 400°F, which is also flexible.
Anyway. I mentioned the other day that Nick’s sister Jess, her husband Mark, and their adorable toddling daughter Elise were here for dinner, having driven from Winnipeg a week and a half prior. In my experience with vacations and driving long distances, the default food choices can wreak all kinds of interesting havoc on your digestive system. Their experience was no different, and then on top of that there was camping (read: hot dogs and chips for three days), and they were due to start their long drive back to Winnipeg yesterday. They needed wholesome.
So, roast chicken. And potatoes.
And catching up and laughing and Elise chasing the cat and the cat not minding and good wine and fresh local strawberries for dessert.
Nick liked the chicken. It turned out moist with crisp skin, which is how a roast chicken is supposed to turn out. We all had seconds. We talked about Winnipeg, and Montreal, and how Nick and I really ought to move because it’s so expensive here and roasting chickens doesn’t seem to cost as much when the cost of living isn’t so high. Our rent for our apartment is twice what they pay every month on their mortgage, for their house. We talked about the years between where we are and when we get there. The cat could have her own room if we packed up and went east.
But most of all, we watched Elise, who ages six months between each visit, and who is just freaking adorable. Also we talked about the cat a lot because we’re a little weird. Non-fussy dinners like roast chicken make it so that you can really enjoy your company, which is perhaps the most wholesome thing about it. And if you drink much too much when your company is over, as can happen from time to time, a roast chicken makes a marvellous hangover soup the next evening.