If you have kids and you’ve ever tried to cook with a baby or toddler around, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Picture this: child is on your hips and you have one arm holding said child and the other arm extended toward the stove, all while your body is turned sideways to protect child from heat and splatters.
Or, this scenario. It’s quiet. Your kids are playing without fighting. You start to make dinner. Just as you’re ready to put pan to flame and then food to pan you hear, “MOM!!!!” and everything either stops or in my case, burns.
The Crock It! series was partially born out of this scenario; the idea being that if you can make dinner early, then during the witching hour your hands and attention are free to deal with kids. With the same circumstances in mind, we’re starting our One-Armed Cooking series. No, you won’t really be cooking with one arm but these are quick, easy homemade recipes meant to help on the craziest of days.
One of the goals of these recipes is to cook a food that can cover future meals. I believe in freezing things, planning ahead when possible, avoiding leftovers, and enjoying every minute of peace and quiet possible during nap time. I believe in using the oven– it truly is your friend during these early years–and in learning how to use the broiler. Marinating and using spice rubs is a great way to flavor foods, and often can, and should be, done ahead of time. Some recipes will be main courses, others will be sides. Some may even be soups, because despite our best intentions, I think it’s too easy to just “eat what the kids eat” for lunch and once homemade soup is ready, it can usually be frozen and enjoyed later.
And so, to start with something that I make easily once a week: roast chicken. It seems simple enough, and it is, especially if you plan ahead. Add to that all the things you can do with the leftover chicken, and it’s a useful food too.
1 7-pound chicken (or however many pounds an oven stuffer roaster is)
1/2 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, thyme, rosemary, parsley (really you can use whatever seasonings you want here, these are some that go well with chicken)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, or 325 degrees if you have a convection oven.
The inside of your chicken should have a package containing the organs of the chicken. Be sure to remove it before cleaning. Rinse the inside and outside of the bird with cold running water. Pat dry and place in a 13″ x 9″ baking dish.
Place softened butter in a bowl. Add spices to the butter and mash both together with a small fork. (This finished product is called compound butter, a personal favorite of mine)
Make sure chicken is completely dry and rub compound butter all over the chicken. Any leftover butter can go inside the chicken. (If you are not ready to cook your chicken right now, you can cover it and refrigerate until later)
Place chicken in the oven and allow 15-20 minutes per pound for cooking time. A 7 1/2 pound chicken would require two and a half hours of cooking time at 350, or I would do 2 hours at 325 with a convection oven.
Remove chicken from oven and let it rest (just sit in the pan, or on a cutting board) for 10-15 minutes. This helps the juices settle back into the meat and creates a juicy, rather than dry, chicken.
As for carving a chicken, I go according to whomever is making the most noise about being hungry. But, if you are unsure of how to carve a roast chicken there is a helpful and quick video here to help.
What I like about this recipe:
This is the kind of meal that only takes a few minutes of “active” cooking time. By having the oven do the work for you, it frees up hands and arms to tend to a child.
A roast chicken is great because you can also feed a child ahead of time and then there is plenty of chicken left for later if parents decide to eat on their own once the kids go to bed, which is something we used to do often.
With the leftover meat, there are many meals that can be made. The meat can even be frozen until you are ready to use later. See the next installment of One-Armed Cooking for what to do with the leftover chicken.