I was talking to my sister – who is a much more talented cook than I – about brining chickens. Now, I very rarely cook a whole chicken unless I’m smoking it. I suppose it’s because it seems like an awful lot of work, it takes a long time to cook, I never know quite how long to cook it for, and there’s something I don’t like about pulling that bag of slimy stuff out of the cavity. Tackling a whole bird seems somewhat intimidating, all in all.
My sister argued that roasting a chicken is actually really easy and mentioned how delicious and homey the smell of roasting chicken is. I began to wonder why I’ve been so scared of roasting a chicken…It’s inexpensive and there are myriad meals you can create with the leftovers…chicken sandwiches, chicken chili, chicken enchiladas, chicken salad…the list goes on and on.
On our monthly trip to Costco I warily eyed the whole chickens. They seemed to be mocking me…daring me…I gingerly reached out to grab a pair of birds, sure that their salmonella-infused juices were going to drip all over me. But I managed to wrangle the birds into my cart without too much ado, and we were off.
I paid $9.40 for two 5.25 pound chickens…quite a bargain. I’ll be able to get at least three meals out of each chicken. So far this experiement is going well.
This afternoon I began to get nervous as I looked at the clock…hmmm it’s 2:00 now. When do I need to get this chicken started to be ready for dinner at 6:00?? I pulled out my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook which told me to cook it at 325 degrees for a 3-3.5 pound bird…but mine was 5 pounds…so how long to cook it for?? I decided to plan on 2.5 hours and then reevaluate as necessary.
Since I wasn’t quite sure how long the chicken was going to take to cook, I planned some simple sides. Instant mashed potatoes (not my preference but a lifesaver) and fresh green beans cooked in the microwave.
I managed to get the chicken out of its wrapping and pulled out the slimy stuff. I almost gagged but I got through it. Mia was very curious and wanted to help. Normally I wouldn’t consider a recipe containing raw chicken to be kid-friendly, but I suppose it’s never too early to teach your children about food safety (My sister Jenny and my Grandma Jessie – a home economics teacher - would be so proud of me). So we went out to the garden to pick some fresh herbs…sage, rosemary and fennel. I stuffed the herbs inside the chicken and allowed Mia to sprinkle the inside with salt and a bit of pepper. Mia was still very curious and wanted to help, so we pulled up her stool. I gave her the pastry brush and a cup of melted butter to brush over the chicken. She did a great job. She kept saying as she was brushing the chicken, “It’s okay, little fella, we’ll take good care of you. Mom, I’m taking good care of my pet chicken!” Then she kept asking me after it went in the oven how her pet chick was doing.
All in all it was a relatively painless experience. The chicken was cooked perfectly after 2.5 hours. I allowed it to rest for 15 minutes, which gave me just enough time to prepare the sides. I love the fact that the bulk of the cooking and prep work and cleaning up was done well ahead of time, so there was no mad rush at 5:30 to get dinner ready.
The chicken came out perfect. The kids loved it – they were gobbling it up faster than I could get it on their plates. Thanks Hannah for the suggestion. I am officially over my fear of oven-cooking a whole chicken. Maybe I’ll even try a turkey next!