Here’s the thing. Convenience foods are just that: Convenient. They are typically not very good for us and loaded with salt/sugar/fat. I’m not saying that we never, ever use convenience foods here at Casa Aaron (there are always Boca veggie burgers in our freezer), but we make a hugely concerted effort to take stock of what we are putting into our bodies. To that end, I have a large repertoire of dinners that create delicious leftovers —doing double duty in the making of future meals.
In my experience, one of the most versatile, easiest dinners on the planet is a roasted chicken. Yes, it would be easier to just pick up a rotisserie-cooked bird at the grocery store around the corner, but making a whole chicken at home is just better on all fronts (and it’s cheaper!). The best part? You can prep the chicken and veggies during naptime, pop it in the oven in the late afternoon, and have a killer dinner ready for your family right on time and with very little effort!
Not a whiz in the kitchen? Think you can’t handle roasting a whole chicken? Ladies, you’ve given birth. You’ve created human life. There’s pretty much nothing you can’t do.
*Rinse your bird and pat dry. Place breast-side up in a roasting pan
*Rub bird lightly with olive oil and any herbs and spices you’d like. I use thyme, rosemary, a little sea salt, pepper, and a TON of garlic.
*Cut veggies into large chunks, toss in a little olive oil and place all around your bird. This is a great time to use bits and pieces of random veggies at the bottom of your produce drawer! I always use onions and carrots and then add another veggie or two. Root veggies (turnips, parsnips), potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and any other sturdy specimen all work well. If you are a garlic freak like me, you can even place whole cloves of garlic next to your bird. SO. GOOD.
*Toss a little cooking sherry (or some leftover Sauvingnon Blanc!) into the bottom of the pan for the veggies to simmer in–I typically use about ½ cup. This is optional, but come on! It’s wine! Wine makes everything better!
*You can put the whole shebang into the fridge until about 2 hours before you’d like to serve dinner. At that point, preheat the oven to 350 and roast for about 1 ½ hours for a 5-6 pound bird.
*When the juices run clear, take the bird out and let it rest for 15 minutes–it makes for an easier carving job. (Unless your family is “starving” and freaking out, in which case, you can serve immediately!)
*You have leftover chicken for one or two more meals (and that chicken only cost you $6-$12!)
* You can do ANYTHING with leftover chicken: Chicken Caesar Salads! Chicken Enchiladas! Chicken Korma!
*Prep time is minimal and though the cooking time is lengthy, it is completely hands-off. So easy!
* You can make chicken stock for future dinners!
Here’s how: Once you’ve taken all of the meat off of the chicken, simply place the carcass in a large pot, add herbs, garlic and veggies, and add enough water to cover the bird. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and let it cook down for 2-3 hours, adding more water if needed. Remove from heat and cool for an hour or so. Strain out all solids and you are left with a glorious, golden homemade stock perfect for making soups and risottos, and using in any recipe that calls for a stock or broth. Again, this takes some time, but it is hands-off time. And stock freezes BEAUTIFULLY for many months! (TIP: I save odds and ends from vegetables in a container in my freezer–celery tops, onion skins, kale stalks…the things you’d normally throw away. When I am ready to make stock, I have a ready-made bag of veggies to toss in!)
What are some of your favorite go-to dinners?
How do you feed your family when life gets crazy??