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Cook Once – Eat All Week (chicken)

I admit, that title is a little misleading, but it is catchy! If you read yesterday’s post, you already know what I am thinking though. One day you cook a large piece of meat and then use that meat all week to make quick-shortcut meals on busy weeknights. Today I shall give you the recipe for perfect roast chicken. You’ll actually roast 2 chickens and from there you’ll have several options.

The first choice is to cut off 4 pieces of the roasted chicken (preferably 1/2 breast, 1 thigh, and 2 legs) and use those for the first dinner of the week, along with sides of your choice. Maybe mashed potatoes and green beans would be nice. The meat from remaining 1 1/2 chickens will then be shredded, refrigerated, and used for meals the rest of the week.

Option number two would be to roast the 2 birds and shred all the meat, which is what I have done.

Option number three is to skip roasting your own chickens and buy 2 rotisserie chickens from the market. I have some strong opinions about rotisserie chickens and where you should buy them that I must share –prepare for my rant!

Costco is the only place I buy rotisserie chickens. First of all, they are huge and give you plenty of meat; second, they only cost $4.99!  I did my own research several summers ago and it takes nearly 3 1/2 grocery store rotisserie chickens to give you the same quantity of meat as 2 Costco chickens. And those grocery store birds cost as much as $7,99 each! Most importantly the Costco chickens are moist, juicy, and delicious! So there you go, one woman’s serious thoughts on store-bought rotisserie chicken.

All that said, there is nothing like a home-cooked roasted chicken and this is a great recipe. If you have the time, roast them yourself.  The recipe makes a lot of au jus. Be sure and save it, we’ll use it later in the week. Don’t worry if you use rotisserie, I’ll give you a way to “fake” the au jus when needed.

Another important item to mention; I purchased my raw chickens at Costco. They came in a 2-pack and were just .99 per pound, they weighed in at a whopping 10 pounds. It may be difficult to find 5 pound chickens at the regular grocery store. If your chickens are smaller, be sure to decrease the cooking time a bit, and of course, you’ll have less shredded chicken in the end.

Warning: The following recipe may look long, but it really isn’t, just a lot of lengthy descriptions that explain the process as thoroughly as possible.

Roast Chicken with Dijon Au Jus

Two 4 to 5 pound whole chickens
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, divided
4 cups chicken broth, divided
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, divided
3 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse chickens well, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. (The dryer the chicken is, the less it steams – this is the secret to the best roast chicken.) Salt and pepper the cavities of both chickens. Divide 1/2 teaspoon of the dried thyme between the two birds into the cavity as well.

Use about 1 tablespoon of salt to season the outside of the chickens; pinch the salt between your thumb and index finger and sprinkle it all over the chickens. Season the outside of both birds with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme and more freshly ground black pepper.

Truss the chickens. (When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, reduces shrinkage by about 15% and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.) To truss; use about 2 feet of cotton kitchen string. Center the string under each bird at the neck or shoulders. Come up and wrap the string over the wings, then up over the breast, cross the strings and bring up around the legs once or twice. Tie string securely, nice and tight.

Place chickens, breast side down, on a rack set in a large roasting pan. Be certain to leave a little space between the birds, so they don’t touch. This allows the air to flow all around the chickens as they roast.

Put the roasting pan in the oven.  Roast chickens 25 minutes; then add 2 cups broth to roasting pan, do not pour liquid over the birds, just into the dry pan.  Roast 25 minutes longer; remove from oven, turn chickens over, breast side up and add the remaining 2 cups broth to roasting pan.  Return to oven and roast about an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of one thigh on each chicken registers 170 degrees. Remove from the oven and add 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, to the pan.  Baste the chickens with the juices. Remove chickens from rack and place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour juices from roasting pan into a 4-cup measuring cup and let sit until the fat rises to the top of the cup. Skim off most of the fat with a large spoon and discard. (you’ll end up with about 1 cup of fat, be certain to throw it in the trash, not the garbage disposal!) Pour the pan juices (there will be about 4 cups) into a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then whisk  in mustard and the remaining 1 teaspoon fresh thyme. Season sauce with salt and pepper.  Cut chicken into pieces.  Drizzle with sauce and serve.

If you choose to shred all the chicken, you’ll wind up with about 10 cups shredded chicken. I then discarded the skin and string and used the bones to make chicken stock, which rendered  8 cups of stock. Tomorrow we’ll use 2 cups of the shredded chicken to make Creamy Chicken and Corn Enchiladas.


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