Thursday, January 21, 2010

Roast Chicken

A little of the main reasons I started this blog was because of roast chicken. And pizza. See, I was trying to "master" these two items. And I would have some successes, some failures. I decided that a blog to record my successes would be the best idea...and improvements could be logged also.

Oh, how times have changed. For one thing, we are 90% vegetarian. What happened in the meantime? You name it. Fast Food Nation, The Omnivore's Dilemma, What to Eat, Food Inc., The Way We Eat, The China Study...among others. I don't actually have a philosophical problem with the fact that an animal died to feed me. I grew up in the country, with an uncle who had cows and chickens, and cousins and brothers and brothers' in law who hunted and fished.

What has happened over the last few years is my acknowledgment of the suffering that animals go through in CAFOs and factory farming. The bucolic splendor of cows grazing and chickens pecking is not the reality of your grocery store steak or chicken. When I started this blog, it was all about the almighty buck. It wasn't just cooking a roast chicken from the store, but one that was purchased on sale at $0.59 a pound.

While I don't really need to be all that frugal about food anymore, I really cannot bring myself to spend $100 or more a week on meat, which is what it would cost to buy it all locally/organic at the farmer's market (which I can do). A 5-lb chicken on sale at the store is about $3. An organic 3-lb chicken from Trader Joe's is more like $9. And a free range local chicken is $12 (and the taste is MUCH better than the store chicken). Beef can run $6-12 a pound.

One way that I've adjusted to my new understanding of factory farming is to just simply eat less meat. I am likely to cook it about once a month. One chicken, maybe some sausage, maybe some fish. I am also likely to use one 14-oz can of salmon for dinner a month. We also will eat what we are served in other folks' homes. We've eaten about five chickens in the last year. Limiting our meat to this amount means that I can afford to spend $12 on a chicken. We also only eat about one dozen eggs a month, which makes the $4.25/dozen at the farmer's market do-able.

Since I don't cook meat very often, and really hate to ruin it, I am usually on the lookout for something that I can't ruin. There is lamb at the farmer's market. I've never cooked lamb, and I'd hate to (pardon the pun) butcher it. But I've pretty well mastered roasting a whole chicken or parts, and baking a tri-tip.

My favorite whole roasted chicken recipe comes from Ina Garten, and is found here. I always adjust it a bit. I can't bring myself to use a whole head of garlic. I tend to buy a 3-lb chicken instead of a 5-6 lb chicken. I noticed that 425F is a little high for my vegetables, so I reduce the temperature to 400F. But the taste of the vegetables when they've been basted with the rendered chicken fat (the chicken roasts on a bed of veggies) is divine. I always save the carcass for stock (especially at $9 a chicken).

The frugality of this dish will depend on the ingredients. For vegetables, this time I used potatoes (the last of a bag at $0.50 for 5 lb), carrots, onions, and beets. The vegetable choices are numerous. And the chicken - if your budget runs along the lines of the $3 chicken, then this recipe can be made for the following:

Chicken and Vegetables
1 whole chicken: $3 to $12
1 medium onion, sliced thick (don't separate slices): 0.30
1 lb potatoes, diced into 1 inch chunks: 0.10
3 medium carrots, sliced into 2 inch chunks: 0.36
1 Tbsp canola oil: 0.04
salt, pepper, and thyme: 0.05
1 lemon to stuff in the chicken: 0.30
5 cloves garlic for the chicken: 0.25
1 Tbsp butter: 0.10
Total: $4.50

This provides enough vegetables for one meal for the 3 of us. The chicken, even for the 3-lb chicken, leaves enough leftovers for a couple of more meals, and even more to put in the freezer for later. The carcass will make a good stock. This meal can be stretched.

I am less likely to use the chicken in a pasta dish or enchiladas or a casserole, based on the cost. I find that it's very tasty on salads or sandwiches - a way that you can really TASTE the chicken. Especially considering the cost of my chicken.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. We eat meat very seldom and when we do a good roasted chicken is wonderful.