Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Recipe: Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Broccoli w/ Breadcrumbs

I was waiting to take pictures of one of my roast chickens, but that isn't happening any time soon, so I will just put up the recipe for now. 

Roast Chicken and Potatoes

1 roasting chicken (about 4lbs or so)
1 gallon water, cold but heat up 3 cups
3/4 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup brown sugar 

2 Tbls butter or margarine
2 tsp herbs of your choice, dry (I also sometimes use fresh when I have my garden, but only more sturdy herbs like thyme and rosemary)
Pepper to your taste

4 medium potatoes. If waxy with thin skin, just scrub and cut into 3/4 inch pieces. If russet (hey you get what is cheap!) peel and cut into similar sizes. 
mix of herbs that compliment what you are using with the chicken
two cloves garlic, minced
More oil

1. Mix salt and brown sugar in the warm water until dissolved. Pour the rest of the cold water in. If it is still warm, chill for a bit. 
You can do this as a whole chicken, but this way the brine works faster and it cooks more evenly. 
2. Butterfly the chicken by first cutting out the backbone, preferably with poultry shears. Then, run a sharp knife around the outside of a thigh and pop the joint out of place. It should come off easily. Repeat on other side. Turn the chicken around so that the breast if faced upward. Press on the middle of the breast until it snaps (you should hear it) and the breast flattens a bit. Remove wings if desired in a way similar to the legs. Here you can just leave as is, or cut it into smaller pieces. The giblets and wings (if removed) should go in a plastic freezer bag and frozen for the soup (recipe forthcoming). 

3. Place the chicken into a soup pot and cover with water. A large container which is narrow is a good choice. Refrigerate for a 1/2 hour to an hour. 

4. Mix together softened butter or margarine with the herbs and pepper. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Gently loosen the skin and with a small spoon deposit small amounts of the butter mix under the skin towards the center of piece of meat. With your fingers, smooth the butter mix until it is evenly spread. 

5. Toss potatoes with herbs, garlic, oil (use your judgement, just a light coating will do) and salt and pepper. 
6. Rub the skin with some olive oil, place in roasting pan with potatoes (put the potatoes under the bird for extra flavor or outside the bird for a crispy outside) and roast in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes. Take its temperature after until the thermometer registers 165. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes or more.  Remove potatoes to a bowl and cover with foil.

If you wish, you can make a gravy. Skim the fat off of the drippings in the roasting pan. If the roasting pan can be used on the stove top, put it on a burner over medium heat. If not, you can deglaze the pan without the heat and pour it into a sauce pan. Deglaze with enough liquid to make 2 cups total, including drippings. Use almost anything. Apple juice makes a nice gravy as does wine if you happen to have some on hand. Don't worry if it is red or white, just steer clear of wine that is very sweet (a little sweet is fine) or has a very strong flavor as the wine does reduce and concentrate the flavors.
Bring to a light boil and whisk in flour. Heat until thickened and let simmer for a few minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Strain if desired and serve with chicken and potatoes.
Mix 3 Tablespoons of all purpose flour in a jar with a cover with 1/2 cup of water.

This can feed from 4 to 6 people. Save all the leftover meat and place in a container in the refrigerator for the soup. Save the bones in the freezer. 

The bird is moist and needs no basting because of the brine. If you are feeling creative, add other flavors to the brine. Oranges, lemons, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks etc. are all nice additions, just keep the salt to water ratio the same.

If you are not feeding a lot of people, there may even be enough meat leftover for sandwiches or another dish. If you are using smaller birds or have a larger family, brine two at a time, just make sure that the water (with the proper ratio of salt) covers the top of the chicken and of course, prepare more potatoes.

The broccoli is incredibly easy. If you are using fresh, steam it until crisp tender, otherwise just defrost. I use frozen, it is cheaper and already cut up. Saute some garlic in olive oil (or what you have on hand, margarine will do, but watch butter as it burns easily). Add in breadcrumbs and toast until the crumbs start to brown. Toss with broccoli and salt and pepper until warmed through. Do it last though as the breadcrumbs will get soggy if left to sit too long.

And there you have it. This meal is the most work intensive of all the meals, which is why I choose it for Sunday. If you work on Sunday, just make it on a day you have time, planning the soup for later on in the week. For our family, we tend to plan menus starting on a Friday or Saturday due to shopping and time. As such, the menu posted is very flexible, as long as you don't plan for the soup before the chicken because the chicken bits are needed for the soup.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dinner Menu For a Week (cheap)

There are a lot of menus out there that say they are cheap, and for some they might be. I know that when I am in a bind, they are too expensive. Maybe my plan is pricey for some too, but it is one that I know I can rely on in a pinch. For under 70 dollars with no sales or coupons, I can feed my family of four dinners. For me, I generally have oatmeal or something in the house for breakfasts and lunches are whatever we can scratch up, which may be a post for another time. For now, I am dealing with dinner as that seems to be the most expensive meal for most households, when everyone tends to eat together.

This menu does not include the old faithfuls of boxed mac and cheese or ramen, because everyone knows about these cheap meal substitutes. At another time there will be a post on creative ways to use these types of things, but today I am concentrating on a very basic dinner menu when the sales in your area are just terrible. This week there is a nice cut of steak on sale for 4.99 a pound, which is truly a good deal, but we can't afford meat at 4.99 a pound regardless of it being a good deal. This is not about finding deals, but about using what is typically available in the grocery on a bad sale and coupon week. 

Here is my quickie, go-to menu for lean weeks. Much of the ingredients are usually in my cupboard, so it doesn't cost as much. I make an assumption that there are some basics in the cabinet like spices and salt etc.. These recipes can be created differently, using what you already have, so don't panic! Just give it all a look and see what you can make do with.

See? Super easy. Generally those of us on a tight budget tend to have equally tight schedules, so ease was also a major consideration when making this menu.

Now, here is the grocery list. Again, make do with what is in your pantry! There are weeks when I have 1/2 or more of these things in my possession, and I almost always have some of these things from weeks when I had extra to stock up.

I will put up my own recipes in the next post. Same bat time, same bat channel.