I call baked chicken my “Sunday night special” because there is just nothing better than a lovely roast chicken to close out a weekend. And since this chicken is best when it has had some time in the refrigerator to become acquainted with the lovely herbs and spices that have been sprinkled in its cavity and on its skin, preparation takes place in the morning. That leaves me free to spend the rest of my Sunday, or any other day for that matter, working around the house, shopping, reading, or just sitting around contemplating the inside of my eyelids – aka, taking a nap. And just to make life even easier, I also prepare the dressing in the morning, so the only significant task left for me to do in the evening is clean a green veggie or make a simple salad to accompany the chicken.
And what better way for me to start my week than with leftover chicken in the refrigerator. I can use the chicken to make a simple soup, or a nice curry, or chicken salad, or…..well, you get the point. My Monday night meal is already half done, even if I don’t just warm up the leftovers and serve the meal just the way I did the night before. Of course, if truth be known, I don’t particularly enjoy left-overs. (I know – crazy!) I would rather take a simple ingredient liked baked chicken and repurpose it into a totally different dish. Now I realize something like chicken noodle soup is going to remain chicken noodle soup, and that’s fine. But baked chicken? Well that’s a different story. So tonight, my leftover chicken from Sunday evening is going to be featured in a lovely chicken curry.
So don’t hesitate to bake a chicken in the near future. And no you don’t have to make the dressing or even the gravy. But should you choose to do so, the recipes below are easy to prepare, full of flavor, and help turn a simple chicken dinner into a feast.
So welcome to autumn my friends. The season of homemade soup, pot roast, beef stew, chili, and all manner of dishes that evoke home, happiness, and comfort.
- 3½ to 4½ lb. whole chicken, washed, excess fat removed, then dried very well with paper towels
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- zest of one lemon
- 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh sage
- 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp. granulated garlic
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 2 T. butter
- 2 c. chicken stock, plus more as needed
- 1 bay leaf
- cooking spray
Combine the salt, pepper, lemon zest, rosemary, sage, thyme, granulated garlic, and onion powder together. Sprinkle half of the mixture in the cavity of the bird. Add the butter. Truss the bird by tying the legs together. Place the bird, breast side up on a roasting rack, tucking the wings in as you go. Sprinkle the remaining spice mixture evenly over the skin. (And no it won’t really stick to the skin. That’s OK.) Place the chicken uncovered in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours before roasting.
Remove from refrigerator and pour the chicken stock in the bottom of the roasting pan along with the bay leaf. Just before placing the bird in the oven, spray liberally with cooking spray.
Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 90 minutes or until the juices run clear and the internal temperature reads 180 on an instant-read thermometer. Add more chicken stock to the bottom of the pan half way through baking if the pan is dry. When done, remove from oven and set the bird on a platter loosely tented with aluminum foil. Let chicken rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
- chicken stock
- 1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 chicken gravy mix (just in case)
- 1 tsp. cognac, opt.
Place the roasting pan on the stove after the chicken has been removed. Turn the heat to very low and begin making your gravy immediately. (Good gravy flavor and consistency require time to develop.) Do not remove any fat from the pan, do not strain the liquid, do not do any of the things most cook book writers tell you to do to make good gravy. (Oh OK, you can remove the bay leaf!)
Whisk in enough flour to absorb the fat. Let cook for a couple of minutes. (This process takes time, so be patient.) Slowly whisk in chicken stock until you reach the desired thickness you like. Add the Kitchen Bouquet (gives the gravy great color) and some freshly ground black pepper. No salt! Taste the gravy. If you think it needs more depth of flavor, begin by whisking in part of the gravy mix and a small amount of chicken stock. Let the gravy simmer for a couple of minutes and taste again. Repeat if needed.
Turn heat as low as possible and let the gravy simmer away while the chicken rests. Whisk periodically. (You will probably need to add more stock during this time.) Also, after the chicken is sliced and plated, don’t forget to add the juices to the gravy that have accumulated on the platter while the chicken was resting. Just before serving, taste the gravy again and make any final adjustments to the seasoning. Stir in the cognac and serve piping hot.
Note: if the gravy seems a little salty, you might try adding a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon juice.
- 2 T. unsalted butter
- ½ c. chopped celery (stalks and leaves)
- ½ c. chopped onion
- 5 button mushrooms, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 2 tsp. poultry seasoning
- 2 tsp. minced fresh sage
- 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- ½ tsp. savory, either powdered or dried leaves
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 4-5 c. dry bread cubes (I use inexpensive sliced sourdough bread cut into cubes and toasted)
- 1 egg
- 1 c. chicken stock, or more as needed
In a large sauté pan, melt butter and add celery, onion, and mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, poultry seasoning, sage, rosemary, thyme (sound familiar?), savory, salt, and pepper. Remove from heat. Place dried bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Add the sautéed vegetables; mix thoroughly. Whisk together the egg and stock in a separate medium sized bowl. Pour the liquid over the bread cubes and gently stir. Add more stock if the dressing is dry. (Remember, this is dressing, not stuffing, and therefore is not going into the cavity of the chicken. So any moisture needs to be added while it is being prepared.) Taste the dressing and add additional poultry seasoning and/or salt if needed.
Place dressing in a buttered casserole dish, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 30-45 minutes or until hot.