Is there any meal more frugal than a roast chicken? Well perhaps Ramen noodles or some other pasta, but I seriously doubt it. Plus you don’t get the protein punch and homey feel that you get when you roast a chicken. The whole house fills with the aroma and it is just heavenly.
I had almost forgotten how wonderful roast chicken is since our move to Thailand. I’m sure you’ll agree that it is pretty much a winter meal and with average temperatures here in Bangkok ranging from 87 (Dec) to 94 (Apr) roasting and baking aren’t really in the forefront of my mind. Plus our oven sucks. No temperatures listed on the dial, no thermostat to tell how hot the oven is…it’s pretty much a wing and a prayer.
After coming down with a serious roast chicken craving I decided to put the oven to the test and see if I could recreate some of that golden brown juicy deliciousness and it came off as a smashing success!
The great frugal thing about roast chicken is it is so cheap to begin with and it makes enough for leftovers for several days worth of meals. I bought a 5 pound bird for $6.50 and in addition to dinner we have had 2 lunches already from the leftover and can get 2 more. That’s 5 meals for just $6.50! Well a little more when you factor in the cost of the bread, rice and gravy that went with it, but still it was less than $10 or $2 per meal.
And it is so damn easy to make too. Here’s what I do:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or whatever if you have an oven like mine)
- To prepare the chicken I simply remove the neck and giblets, gut off any extra fat from the cavity (you can leave it too) and rinse the chicken under cold water. I then pat dry and place the chicken in a roasting pan.
- Place small pats of butter all over the outside of the chicken as well as some inside the cavity. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and we’re ready to cook. Place the chicken in the oven uncovered for 20 minutes per pound.
- To check for doneness they say to check with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
- For crispier skin you can increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees for the last 15-20 minutes, but keep an eye on the chicken to avoid burning.
Don’t touch the bone and the temperature should be 165 degrees. If you don’t have a meat thermometer simply prick the breast deeply with a fork. If the juices run clear the chicken is done.
If you want to experiment with the recipe you can sprinkle the outside of the chicken with pretty much any fresh or dried herbs (rosemary, sage and tarragon work well). You can also sprinkle with onion or garlic powder. Others like to stuff the cavity with celery, onions, garlic or fresh herbs. This will lend a more subtle flavor to the bird.
Once the chicken is done remove it from the pan and place on a cutting board. Tent with foil to help retain the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes. While I is resting you can make the gravy 🙂
The gravy is a snap too. Pour all the pan drippings into a small saucepan (or do it in the roasting pan – up to you as they say here in Thailand). It’s also up to you if you want to strain it. Some people don’t like all those floating bits, but they do lend more flavor to the gravy.
Add 2-3 cups of chicken stock (homemade is best, but canned is fine too). Prepare a roux using 4TBS of water and 3TBS of flour (cornstarch and arrowroot also work well). The roux should be somewhat thick.
Bring the liquid to a boil and slowly add the roux, whisking as you do. You want to stop adding roux when the gravy is a bit thinner than you like because it will continue to thicken as you cook and will also thicken a bit as it cools. Cook the gravy for about 5 minutes at a good boil, continually whisking as you do so. Remove the gravy from the heat and go carve your chicken. You are on your own with the carving because I can’t really explain it without pictures or video. I’m sure a quick Google search will find plenty of both.
Serve with rice (my favorite) or mashed potatoes (equally good). Also serve a nice crusty French bread for soaking up the extra gravy. I said the meal was frugal, not calorie conscious.
Depending on the size of your chicken and the size of your family (and their appetites) you are bound to have some leftovers and this is where the fun (and frugality) really begin. Chicken is so versatile and (for me at least) the meals made from the leftovers are at least as delicious as the original meal. Here are a few ideas for your leftover chicken:
- Chicken sandwiches (hot or cold – hot requires gravy)
- Chicken salad (quite versatile – use in sandwiches, salads, with fruit)
- Chicken bar-b-que’s (requires gravy)
- Stir fry
- Enchiladas, burritos and tacos
- Chicken wraps
- Chicken soup
Honestly the ideas are only limited by your creativity and ability to use Google to find recipes! So, next time you are looking for a cheap and frugal meal for your family (or even for yourself) look no further than the delicious and versatile chicken. Your taste buds can thank me later.