Traveler’s Chicken

It’s my dream to wind my way through North Africa and the Middle East – Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, maybe Afghanistan – and stuff myself. That’s right – an eating adventure. I rave about any sort of food from that region, tagines with lemony chicken and olives, lamb and rich, tomato-y vegetables, (gluten-free) couscous with dried apricots, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, baba ghannouj, foul mudammes, and every single amazing vegetable dish that highlights the most glorious food group in the land. And hummus, my god hummus! I could sing it’s praises for an entire week straight.
One of the reasons I want to travel to the Middle East is to experience a new culture of food – one that emphasizes sharing, hospitality, and time spent with loved ones. Not that we don’t do that in America and the West, but entire cultures and societies are built around giving plenty of time and space for meals, something that is not as prioritized in America. I not only want to eat but also learn from home cooks wherever I travel. Learning new tricks in the kitchen is what binds us together as humans. We’ve been cooking and sharing together for thousands of years – passing tips, secret family recipes, and simply sharing our knowledge with the next generation. Cooking with another person makes everything more enjoyable – the work seems easier, the food tastes better, and the cleanup is by far much more pleasantly spent in the company of others.

After a weekend of cooking – but don’t worry, this chicken only dirties one pan!!!

Until the day when I can fulfill my tabe-travel dreams (taberu is the verb for eat in Japanese), I’ll contently stuff myself with this roast chicken. One of the benefits of living alone is that sometimes you don’t have to share! A whole chicken will last me about a week – shredded into tacos or stir-frys, stirred into soups, a balanced way to complete a salad, etc. You can find me many a weekend gnawing on a leg like a shameless prize-eater because 1. I love chicken and 2. I have no one to impress at my breakfast table.

Thankfully books and computers can’t judge.

When I don’t have anyone to chat with while washing the mountain of dishes I create, I often find myself listening to podcasts. It helps pass the time and make things a little more enjoyable. My current favorites are the Spilled Milk Podcast, the Joy the Baker podcast, and the Miso Hungry podcast. All are free (!) to download. And so I’m creating my own weird little kitchen world, with sage advice from a book and pleasant chatter from a machine. Whatever you do to enjoy time spent in the kitchen – make it your own and run with it.

But if there are others around dependent on you and your cooking – roast a chicken. If I don’t feel like cooking? I roast a chicken. Seriously. It’s simple. It requires 10 minutes of prep time, max, and then you just leave it alone and do your business while waiting for it to cook. You can cook vegetables in the bottom of the pan so you can have a more rounded meal. And I’ll say this again – roasting a chicken and veg only dirties one pan, so the cleanup is no sweat.

ready to be made into other meals

Through my love of lazy dinner roast chicken, Tamar Adler’s book, and a bit of Middle Eastern escapism in lieu of travel, I’ve come upon a delectable intersection of my various interests. TE (yeah I think we are all going to get sick of me saying Tamar Adler over and over again, so I’ve given her this terribly original nickname) suggests adding a cinnamon stick and whole cloves to the pot when making chicken broth, citing poultry and cinnamon as a popular combination in Middle Eastern cooking. I decided to apply that logic to my roast chicken – stuffing the inside with lemon, a cinnamon stick, and star anise, because I had no cloves in my spice cabinet.

This chicken – oh, this chicken – is so appealing, so fantastic that I want to tell people about but not actually share it (sometimes blogs are perfect!). In fact, I’ve made it four or five times over the past few months, but I couldn’t wait til morning to take a good photo to share with you; I went at it with such ecstasy. Generously rubbed with coconut oil, the chicken comes out extra tender and succulent, with a warm, intoxicating flavor and depth from the spices. The depth from the spices creates richly flavored juices and bones to go into my stock pot.   I’ve mentioned before that I make my own chicken broth, partly because it doesn’t contain unnecessary ingredients and mainly because it tastes so flippin’ good. You have not tasted real chicken broth until you have made your own – and it is so easy. And this makes two meals, or rather basis for multiple meals, in one – lots of chicken meat and then stock for other soups. I’m going to use this stock in a caramelized onion soup this weekend. Stock also freezes really well for days when you need a meal that comes together quickly.

after you make it the first few times, it will take you five minutes rather than ten to prep your traveling bird

You can do many flavor and oil variants for a roast chicken. If you feel like traveling to Greece, use lemon, olive oil, oregano, rosemary & thyme. For something hotter, you can use Cajun spices or dry rub for a spicy Mexican or BBQ variation, or I imagine some sort of Thai concoction with chiles, lemongrass, ginger, garlic and what have you. The possibilities are endless! And since I’ll never say no to roast chicken (maybe only if turkey is an option), then expect to see more lazy-day roasts in the not too distant future.
Traveler’s Chicken
one chicken, raised in a way that is good for you and the planet
2-3 T of coconut oil
Herbamare salt
one cinnamon stick
one star anise
½ lemon, optional
If your chicken came with the gizzards or neck, remove them from the cavity and save for stock-making. Pat the chicken dry and place in a roasting pan, breast-side up. Starting at the top of the breast, gently lift the skin of the chicken and push solidified coconut oil in between the breast and the skin. If your oil is melted, you can coat the chicken all over the outside with the oil. Sprinkle Herbamare salt all over the top of the chicken. Put the cinnamon stick, star anise, and lemon if using into the chicken cavity.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes per pound. My chicken was small, about 2 pounds, and it was done in 45-50 minutes. Chickens are done when the leg bone wiggles loosely out of the socket with little pressure, or if the juice of the bird runs clear when the thickest part of the meat is pierced with a fork. Let the chicken rest for 10 -15 minutes before cutting or serving. This allows the juices to be re-absorbed.

To get another meal: Save the bones and pan juices as a starter for the best-tasting chicken stock available. You can reuse the cinnamon stick and star anise if you want that flavor in your broth.

Other favorite roast chicken recipes:

Balsamic Roasted Chicken with Figs and Sweet Onions from Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen
– a great success at this year’s Christmas dinner

Herb Roasted Chicken and Cauliflower Mash from Roostblog
– my spring favorite
Peach Chicken from Elana’s Pantry
– I have to make three of these in the summer when my family is all together because my dad and brothers gobble it up.
What is YOUR favorite way to use roast chicken? What kind of flavors do you like?If you need more help with the ins and outs of chicken cooking, check out this page. You can also look at the new links I’ve added on the sidebar under “Show Me How To Cook!”
Part of Fit and Fabulous Fridays @ Amee’s Savory Dish

3 thoughts on “Traveler’s Chicken

  1. Pingback: Green Tip #11: Add tea to your floors | eat, recycle, repeat

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