It’s the dinner dilemma again.

At 4:00 p.m., is there an express lane grocery run in your future? A market drive-by to snag a rotisserie chicken always works for hot fare ready to go. But when you’ve got a few loose hours, maybe on a late Sunday afternoon, it’s just as easy to wrangle and roast two fresh chickens yourself. Consider it a twin score. It’s a comforting supper one night and the start of a second supper stashed in the fridge, ready and waiting to become a brand new fresh meal in minutes.

Roasting Cheat Sheet

Getting two chickens ready for a hot oven takes no more than 15 minutes. Set the stage first by heating up your oven to 425 ̊ F (turn on the convection option if you have it; the circulating air reduces roasting time and really crisps up the skin). Line a large shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet with baking parchment (you can still save pan juices while making clean up faster). Settle two chickens side-by-side in the pan—no rinsing needed. If you’d like, stuff them with a few fresh lemon or onion wedges. Tie their legs together with kitchen twine and tuck their wings under the breasts, making them into compact packages that will cook evenly.

Now you can get creative with seasoning. Rub them lightly with olive oil or softened butter. Sprinkle liberally with coarse salt and ground pepper, along with your favorite dried herbs or spice blends that might complement how you plan to serve them. A pungent mix of ground smoked hot chiles and cumin or a fragrant mingling of crushed coriander, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric will pave the way for tacos or a quick curry. Pop the chickens into the oven and plan for 20 minutes per pound. A 3-1/2 pound birds need about an hour (click here for details). They should be a gorgeous golden mahogany brown, with no pink near the bones of the thighs. Roasting at a high temperature ensures moist and very tender meat.

Out of the Hot Oven

Take a minute to strategically plan how you want to use your chicken bounty (and get that grocery list started). Carve up one for dinner tonight? Slice, chop or shred for a bonus supper (or two) tomorrow? Or use both chickens to stock your freezer for the future? It’s easy to pull a freshly roasted bird into pieces, taking off the leg and thigh together, twisting off the wings, then slicing the breast halves from the center bone. Neatly slice the breast meat and refrigerate it for a pretty main dish salad; chop or shred both light and dark meat and store in 1-1/2 cup containers for tacos, pizza toppings or soups. Refrigerated cooked chicken is best used within 4 days. But if part of the meat is destined for the freezer, be sure the containers are sealed tightly and marked with a stash date, aiming to use the chicken within four months. Proper storage is key to the best eating quality—don’t waste your efforts!

Dilemma Solved

Take a moment to bask in the relief that you’re steps ahead for getting really good suppers on the table this week. Now is the fun part, and the sky is the limit. Browse through these recipe suggestions and make them your own, or click on our formal recipes that call for cooked chicken.

  • Chicken salad starter (chopped and mixed with celery, flavored mayo, etc.) for sandwiches, paninis, open-face melted cheese sandwiches, wraps or stuffed into an avocado or tomato half.
  • Pizza topper with assortment of sauces, cheeses, other no-prep toppings on par-baked pizza/flatbread crusts.
  • A player with pasta in salads or uncooked pasta “sauces” or to bulk up mac ‘n cheese.
  • Deconstructed main dish salads like a big Greek platter, Niçoise, cobb or Caesar—a bed of greens
  • topped with sliced or chopped chicken, roasted asparagus, tomatoes, olives, crumbled feta, steamed new potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, bacon, etc.
  • Mason jar layered salads
  • Baked russet or sweet potato bar toppers with chopped and seasoned chicken, cheeses, sour cream, herbs.
  • Easy pot pies mix with an herbal gravy and roast veggies and topped with smashed potatoes.
  • Fast ramen bowls mixed in with a good broth, rice noodles and lots of fresh herbs, hoisin sauce and Sriracha.
  • Speed up hot dishes from impromptu lasagna or tetrazzini to a creamy rice casserole.
  • Fill up omelets or frittatas by tossing in leftover veggies, crumbled goat cheese and maybe a handful of
  • crisp bacon.
  • Fry up with root vegetables in a hash and top with a fried egg.
  • Swim in a soup or creamy chowder.

 

Recipes: