Long Live the Chicken

I get busy sometimes, and the cooking becomes routine. I try not to cook the same thing more than twice per month, and am fairly good as sticking to that, but there are a number of go-to meals that I go to more often than not. Typically, they include a protein, usually chicken (thighs or a whole chicken), steak (rib-eye and New York strip the most common), or fish or seafood (salmon mostly but shrimp, cod, and other white fish sometimes). Along with the protein, sweet or white potatoes, carrots, beets, rice, quinoa, onions, and brussel sprouts are the most common cooked vegetables and starches/grains. I guess we eat a lot of root vegetables. And always a salad—we always have a salad of kale, arugula, spinach, or mixed greens with onions, tomatoes, sometime fruit and sunflower seeds and always olive oil and balsamic or red vinegar.

One of my favorite go-to meals is baked whole chicken with root vegetables. Everything is cooked together, with the chicken on a rack and the vegetables below to catch the drippings. It is a good meal for emptying the crisper and potato bin of overripe plants, but regardless of what oddity gets tossed in, there must be sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots, and onions. Parsnips, mushrooms, and brussel sprouts work well, too.

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The chicken must be less around four pounds. Anything larger is jacked up on steroids, I believe. I’ve seen lots of live chickens, and I know if left to their own devices, they won’t get much larger than four pounds. So a small chicken is a good chicken. I bathe the chicken in melted butter, salt and pepper it, dribble some squeezed lemon on it (and then shove the lemon rinds into the chicken cavity). If I’m motivated, I might slip some garlic under the skin. If I have fresh rosemary or oregano around, well, I like to slip those under the skin, too. Then I bake everything at 400 degrees until the drippings turn clear (the wing-tips are usually burnt and all the other skin is a crispy brown). I let it sit for 10 minutes and then serve, usually as at least two meals. Here’s the Day 2 presentation:

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The baked chicken is a knock-off of a Michael Symon recipe, but it has been a few years since I’ve looked at the recipe, so I am not sure how far I’ve strayed. Chicken is really one of those animals that God created because She knew most of us wouldn’t know how to cook but we still deserve good food. It is hard to mess up a chicken, and meat-wise, it has to be one of the most flavor-filled proteins around. It can stand alone, without any spices or marinade.

It has always been a dream of mine to own chickens in the city. I have done some research, thought about the pros and cons, challenges and problems that might arise, and want so badly to build a coop and have three or four layers. They wouldn’t be for eating but only for eggs and as pets. I love eggs as much as I love chicken, so the idea of having upwards of a dozen fresh eggs each week appeals to me.

So why haven’t I done it yet? Coops are easy to find and build. There are people out there ready to assist in setting everything up and providing guidance, and, of course, the city of Chicago is fine with it. I think my neighbors would be fine with it. I have a big enough yard, and its secluded (or as secluded as a yard in a city can be). It has a big fence around it, which in turn is fenced in at the back property line and inaccessible to nearly everyone. I am hesitant about the chickens only because of the time we spend so much time away from Chicago each year, and I worry about who will take care of them.

Until I figure it out, I’ll keep buying fresh four-pounders or thighs (don’t send me no stinkin’ chicken breasts), and always look for cage-free, organic eggs.