Archived entries for fancy on the cheap

The Quickest Easiest Roast Chicken Dinner Ever!

Yesterday, I spent all day grocery shopping in the rain and when I got home I was just plain crabby. I know prioritizing time in a busy schedule to prepare quick home cooked meals is what this blog is about, but sometimes its not easy. I always try to have a big dinner on Monday night to create left overs for us to eat for our workday lunches and to have a nice relaxing meal for Ira when he gets home from work. So crabby or not, dinner needed to be made.

How can one get home at 5 and have a roasted chicken dinner on the table by 7? Here’s a quick and simple recipe which produces big flavors making any eaters think you spent hours laboring in the kitchen. That’s my favorite kitchen equation!

Zingerman’s Rustic Chicken aka Chicken Dinner in a Skillet.

  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 3 large onions sliced
  • 2 c. celery sliced
  • 1 1/3 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 1/2 loaf bread, rye is best
  • 1-2 lemons to yield:
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice

In a large skillet, saute onions and celery in oil until clear. Onions and celery will create a huge pile which may appear to overflow skillet, but don’t worry they’ll cook down in 10 minutes or so.

While onions/celery cook, take your chicken and flip it on its breast so its backbone is facing toward you. With a sharp knife, butterfly your chicken. To do this, you remove the back bone and neck out of the chicken by cutting through the ribs and hip bones.

Using sharp knife, cut through bones to remove neck and backbone.

This may sound scary to those new to cooking chicken, but just get in there and do it. Although you have to apply some pressure, the bones cut and break relatively easily. When you have the backbone and neck removed, rub your chicken inside and out with 2 Tbs of olive oil, 1 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp of salt.

Place seasoned chicken on a plate and set aside.

Butterflied chicken with removed neck and backbone.

Tips when cutting your chicken

  • Use a sharp knife and keep your fingers away from the blade when slicing as you have to use some force to cut through the bigger bones.
  • When your backbone has been removed, place chicken on a plate and immediately wash your knife and cutting board with soap water to remove any blood and bacteria.
  • Put your neck in a plastic bag and put in freezer to save for making chicken stock.

When your onions and celery are clear, add your lemon zest and seasonings.

Cooked onions with seasonings.

Stir to mix and remove to a bowl.

In your greasy skillet, layer out the half loaf of bread. This is a great way to use up stale bread!

Layer onion mix on top of bread and place seasoned chicken on top of onion mixture skin side up. Pour 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice over chicken.

Place chicken in oven uncovered and roast at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until golden brown. Once done, let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Roasted chicken all golden and crispy.

This recipe, which my Mom gave me from a magazine clipping, is from Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, MI. I love this recipe because of its wonderful simplicity. As the chicken cooks, its juices mix with the lemon and onion seeping down and creating an instant stuffing as the bread gets fried and toasted.

Delicious stuffing of bread, onions, celery and lemon.

The lemon and red pepper gives everything a nice tangy taste to compliment the smooth savory flavor of the caramelized onions. Although we served it with the roasted beet side, you don’t have to even make a side if you don’t want to. The chicken and stuffing can stand on their own. And clean up is super easy as its only one pan!

This isn’t some pretty bad food photography, but give me a break, I was tired remember??

Ira’s mom, Janice, raises about 100 chickens every year and she sent us home with three or four on our last visit. You have never tasted better until you’ve tried Janice’s organic free range chicken! We served the chicken and stuffing with a side of roasted beets from my parents garden. Aren’t we lucky? A fully organic meal basically free and grown and prepared with love. (Is that sappy or what. But so true.)

Try this recipe once and you’ll be hooked because you can make it in the same pinch you’ll give yourself to see if you’re dreaming when you eat this delicious dish!

Cheap Night Fancy: Coq au Vin

When planning the Forkably Hip menu, I knew I wanted to serve food which would be more upscale and fitting with the jet set we wanted to attract. Originally, I aimed to price the plates around $50.00 serving fancy food like Salmon Roulade for the entree, however after Amber and I started talking over the details, we both agreed a less expensive plate price with more frugal food options would be more in fitting with our prospective blog mission statements. Charging less money, I would have to switch gears to save money on my expenses. When thinking what entree I could make easily on a tight budget, Coq au Vin instantly came to mind.

Literally meaning cock, or rooster (get your mind out of the gutter) in wine, this dish is made by braising chicken in red wine. It goes best with dark meat, which happy luck would have are the more budget cuts. My family has been making this dish for years, and although not difficult or expensive to make, presents a certain amount of high falutin feelings when served and eaten. As Amber and I both like to fake fancy on the cheap, I knew I’d found my meal ticket!

Floured chicken ready for browning in preparation for braising.

Although I grew up on the joy of cooking Coq au Vin recipe, I decided to work from the Alton Brown recipe because he requires most of the work to be done the day before, allowing me to make the most of my time.

The main difference between the Joy of cooking recipe and the Alton Brown method is Joy has you cook everything together, where Alton Brown separates the onions, mushroom and bacon out and has you marinate the chicken in the wine and chicken stock sauce overnight.

On left, browned chicken with veggies and herbs, on right, adding the wine/stock/tomato paste mixture to the chicken and veggies.

He also suggests you add veggies such as onions, celery, carrots, thyme and bay leaf to the chicken and wine sauce. The choice of or amount of veggies you add here isn’t of paramount importance as they are basically being used to help flavor the liquid in the pot much like a stock or soup base. The flavors will enhance the braising liquid which you later drain the veggies out of to make into your coq au vin gravy. I had the ends of a leek as well as the stems of a fennel bulb I was using for my starter, so I threw those in to accompany the suggested vegetables. I always feel a few pepper corns can’t hurt either.

The chicken in the wine/stock with veggies is left to marinate overnight and then roasted in the oven the next day for 2-3 hours until cooked.

Cooked Coq au Vin comes out of the oven, ready to be strained.

At this point, the chicken is removed from the pot and veggies need to be strained out of the braising liquid. This liquid is boiled on the stove top to reduce the sauce until thickened to a gravy. In addition to reducing, I also added 1 part flour to 1 part butter to help it thicken faster. When the gravy is thick enough, you add the chicken as well as the onions, mushrooms and bacon. Dinner is done.

If you want to make it the same day, the Joy of cooking recipe is for you, which takes about an hour or two of cooking time although you could make the Alton Brown recipe the same day by eliminating the overnight marination.

Coq au Vin served in a pastry bowl with a side of roasted root vegetables.

Whichever recipe you choose, this dish yields a lot of bang for your buck, it doesn’t require that much skill, kitchen time or money, yet produces a luxurious dinner which will be sure to produce oohs and oohlalas from your dinner guests.

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