Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner



Last Saturday, February 1, 2014 I had the incredible opportunity to cook with a group of Moms.  We get together about once a year, spearheaded by my good friend Barb who “mentors” the group.  Actually, I think it’s just a reason to get together and have fun!( By the way the  “official” name of the group is Koinonia a Biblical Greek word meaning Christian community). We needed to get together; West Michigan has been under a “polar vortex” which translates to – Michigan Winter!  It has been cold, dreary, and little sunshine!  Of course we were under blizzard warnings – but only got 6” of snow!  Not enough to stop us ladies from getting together!

We cook together; simple food, fun food and satisfying food.  There are lots of laughs and this time a few tears due to a personal loss of a member’s mother but we had hugs all around – smiles all around – sharing all around.

I’ll admit, it’s not easy to please everybody in this crowd, there are a ton of food likes, dislikes, and the occasional, “I’m not touching that!” The goal is to introduce a few great ideas, and talk about ways to help busy moms with food!

This year, I became a bit brave, and reached out to my friends at Tecumseh Smart Chicken and Susan Boeck!  I was hoping for a few magazines, or an apron, or well I’m not really good at asking for donations.  Susan is a very warm hearted individual, and her company, well they donated all of the chicken! 


It came packed, on ice, in two big boxes, and to say the least, I was doing happy yippy skippy dances!  What an opportunity to showcase how important knowing where your food comes from, and that humanely raised poultry is available. 

Our Menu was easy:

Warm Goat Cheese with pepper jelly & crackers

Spinach Salad with pomegranate, grapes, and avocado, and home made lemon vinaigrette


Lemon Rosemary Roasted whole chickens

Roasted Root Vegetables


and Truffles (though I will admit, they didn’t set up in time, and we ate them by the spoonful!)


Roasting a whole chicken is sometimes daunting to people.  I know that a lot of chef’s work at this “simple” meal to perfect it over a lifetime. 

I took the time to brine my chicken, though with the Smart Chicken, I probably wouldn’t have had to.  It’s important once you take the chicken out of a brine (or any other cut of meat) to dry it off, otherwise you’ll steam the chicken!  I like crispy skin!

I showed the group how to remove the wishbone before roasting, and we talked about how that makes it easier for carving – a trick that I used in culinary school! 

We then stuffed it with a lemon, cut in half (after we removed the zest and some of the juice for our salad dressing) added some fresh rosemary, trussed them up, placed them on top of some celery to raise them off the cookie sheet, drizzled them with extra virgin olive oil (evoo), salt and pepper then  put them in a 400 degree oven.  Normally, I’d probably roast them at a little lower temperature, but these birds were huge, and I was hungry!


We then got to cutting up root vegetables including potatoes, parsnips, onions, carrots and sweet potatoes.  We then layered them on sheet pans with a bit of evoo and salt and pepper and into the ovens they went.  Root veggies tend to caramelize and the sugars come out, and well you sometimes don’t need much more!


Onto the salad we went, opening a pomegranate, mixing up a fresh vinaigrette, and showing how to open up an avocado!  All in the guise of having fun, but learning a bit.


It wasn’t long before we started smelling the chicken.  It takes about 15 minutes per pound, so we had about 5 pound chickens – about 1 hour and they were done!  You can check the doneness several ways; an internal meat thermometer at 165°, or the juices running clear, or the drumstick wiggles!  We did all three!

The hard part, letting it rest before we got to carving!  About 15 minutes, a very long 15 minutes I might add!

I showed them how to carve a chicken, and let anyone who wanted to learn, get at it!  Sometimes you just got to dig in, and “hack away” to learn how!

Once it was done, and we placed them on a platter, we pulled out the veggies, got the salad ready, said grace, (by my good friend Barb – a lovely grace it was!) and then we got down to business!  Eating chicken.

It was pretty funny though, everyone had to “pick” a bit of chicken before it got to the table!

All in all a great chicken dinner!


Chicken Brine

½ cup
Kosher Salt
¼ cup
Brown Sugar
5 cups
Cold water
Garlic cloves peeled, diced
Cups orange juice
Quarts ice water
Spanish onion


Place salt, sugar, 2 cups of cold water, garlic and bay leaf in sauce pan.  Bring just to a boil to dissolve the sugar and salt, turn off the heat.  Add the onion, oj, and  cups of water.  Remove from stove, and add the container with ice water.  Mix well, cool until it reaches 40 degrees.  Rinse your chicken with cold water, and dry (this is to remove bacteria and such) place the chicken in a large enough container to hold the brine and the chicken, a small cooler, or a Stock Pot.  When the brine has cooled, pour over the chicken, you may need a weight to keep it covered!  Keep in the brine for 12 – 24 hours.  Remove chicken, and discard the brine.  Dry the chicken thoroughly.

Roast with your favorite seasonings.


If you don’t have room in your refrigerator, use a beverage cooler for your brine/chicken!  Works wonderful!

Roast the Chicken in a 350 – 400 degree oven for 15 minutes per pound, until it reaches an internal temperature of 165.  Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes!  Loosely cover with aluminum foil if you wish.


Roasted Root Vegetables – 1 – 2 veggies per person!


Assorted Veggies:





sweet potatoes



Cut into large, uniform dices


2 – 3 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper


Toss the veggies in the EVOO and spread on a cookie sheet.  Roast with the chicken for approximately 45 minutes, until fork tender, 



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