I have a confession. If you take a look in my freezer right now, you'll find three very large, frozen chickens. I couldn't help myself the prices were too low to resist!
But now I have three large chickens in my freezer and no room for anything else. It's time to preheat the oven.
Whole chickens can be a great deal when they go on sale. I've watched them fall from their normal $1.69 a pound to as low as 85 cents a pound.
Even when you consider the weight of the bones, skin and giblets, it's a real bargain.
These birds come in two basic varieties: "whole young chicken" and "roaster."
Young chickens weigh about three pounds, while roasters are about twice that size. Both roast well in the oven.
The size bird you choose will depend on how many people you are feeding, whether you want leftovers, and which type happens to be on sale.
Each bird will provide about one cup of white or dark meat per pound. The average person will eat about one pound but if you're cooking for my husband, don't expect that three-pound chicken to yield many leftovers.
I prefer to roast a larger bird and deal with the leftovers. It's like Thanksgiving, but on a smaller scale. You can do lots of fun things with leftover chicken, or even serve it again later in the week for a fast "repeat" meal.
Roasting a whole chicken is easy. Once the bird is in the oven, you're free to wander around the house or prep side dishes.
We prefer our chicken with lots of flavor and juiciness, so I've altered my turkey-roasting techniques for chicken. It works really well!
1 whole chicken, 3-8 pounds
Butter or margarine
Seasoning of your choice: We like salt, pepper, powdered onion and garlic, and Italian seasoning mix, about a teaspoon of each.
1. Prepare the butter-herb paste by mixing the butter or margarine and seasonings. It's easiest to melt the butter to a semi-liquid state, add the herbs, and then set the mix in the refrigerator to chill.
2. Remove giblets and rinse and dry cavity. After loosening the skin, reach underneath the skin and rub the butter-herb paste generously onto the meat with a dull knife or your fingers.
Add remaining paste to the skin itself. Place chicken on a rack in a shallow roasting pan, breast side up.
Tie or pin cavity closed and legs together. Add an inch of water to the pan, and cover tightly with lid or foil.
3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees for a three-pound young chicken, or 350 degrees for a larger roaster. Roast chicken 2-2.5 hours, taking foil off during the last half-hour for a crispier skin.
4. Remove chicken from the oven and re-cover with foil. Let bird stand for 15 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute evenly throughout the bird, making for a juicier chicken and easier carving.
One of our favorite side dishes to serve with this is potato packets:
Cube 1 potato per person, or more for leftovers. Place potatoes on a large sheet of foil, then add 2-3 small pats of butter per potato. Add chunks of onion, garlic and green peppers if you're feeling festive!
Season well with salt, pepper, and oregano. Seal packets tightly, then wrap with a second layer of foil to prevent leaks.
Add packets to the oven, at same temperature as chicken, for 45-60 minutes.
Coming next week: Plans for all those leftovers!