Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Best Minimal-Prep, Little-Clean Dish For 3 Days Of Eating Alone

Raw chicken is scary. But I like the cooked kind.

Much as I love a perfect cashmere sweater, we can't live on style alone. Turns out we have to eat. And there comes a time for almost all of us when we will be eating alone for a few days. Maybe you're single and living alone, in a week where the usual diversions haven't materialized. Maybe you're coupled, but your partner is traveling out of town for the week. Of if you're divorced, your children are with the other parent.

Grandes Dames may dine out in solo majesty. Order take in from the best restaurants in town. Artsy Cousins may have tabbouleh in the fridge, with exotic yogurts from Bulgaria as accompaniment. Many cucumbers. Follow the Raw Food movement. But we Sturdy Gals prefer to cook. Something tasty and healthy. Something easy to make and easy to clean up. Enter Roast Chicken Pieces With Diverse Vegetables. No measuring. Minimal washing-up. Excellent leftover reuse.

Best of all, roasting vegetables is a transformative act. While their resultant caramelization rescues roast chicken from chewy hunk of protein status, they're still vegetables, those foodstuffs we want, in theory, to consume in large quantities.


Go to the market. Buy three large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. I spring for organic. Your choice.

Swing by the produce section. Buy two large yellow onions, plus two large handfuls each of two of the following vegetables: brussels sprouts, beets, fennel bulbs, red bell peppers, butternut squash, or russet potatoes. Granted, sizing up a handful of butternut squash requires a little imagination, but it's doable. Pick a harmonic vegetable pairing. Beets with fennel would insult nature. Onions get along with everything.

Go home. Preheat your oven to whatever temperature you like to use for roasting chicken. I'm a 400 degrees for 45 minutes kind of gal, but this recipe is beyond flexible. 450 degrees for 30 minutes should also work, as would 350 degrees for an hour. Your choice. Mark Bittman says 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes. He is a god of Sturdy Gal cooking and you should probably do what he says. On the other hand, he gets all fancy about when to add herbs and when to baste and I don't pay too much attention for this recipe. The whole point is not to have to pay attention.

Cut up whatever vegetables you have into 3-inch cubes. Approximately.

Take out your battered old roasting pan. The one that came with the oven. Cover it in tinfoil and apologize to the environment. This is to make cleanup as minimal as possible. Now splash in some olive oil and squooge it around. Enough to make everything slidy, not so much that anything will sautee instead of roast.

Next, unwrap your chicken. I have terrible chicken bacteria phobia, so I like to stab the chicken breasts with a fork and move them DIRECTLY to the pan, crumple up the chicken packaging, throw it away, and wash my hands. Phew. Then I salt and pepper the chicken breasts as I please.

Now decide on the herbs. As much or as little as you like. Two or three tablespoons is probably about right. Feel like Indian food? Get out that curry. Add some extra turmeric, it's supposed to be good for your memory. Nothing wrong with self-medication when spices are involved. Mediterranean? Thyme, basil, oregano. Moroccan? Cumin, coriander. And so on. Make sure your herbs go with the vegetables. I think coriander might distress your brussels sprouts. I could be wrong.

Lay the vegetables under and around the chicken. There should be space for air so that the food roasts, rather than steaming. But otherwise, that's it.

Put it in the oven. Baste once or twice. Fidget with the chicken if you like, using tongs to dislodge it from the pan now and then. Your house will smell like someone loves you. Remove from oven when done. Look around wondering where to put a hot roasting pan because you just don't trust granite not to explode, or shatter, upon contact with heat. Decide for the 146th time to put it on the stove burners until you buy more trivets, knowing full well that you may never buy more trivets.

If some vegetables seem to cook ahead of schedule, you can take them out and leave the rest to cook a little while longer. Or you can just enjoy really, really well done fennel bulbs. I love that little black crusty part on the edge, and the way they smoosh when cooked longer than strictly necessary.

Now you have one breast for first night's dinner, as it comes out of the oven, the next to use on salad or in a burrito, a final one to heat up again with the last of the onions and pan juices. When you have two breasts left, put the whole roasting pan in the fridge, covered in more tinfoil, to save container cleaning. Once you've only got one, wrap it up in the tinfoil already in use and clean the pan at that point. I told you we were keeping this effort as minimal as possible. If you aren't an all-chicken-all-the-time kind of person, slide in one night of frozen pizza with a salad. And if you're waiting for someone, they will be home soon.



Blogger JMW said...

Mmm, that sounds good. I'm so hungry right now. Perhaps an early lunch today...;)

February 16, 2010 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Kaitlin Wainwright said...

This is one of my favourite "all by myself" meals. That and seafood, because the husband won't eat seafood.

February 16, 2010 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger lauren said...

in defense of beets + fennel, this salad is quite good - and borscht, of course, is heavenly. then again, i'm the girl who bought durian on valentine's day - i admit i might not be the best judge of flavor profiles.

February 16, 2010 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger Belle on Heels said...

yum!! i'm thinking brussel sprouts + potatoes. although i'm a yukon gold girl.

February 16, 2010 at 8:36 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

In San Francisco one can also find beets and watermelon. So everything is possible, and flavors are a matter of personal taste. For years I hated cilantro, and then one day I woke up loving it.

February 16, 2010 at 8:48 AM  
Anonymous NRW said...

What a lovely article! I think I'll send it to my husband to alleviate my frequent travel guilt, and promise to be home soon. :)

February 16, 2010 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Someone said...

For years I have done a roasted vegetable dish, which almost always includes: red potatoes, parsnips (love!), red/orange/and/or/yellow peppers, zucchini, summer squash, onions (any color. sometimes I add in scallions too). Toss to cover with olive oil, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper before roasting. Deeelishious!

I felt a twinge of guilt when I first realized that my version is cross-seasonal and not so "green" for that reason. But it is so good.

Funny that I never thought to add chicken to this. I will do that next time!

I would also like to observe approvingly that you didn't mention carrots. Personally, I find them too sweet when cooked and thus anathema to a savory dish. Innnteresting.

February 16, 2010 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Someone said...

I meant toss to COAT of course...not cover... ;P

February 16, 2010 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger The Daily Connoisseur said...

This sounds delicious and I love your fashion for writing recipes- you could put out a cookbook! Enjoy your alone time...

And thank you for your comment on my blog re: baby xo

February 16, 2010 at 9:07 AM  
Anonymous jasileet said...

Roast chicken is my absolute go to. I love this. And DH is a fan as well. But for my next day chicken, I like to impress. I shred the chicken, boil fettucini (add something green to the last minute of the boil if you dare- broccoli, peas?) and do Alfredo. It takes only moments and looks like so much trouble. Not diet friendly but a little plate is more than enough.

4 tbsp butter (melt), 1c cream (add), 1c shredded Parmesan (melt), 1 egg yolk beaten (last minute stir in).

February 16, 2010 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger ELS said...

'Your house will smell like someone loves you' Stealing that one too. Delicious all round

February 16, 2010 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I love fennel. But I'm the only one who will eat it. I should make list of things I like and kick everyone out of the house for the night and enjoy ;)

February 16, 2010 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Giovanna said...

this sounds amazing.

February 16, 2010 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Duchesse said...

I salute you and hug you for chicken breasts, *skin on* (which I am eating)! Oh, and fennel bulbs, divine! A curry is nice on night two or three.

February 16, 2010 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Maureen@IslandRoar said...

All right; you've inspired me. I eat alone a lot these days and in 2 years that'll be it. So I've been thinking I have to stop winging it when there's no one around to cook for and act like a grown up. This sounds easy enough for even a lazy cook like me. I'm getting a little sick of soup and salad...

February 16, 2010 at 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you! I will try this.

February 16, 2010 at 12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I share your phobia of chicken bacteria. I recommend using food-safe disposable gloves like restaurant employees use. If you search for "food safe gloves," you'll find lots of sources. I buy mine at a restaurant supply store. Not ever having to touch raw chicken has changed my life.

February 16, 2010 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Great recipe. I pride myself in the fact that I can use chicken without ever touching it. Quite amusing to my friends. ;-) We must have the same phobia! xoxo

February 16, 2010 at 1:00 PM  
Anonymous Twenty Four At Heart said...

I do this too ... except I throw it on the grill outdoors. Even less clean up!

February 16, 2010 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger ADG said...

"Go home" ...that's the only part of the recipe that seems to trouble me.

February 16, 2010 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger myletterstoemily said...

brilliant! i learn so much here. thank you.

February 16, 2010 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

You guys crack me up. ADG - too funny. Duchesse, if this can get you to hug me it is better than I thought:). Preppy 101, maybe we ought to go in with Anon and buy the chicken handling gloves in bulk. I do hope you all enjoy this.

February 16, 2010 at 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfect comfort food! You have , what my mother called "an easy hand" with cooking. ~Madeline

February 16, 2010 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Semi Expat said...

Great ideas for solo dining and most entertaining recipe instructions from you..:-) Wonderful. I adore this type of eating and when I am back in UK and Mr SE is here in Oz I often do a variation on your theme. X

February 16, 2010 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I love the word squooge...and you made me smile a lot reading this post, most entertaining I could visualize you doing all these steps! The reusue of the foil negates the ungreen effect...bravo Lisa.
I hope that you indulge and pamper yourself, you can afford to with all the time that you have saved by cooking just once.
BTW, granite will tolerate that roasting pan, mine does time after time...the only thing granite did to me was chip one of my Henkels knives alas...no wooden cutting board, bad me.

February 16, 2010 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger LPC said...

For anyone interested, my daughter called me tonight, on her way to buy ingredients for Chicken with Diverse Vegetables. She said this post made her laugh, because it's exactly how I really talk. In other news, you all make my day.

February 16, 2010 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Love this! I usually make a roasted chicken thigh with garlic, sweet potatoes and carrots, but you've made me realize I could use any veggie and it would be just as delicious.

February 16, 2010 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger materfamilias said...

Thanks for the inspiration. I've often done the Oven Roasted Veggies, but for whatever reason don't usually combine with chicken. So I did this for dinner tonight, although I cut up a whole chicken rather than do the 3 breasts -- this way, I'll have enough soup bones to get another meal going -- might make a stock to turn my roasted beets into an easy borscht!

February 16, 2010 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Lipstick said...

What a fun and funny post LPC. I have made the redneck version many times....frozen chicken breast, carrots, onions, potatoes. Usually when I am very sleepy and tired and need to go to the grocery, but haven't. I think it's time to make the grown-up version.

February 16, 2010 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Belle de Ville said...

Oh I just love it when my house smells like someone loves me...unfortunately, it's only me that makes it smell that way.
Beautifully written post.

February 16, 2010 at 10:03 PM  
Blogger La Belette Rouge said...

Delicious and gorgeous post. I am afraid that I am not as good to myself when I am on my own as you are. I tend to live on Raisin Bran when He-weasel is traveling. Next time he is gone I am going to try this elegant version of on my own eating.

February 16, 2010 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger QueenBeeSwain said...

if you keep on cooking like this, I'll have to fly out there and have dinner with you, in which case, you'll be cooking for one no longer!



February 17, 2010 at 3:25 AM  
Blogger LPC said...

QBS, on the record, you are welcome any time. We'll throw in a career pep talk and general you are so awesome on the house. La Belette, Belle de Ville, Materfamilias, we can always text eachother during these times. That's what the youngun's do:).

February 17, 2010 at 6:30 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Great recipe! Will be using this one very soon.

I left you an award on my blog today!

February 17, 2010 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger Patsy said...

*Your house will smell like someone loves you* That is what I arrive home to nightly - my husband is the cooker in our family. He will now be the preparer of Chicken Pieces with Diverse Vegetables.

Except, no fennel, which is on my Things I Do Not Eat List.

February 17, 2010 at 7:45 AM  
Anonymous Jan said...

LOL - MARVELOUS post! Being one of those Sturdy Gals that like to cook, I love it!

And, you just posted what I'm making for dinner tonight, although I have just a cut-up chicken and there will be no fennel; like Patsy, I'm not crazy about it.

And I keep a container of Clorox Wipes on the kitchen counter for my salmonella phobia.

February 17, 2010 at 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Gourmetmom said...

I love the suggestion of roasted fennel bulb. I usually slice an onion and arrange it first in the roasting dish, then place the chicken on top; the onion acts like a little roasting rack, lifting the chicken off the pan. Delicious!

February 17, 2010 at 12:59 PM  
Anonymous The Preppy Princess said...

This really is excellent Miss LPR, we do enjoy the 'planning ahead' theory in the kitchen. (You are spot-on, raw chicken is scary!) You know, the poor Consort *loves* beets and we never (ever) make them.

Thank you for posting this!

February 17, 2010 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger Sue Boggs said...

I am divorced and single woman who cooks when kids are here and not, because it's fun for me. A few ideas about what to have in the house so you don't starve in a snowstorm:


February 18, 2010 at 5:23 PM  

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