A gourmet meal for company that results in three nights of half-made, super simple dinners.
Let’s just say it’s getting chilly out and the holidays are fast approaching and you feel like making a special, satisfying meal for your family. Let’s just say I have the answer for you: a dinner that takes time and kitchen-love to prepare, but, as an added bonus, gives you three more nights of half-made, easy dinners. Score!
I like to make at least one special meal a week as we move our way through Advent. But you don’t have to do Advent to appreciate gathering the ones you love around a nice meal during the long winter and with the holiday spirit in the air. On the other hand, if you are not looking for a nice dinner to make, you can skip this one. But if you kinda-sorta think it might be nice, I’ll make sure to add some tips to make it an easier special dinner. Maybe for the in-laws? A double date? And then, like I said, the bonus meals.
I got the ideas and recipes for the main meal mostly from Nourishing Traditions. The rest of it is my invention. Hope you like it.
To be clear here, you are going to start a good 2 hours before dinnertime, with the chicken. Then right after the bird gets in the oven, you move on to the soup, and while the soup veggies soften, get the potatoes in the oven. Once the chicken is done, you make the sauce. Also, you are serving a two-course meal here, with soup and then the chicken spread. If you want dessert, you can call the applesauce that, or you can work that out on your own, like maybe from the grocer or the local bakery.
Of course, there are many ways to do this. I sort of mix it up, myself. But this one is straightforward.
- Preheat your oven to 375F.
- Slice up an onion and strew the pieces around a roasting pan. Cut two whole heads of garlic in half, nestling them cut-side down in the pan. Get a roasting chicken ready for roasting (as in, unwrap it and take out any giblets, which will probably be in a sack, if they are even there). Cover the onions with a baking rack and place chicken breast-side down on the rack.
- Paint the up-side of the chicken with 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter or oil of choice (coconut, peanut, safflower). Generously salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with several sprigs of thyme, rosemary, tarragon or with a halved lemon or orange.
- Cook for 1 hour. (Meanwhile, make your soup and potatoes.) Remove pan, and then flip the bird by sticking a spoon in the cavity, lifting it, and rotating it 180 degrees. Paint second half of the chicken with 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter or oil and again salt and pepper. Cook for 1/2-1 hour more. Using a meat thermometer, the internal temp, away from a bone, should be–depending on who you ask–165-180F.
- Remove chicken and garlic heads to a platter and let rest for 15 minutes before carving. Keep tented with foil until ready to serve, after the soup. In the meantime, make the chicken sauce.
- Place the roasting pan with juices and onions on medium stovetop heat. Pour in 1/2 cup white wine and bring to a boil.
- Add 4 cups chicken broth and an optional tablespoon unflavored gelatin. Vigorously boil until liquid is reduced by about half. Strain into a gravy boat.
CREAMY WINTER SOUP
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot. Add 2 onions or leeks, chopped and 2 peeled and chopped carrots and cover and cook over low heat for 1/2 hour. (Meanwhile, make your potatoes.)
- Add 6 red potatoes, washed and chopped and 8 cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil and skim for potato scum.
- Add 1 teaspoon dry thyme and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (could be green pepper), cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Add 4 sliced zucchini, cover, and cook 10 more minutes.
- Puree the soup. (You really need an immersion blender for this, but they are a low-cost item; and if you get the ones that double as a mini-food-processor and electric whip, even better. Officially, you can also do it very carefully with a blender.)
- Serve garnished with sour cream or creme fraiche.
- Wash and slice 1/4-inch-thick, 6 large russet potatoes.
- Melt 4 tablespoons butter with 4 tablespoons olive oil. Paint mixture onto a cookie sheet or two and place potatoes down in 1 layer. Brush remaining butter on the tops and sprinkle with salt.
- Bake for 45 minutes in the chicken oven, checking periodically for burning. Compensate for uneven cooking.
Begin with the soup as a first course. Then serve everything else at one time; chicken sauce can be used for both the chicken and the potatoes. Purchased, pickled beets and applesauce (warmed, with cinnamon) round out the meal.
Feeding the average family of four, you should have enough left over to make the following meals. If you are going to have more people for your nice dinner and still want the easy meals, you are going to have to increase everything as needed.
- Saute in 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil: 3-4 peeled and sliced carrots, 3 stalks sliced celery, and 1 small, diced onion, until veggies begin to brown. Work in a couple heaping teaspoons all purpose flour.
- Stir in 8 cups chicken broth, all of your leftover chicken sauce, 1 teaspoon dry thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Scrape up the bottom and bring soup to a boil.
- If you haven’t already done it, remove all chicken from the carcass and discard the bones, skin and extra fat. Dice up the chicken and add half of it to the soup. Put the rest away in the fridge for tomorrow night.
- Reduce heat and simmer as long as you want to–within reason–adding 1 cup tiny pasta (like ABCs or broken capellini) with enough time to cook as long as the package directs. That’s it. Yum. Makes great sickie food. Serve with whole grain crackers, if you need to.
MEAL THREE: POTATO-CRUST CHICKEN PIE
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Layer leftover cottage potatoes in a deep pie dish. Top with chopped chicken set aside from Noodle Soup night and a couple chopped carrots and 1/2 cup frozen peas, scattered.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Work in 2 tablespoons all purpose flour until it forms a paste. Stir in 2 cups milk and salt and pepper to taste, heating and stirring until it thickens. Pour bechamel (that’s what that cream sauce is called, officially) over pie.
- Bake pie for 1 hour. Top with 1/2 cup grated cheddar and broil for 15 minutes, watching carefully. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving. If you are the kind of family that requires it, serve with leftover beets and applesauce, or some spare green salad (purchased for tomorrow night’s dinner).
MEAL FOUR: WINTER SOUP REDUX
- Re-heat your leftover soup in a soup pot over medium heat. Feel free to pep it up with some salt or other seasonings and optional 1/2 cup cream or pat of butter.
- Serve with a nice, crusty peasant bread (which you bought) and a nice, green salad full of seasonal veggies (which I would top off with walnuts and optional blue cheese). Now that was easy.