They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, right? For me, that might be more like the road to unhealthy eating. I arrive at my job between 7:25 and 7:30 every morning, with the first children arriving at 7:30 on the bus…so I dive right in. Days usually go quickly but it can be draining work and by the end of the day I’m tired. There’s usually food in the fridge but there’s not always the resolve to cook it. Some days my weeknight dinners become “brinner” (breakfast for dinner) or a grilled cheese sandwich, and I am not ashamed of those things. What I am mildly ashamed of are the weeknight dinners from Domino’s or Zaxby’s or El Metate, and those have probably happened more this school year than ever in the past.
I’ve done better the last few weeks as I’ve tried to remind myself that I don’t have to cook some kind of gourmet masterpiece after working a long day and often running with a friend after work, or perhaps stopping at the grocery store on the way home, since I’ve decided that weekends are not for grocery shopping, and then of course there’s farmers market on Wednesdays and faculty meetings every other Tuesday. I am exhausted just reading that. I don’t know how parents do it when they have kids to shuttle around town to this practice and that game and so on and so forth.
(This is not a neat task. There are no two ways about it.)
Here’s the thing. Being a food blogger makes you just a little bit nuts. When I look at other people’s food blogs I feel like their food is just so much cooler than mine. There’s goat cheese and pastry dough and beautiful photography with vintage tableware. I shrink in embarrassment at my Corelle stoneware dishes that are more often than not the containers featured in my blog posts. I mean, sure, I have a cabinet of dishes for photography, but it’s above the fridge and when I’m trying to get dinner on the table-okay, the TV trays-I don’t usually feel like balancing on a chair and moving around the stacks to get what I’m looking for. Once Philip installs my pot rack I can move my dishes and make them more accessible, but the truth of the matter is that food photography around here is always going to mostly take place at dinnertime and is not going to involve a lot of fancy food.
Philip and I were having this conversation recently. Who do I want to be? Who am I trying to reach here? At this point in time most of my readers are my friends and family, people with jobs and kids who aren’t likely to be whipping up boeuf bourgignon on a Tuesday night. They aren’t looking for Bon Appetit magazine food (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). They’re looking for Rachael Ray, but probably without the irritating vernacular (but who am I to judge? Rachael Ray’s a bajillionaire.), someone to provide them with meals they can get on the table (or, ahem, the TV trays) for their family while watching the 6 o’clock news and maybe between music lessons and soccer practice.
That is some BURNT. SKIN.
I know roasted chicken doesn’t sound like an easy weeknight meal…but if you are willing to take the fifteen minutes to cut the backbone out of the chicken (known as spatchcocking, hence the weird title of this post), brown it, and cut up some vegetables, you can use the 45 minutes it takes to cook the chicken to wash the cutting board, make lunches (that’s what I did), maybe do some homework. Set it and forget it (sorry, Ron Popeil). I’ve said it before….don’t fear the whole chicken. Julia Child said that you have to have courage….so instead of looking at this as a daunting mass of meat and bones…look at it as chicken sandwiches, pot pies, burritos or tacos, chicken salad…the list goes on and on and on. And notice that I burned the skin of the chicken and blogged about it anyway-just to prove that we all have bad days (but the chicken was delicious anyway!).
Spatchcocked Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Carrots
Serves 4-6 Prep time 15 minutes Cook time 1 hour Total time 1 hour, 15 minutes Meal type Main Dish
Step 1 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Step 2 Preheat a large skillet (I used a 10-inch cast iron skillet but I really think I should probably use a 12-inch skillet for this purpose) over medium (the reason I burned the skin is that for some reason I preheated my power burner over HIGH heat. Yes, that's right). Set the chicken breast-side down on a cutting board and use kitchen shears to cut down both sides of the back bone, completely removing it. Press down firmly on the chicken to flatten it (the legs will turn inward as shown). Step 3 Brush olive oil over the entire chicken then sprinkle with salt and pepper (I like to put salt and pepper in a small bowl that will be thrown away after I use it to avoid cross-contamination). Set breast-side down in the skillet and brown for two minutes. While the chicken is browning, toss the potatoes and carrots with one tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Use two pairs of tongs to remove the chicken from the pan (careful not to break the skin if you can avoid it) then place the potatoes and carrots in the skillet and toss to coat with the oil in the pan. Place the chicken, now breast-side up, on top of the vegetables. Place in the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted in the thigh of the chicken registers 165 degrees (I did lift the chicken and stir the vegetables a couple of times during the cooking time), about 40-45 minutes. Step 4 Once the chicken is done, remove to rest on a cutting board. Stir the potatoes and carrots and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Carefully cut the chicken into pieces and serve with the vegetables.