Monday, August 4, 2008

Part II: Organic Math: 1 Hen=3 Family Meals

Okay, it is time to cook that Organic Hen. For those of you who have never roasted a chicken or turkey, don't let yourself be intimidated. This is truly an easy dinner, which will allow you a little down time while it is cooking. If your afternoons run late, I would suggest you do all the prep the night before, storing the cut up potatoes in a container covered with water (to keep them from turning brown). This will assure that dinner will be a bit more timely. Here goes:

Organic Hen and Vegetables, Green Salad

1 Organic Hen, 6-8 pounds

5 medium potatoes

4 medium carrots

3 small yellow onions (or 2 medium)

Sea Salt
Dried organic Basil
Organic poultry seasoning
Organic Olive Oil cooking spray
Roast at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes per pound, until internal temperature is 185 degrees.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, making sure there is a shelf at the center of the oven. Spray a 13 X 9 inch (or larger) pan with cooking spray. Open the hen, remove all the excess pieces from the cavity (it's up to you if you want to cook them along with the hen) and wash the hen thoroughly inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper the inside of the bird to taste and place hen in the center of the pan, breast up.

Wash the vegetables in a large pan of water. As you peel and cut, save all the ends, peels and discarded pieces of the onions and carrots for use in flavoring the broth for the soup we'll make later. Place them all in 1 container in the refrigerator. Peel and cut up the onions while cold, to avoid runny eyes. Cut each into 8 wedges and distribute around the hen, reserving about 4 wedges to place inside the bird. Clean and slice the carrots, distributing them around the chicken. Finally, clean and cut up the potatoes into pieces about 3/4" square. After you distribute these around the chicken, add salt, pepper, basil, and poultry seasoning to all of the vegetables and the chicken fairly generously. Stir the vegetables to distribute the seasoning. Place the pan in the center of the oven and set the timer for 1 1/2 hours as a reminder to place the meat thermometer into the center of the thigh. Meanwhile, baste the skin with the juices about every 20 minutes. I usually use a separate timer to remind me to baste. If the wings, legs, or breast begin to get too dark or crisp, wrap them in small pieces of tin foil, with the shiny side facing out.

Prepare the salads (my basic salad list included Romaine lettuce, green onions, carrots (grated), cucumbers and tomatoes) and return to the refrigerator until time to serve. Once again, save discarded portions of carrots and onions for the broth.

Since this dinner does take longer to cook than your average week-night dinner, choose your date with this in mind. It will likely take 2 1/2-3 1/2 hours to finish cooking, depending on the size bird you purchased. This will be a good opportunity to spend some quality time with your partner or children, or if you are home alone, you'll be able to curl up with a good book. When the thermometer reaches 185, remove the hen from the oven and let it sit while you get the salads, dressing, and drinks on the table. Now you are ready to carve and serve. I hope you enjoy this delicious, savory dinner and the wonderful smell in your home while it is cooking.

After dinner, when the hen has cooled, it is time to do a small amount of prep for the next two meals. Remove all remaining meat and tear or cut up into small pieces for the chicken and rice. Store in the refrigerator. If there is no time for this tonight, store the bird and do it tomorrow. No problem!
Tomorrow we'll make homemade organic broth. It literally only takes a few minutes of your time to prepare. Hope to see you then.

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