Thursday, June 3, 2010
Dinner In Forty Five (For Less than A Twenty)
Everyone always says that cooking for one is hard. I never found it to be all that difficult because of all the freedom involved. There was no one to please but me, and I more often than not found myself just eating a heaping serving of whatever veggie was in season (long-time readers may remember those days). It was a great way to stay in shape and most of all it was easy to do after a long day's work or a late night at the office. Now that I cook for two it's a different story, as I find myself planning for meals instead of an easy dinner dish. Anyone out there with a large family to feed is a saint in my book, as cooking for more than two on a daily basis seems like the sort of task that should involve the marines or a congressional sub-committee.
As our summer vacation approaches we've been making a concerted effort to exercise after work, which of course leaves precious little time for preparing a complete meal. I long ago realized that the oven is a cook's best friend when trying to multi-task, whether it's for roasting veggies to make a flavorful (and healthy!) soup or side dish, or for cooking a lean protein. I've blogged before about the advents of buying chicken on the bone—more flavor and more food for less money—but never has it been more important to me than now. I'd been buying whole, organic chicken cut-up for some time and storing it in the freezer until I figured out what the heck to do with it, but nothing sounded right. I wanted a fast recipe that could lead to a full meal, most likely utilizing the oven, but everything seemed to only meet me halfway, providing either a chicken dish with no sides, or a chicken dish that needed too much attention, or one that took too long to cook.
In the end I took the recipes that sounded the best and put them together to make an even more flavorful one. This great chicken recipe from Everyday Food included roasted lemons, delicious orzo that made use of my overgrown dill, and even left enough time to make a side salad. It sounded perfect but the last time I made the chicken part of it, I found that it was a little bit bland. As a remedy, I decided to add a little bit of the spice flavor in this Real Simple recipe for spiced chicken, and some of the flavors from a classic Spanish dish called Pepitoria (which I made here during the early days of my blog). Garlic and paprika always seem to come to the rescue in my kitchen, and they made all the difference in my final recipe. While I liked the idea of roasting the garlic whole as in the Everyday Food recipe, in the end it didn't add much flavor to the actual chicken. So I did as many Spanish recipes do and chopped it up and added it to the spices I rubbed the chicken with.
The prep really couldn't be easier since chopping the garlic and slicing the lemons is just about the hardest part. I even tossed the chicken and spices together on the very baking sheet where they'd cook to save myself from washing a bowl. While the chicken was in the oven for a mere 30 minutes, I brought some water to a boil and tossed in the orzo. While that cooked, I chopped the dill and some mint, which I just love to use in the spring and summer with dill. Once the orzo was done I drained it and added just a drop of extra virgin olive oil, along with the herbs and a little extra salt and pepper. Once I spread it out on the platter, all I had to do was dress the salad (I like just a simple vinaigrette, personally) and pull the chicken out of the oven. It was perfectly cooked and rife with spices, so I just piled it on top of the orzo and squeezed a few of those roasted lemons over it for some sweet and sour kick. And that was it. About forty-five minutes had passed since I started cooking and I had a full meal on the table.
Even though we scarfed down our share, we still had leftovers for another night's dinner and for my lunch the next day. Not to mention, other than the chicken—which I prefer with the skin on—the only fat really involved is the drizzle of olive oil that went into the orzo and what's in the vinaigrette. If you have growing kids in the house, you have some great lean protein, a few carbs, and a nice green salad, all in one meal. And if you're just two adults starved after a day's work or a workout, it's pretty good too. Oh, and did I mention that if you have a well-stocked pantry you can make the whole thing for under 20 bucks? And even if you don't, you can always use whatever herbs and spices you happen to have on hand and make it on the cheap (which is what I do most of the time). If you need to stock up on spices, the dish still hovers somewhere around twenty dollars total.
Spice-Rubbed Chicken with Herbed Orzo and Arugula Salad
For the chicken:
1 whole chicken, cut into 8-10 parts
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
2 lemons, quartered
For the orzo:
2 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped
1 cup orzo
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
For the salad:
2 bunches or 1 pre-washed pack of baby arugula (about 12 ounces)
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Set a large pot of water to boil.
2. On a rimmed backing sheet, toss chicken with garlic and all of the spices. Season with salt and pepper. Place chicken skin side up on the baking sheet and roast until golden and cooked through, 25-30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, salt the boiling water and add orzo. Cook until al dente. When the orzo and chicken are just finished, dress arugula with olive oil and vinegar (I like three parts oil to one part vinegar and lots of salt and pepper). Add dill, mint, olive oil, salt and pepper (to taste) to the orzo and stir gently to combine.
4. Remove chicken from oven when cooked through and serve over orzo along with the roasted lemons, drizzling chicken with any accumulated pan juices. Serve arugula salad on the side. Enjoy!