In this heat? I must be crazy…

WARNING:  This is not a true recipe post.

I thought I’d share what I’m cooking for dinner tonight.  How does roast chicken, garlicky red-skinned smashed potatoes and roasted asparagus sound?  Yes, in this heat, I’ve got my oven cranked to 375 degrees for over 2 hours.  I figure it this way…the Hubby and I can eat roast chicken for dinner tonight and I’ll still have enough chicken left for a pot pie for Saturday lunch (where I will cheat and use a tube of crescent roll dough), plus a carcass for making stock.  I can usually get 2 quarts of chicken/veggie stock out of one carcass.  Usually when the kids are here, to make a roast chicken go farther, I never serve it as roast chicken.  Instead I’ll buy a larger chicken, and make enchiladas, a pot pie, at least one salad (usually for me, for lunch) and then the stock.  Maybe that makes me a stingy mom…maybe that makes me terminally cheap, but we put a hurting on a roasted chicken.  The four of us can pick clean a 5 pounder in one meal, so I ply my frugal wiles and make sure I get two meals out of it.  Now mind you, I’m not saying we don’t have a roast chicken every once in a while, but usually I’m stretching a buck.

I have found it cheaper and better tasting to roast my own.  Yes, I used to fall into the “roasted-chicken-in-a-bag” trap at the grocery store.  They always smell so good, but I’m always disappointed when I eat it.  It’s got no flavor, and is usually dry, so I thought to heck with that.  I discovered a pretty fool-proof (please don’t purposefully try to prove me wrong *wink*) roasting method for chicken.  Wanna know my secret?  Okay, here goes (and I can’t give credit where credit is due, because I honestly don’t remember where I found these directions):  20 minutes at 450, then 20 minutes a pound at 375.  Easy peasy.  That initial 20 minutes sears the skin and locks in a lot of moisture, plus the skin is so stinking crispy, it’s like eating chicken chips.  We joke about the “chicken rinds.”  Even the girls want to eat them.  Of course, the time and temp are not a hard and fast rule, and I would check the temperature of the bird, at the thickest part of the leg/thigh without touching the bone and the meat should be at 180 degrees, if you test the breast meat that should be at 170, but I never test there.  I’m always worried that my dark meat won’t be cooked thoroughly if I test the breast.

The smashed potatoes & asparagus are equally easy…For the potatoes, scrub as many potatoes as you are going to need to feed your people, put them in cold salted water and add a couple of peeled garlic gloves.  Boil it all together until potatoes are fork tender, then drain and mash the whole lot together with whatever you usually use for mashed potatoes.  We use butter and evaporated milk, most of the time.  I refuse to give measurements here, because I don’t measure this.  I really don’t.  I’m neurotic about mashed potatoes.  Mashed potatoes are personal!  I want them just right.  What I do is, I fill my biggest Revere Ware pan (I think it’s 5 qts, but I wouldn’t swear to it) with potatoes, throw in 3-4 peeled garlic cloves and cook ’em, then when they are drained, I add a stick of butter, yes, real butter, and most of a 12 ounce can of evaporated milk.  I add stuff by taste and how the potatoes feel.  Sometimes it takes more butter, sometimes it takes more milk.  Sometimes I leave out the milk and a lot of the butter and throw in a big dollop of sour cream.  I warned you about me and mashed potatoes!  I also prefer my plain mashed potatoes whipped with a hand mixer, but flavored or “special” ones I mash with hand-masher.  As for the asparagus, it’s 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until they are tender when poked with a knife tip.  I like to toss ’em with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and maybe sprinkle on a little Parmesan cheese before I roast them.

I will apologize right now for all you non-cookers out there.  Notice I didn’t say non-chefs.  I’m a cook.   Yes, sometimes I make fancy stuff.  Usually it’s just simple (by simple I don’t necessarily mean few ingredients) food, family food, whether it’s American, Indian, Greek, Lebanese, Italian or what have you, it’s food that Mom’s all over the world would and could serve their families.  I know if you aren’t a “cook” it can be difficult to read a description of how someone makes certain things and they don’t follow or give you a recipe, but I learned the basics of cooking from a woman who only uses recipes to bake, and I don’t mean the biscuits she made every night for dinner, those were made from the “recipe” in her head.  She didn’t measure, she scooped her flour out with a coffee cup, added leavening by the pinch, used her hands to portion out the lard, then mixed it all together by hand.  When it was time to add the water, she put the bowl under the spout and let the water run until it was just right.  Now, I use a recipe for a lot of things, and all of my baking, but when it comes to simple food, like the chicken, potatoes and asparagus, I check oven temps and times and that’s about it.  Taste as you go.  Feel the texture when you stir.  You’ll know if you need to adjust something (or throw it out and start over, which I have had to do.)  It does help that I took every foods class offered in my Home Ec. department in high school.  Mrs. Russell, if you’re out there, my husband is eternally grateful!  One of those classes also sparked my love affair with foreign dishes…particularly Indian and Greek.  I’ll include those as time goes on.  You just can’t be afraid to get into the kitchen with a recipe.  I know it can be intimidating.  Heck, I still don’t like baking bread.  Too much chemistry, so I leave bread baking to the Hubby!  Get in there, get your apron sloppy, get your hands covered with flour, dirty up every pan in your cupboard!  You’ll thank yourself for it later.

But for tonight, it’s a super simple supper…or as I typed that the first time a “supper simple super.”  Either way you say it, the family usually agrees.

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