Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Writer Enters the Kitchen

I'm planning to make this a regular feature on the blog because (a) I love to cook, and (b) cooking made my writing career ... not to mention rescued my savings account.

Even when I held down a real job (e.g. one that required me to shower, dress and then drive somewhere for a nine-hour daily incarceration), I cooked and I wrote. Cooking was my transition from the real world to the fictional world. Also, it saved me a lot of time that I could use to write!

I know a lot of you struggle with time - not enough to write, not enough with your kids but too much house cleaning, etc. Also, because us writers work on our cans, we have to be careful of what we eat, which is why I write this ode to the roasted chicken.

Whether you buy a whole cooked chicken from your grocery store, or you roast two breasts on the bone at home, you save money and time that can be put to better uses. Back in the good old days when it was just Ryan and I, a whole chicken yielded one dinner meal and two lunches each. You can make sandwiches (chicken salad or simple roasted chicken), serve it on a bed of greens (delicious with shredded mozzarella, cranberries and 1 tablespoon of Newman's Own Lite Italian dressing), quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos ... you name it.

Think of it this way: if you bring lunch to work and you're dying to use some of your lunch hour to work on your book, you don't have to use any time to get take-out. I used to walk to my car, eat my lunch and read the previous nights' work, saving myself anywhere from five to ten bucks a day and up to 20 minutes off my break. I also think that hour kept me from killing off some of my co-workers.

However lately, I've stepped away from the pre-cooked rotisserie chickens at the store because they're twice the cost of uncooked chicken and thrice the calories and fat. Roasting my own chicken is so easy that it's ridiculous. Wanna see?

Turn on your oven to 450F. Take out the chicken breasts (use the ones on-the-bone for more flavor and ironically, less cost per pound than their skinless, boneless counterparts) and let them sit on the counter while the oven heats up.

Throw them on a cookie sheet wrapped in foil, or a glass baking dish. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and then sprinkle salt and pepper. (I like using Paula Deen's house seasoning, which you can make or order.) Work it in - I like using a rubber basting brush so I don't have to wash my hands and risk cross-contaminating my seasoning - and then flip the boobs over and season the other side. Throw them into the oven, skin side up for 55-60 minutes or until they're 180F.

After you take them out of the oven, let them sit for 15 minutes before discarding the skin and shredding or slicing. This mini siesta allows the juices to redistribute into the meat (also you won't burn your fingers). If you store it in airtight plastic zip bag, it will keep for two to three days.

Okay, you're probably thinking, what about all the time I'm using to cook the darn things? While the chicken is in the oven you can (all within hearing distance of your timer):
  1. Review the previous day's writing (or heck, write!)
  2. Play outside with your kid
  3. Read a book
  4. Chat with your friend on the phone
  5. Write a blog (which I was doing as I roasted two stunt chicken boobs the day before yesterday)

You don't have to poke around, stir, mix, flip or hover over this dish. As long as I remain within range of the timer, tonight with some oven-roasted sweet potatoes and carrots, I'll have dinner for the three of us - the Little Dude refuses to eat any kind of flesh save for bacon or ham. Even better, when the Little Dude goes down for a nap on my watch, I can quickly fix a big salad and get some writing in while he sleeps.

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