At least once a week, mealtime takes on a special-occasion quality.
When I was a kid, life was much simpler. Although my friends and I were involved in some after-school activities, we weren't involved in several at the same time, as is often the case for my own children. This level of involvement creates a hectic schedule that can wreak havoc on our time together as a family. That's how Sunday dinner became sacred in our home.
No matter what anyone has going on that day, we all meet at the table on Sunday night. In order to make that rule seem less like my idea and more like theirs, I try to make a special meal that night, one I know everyone will like. Finding a meal that suits everyone at the table is never easy. Several years ago I found one, and although it's fast and easy enough to do any night of the week, it has become what my boys will remember as "Sunday dinner" for the rest of their lives.
Roast chicken. Nothing could be easier and more rewarding. Carrying a picture-perfect browned bird to the dinner table makes me feel like I've accomplished something and for those at the table, the meal feels like a special occasion. For the cook, the beauty of this dish really lies in how relatively simple it is to do, once you know a few helpful hints.
A simple prep
In order to get the chicken done quickly and all the parts cooked perfectly, I like to butterfly the chicken. Having a good pair of sturdy kitchen shears makes this job much easier. I simply turn the chicken over with the breast down and cut along both sides of the backbone. Then I turn it over again and press on the breastbone until my bird lies flat. Doing that will help the bird cook more evenly, which means both the white and dark meat will end up juicy and delicious.
Then all that needs to be done is to coat the chicken with a bit of olive oil, season it with salt and pepper, and pop it into a hot oven. I like to roast it at 425 degrees for about 35 to 45 minutes, which I find renders uniformly moist meat and a crispy skin.
It's so simple that I often do two chickens at the same time, which gives me cooked chicken meat ready for later in the week when I have less time to throw dinner together. Then I can quickly assemble any number of recipes that call for cooked chicken. That's a luxury any night of the week when rugby practice, Model U.N., guitar lessons, robotics team and more make life a bit crazy.
Sunday night, of course, remains our evening of quiet, at least through dinner.