Easy summer meal just a chicken away

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 5, 2001

At my house we don’t wait for June 21 to declare the official summer season. As far as we can tell, the official signs of summer are when the children get out of school, it’s warm enough to go swimming and you need sunglasses at the baseball park for a 7 o’clock game. But one thing that doesn’t change at my house or yours is the fact that everyone still has to be fed -&160;and it’s getting too hot to turn on the oven.

Don’t despair. One of the most versatile things you can have in your refrigerator is also one of the easiest to prepare: roast chicken.

And, best of all, you can do what I do and cook several at one time.

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Perfect roasted chicken

1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano or sage leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Place the chicken, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. And place the chicken in the oven.

Mix together the olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper.

After the chicken has roasted for about 20 minutes, spoon some of the olive oil mixture over it, then turn the bird breast side up. Baste again, then again after 7 to 8 minutes, at this point the breast should be beginning to brown.

Turn the heat down to 325 degrees, baste again and roast until a instant-read theremometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 to 165 degrees.

Remove the bird to a platter and let it rest for about 5 minutes, before carving.

Note: For a different flavor try this mixture instead of the olive oil and herb flavoring: Mix 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground and 1/4 cup minced green onions.

When your chicken is cool you need to think about how you are going to use it during the week. That will decide how you store it.

If you have cooked two or more, take one of the birds and cut it up into pieces and wrap well in aluminum foil to have on hand to serve for dinner.

I then take one bird and slice the meat off of it: my goal is to have my meat in pieces that I can then cut into strips.

Place these strips in a plastic freezer bag and pop in the freezer. Then one evening when you are running late you can prepare a stir-fry dinner in no time at all. You can add the frozen chicken strips to your vegetable mixture and by the time you prepare rice it will defrost and heat through.

Need a quick lunch or light dinner?

Prepare a green salad, and use some of your chicken strips to dress it up. I thaw mine in the microwave.

The bird that you sliced meat off of will probably still have meat clinging to it, don’t waste it. Pick the meat off of it and make chicken salad.

I know this means you will have some dark meat in your salad, a Southern no-no, but for your home this is perfectly OK, and the roast chicken makes a delicious salad.

Christina Hall writes a weekly food column for The Democrat. You can reach her via mail c/o The Democrat, P.O. Box 1447, Natchez, Miss., 39121, or via e-mail, christina.hall@natchezdemocrat.com. For more Cooking With Christina and other food information, go to www.missloucooks.com on the Web.