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We are heading into cooler months and I’m more than excited about it. I love summer, especially northern California summers but there’s just something about autumn. It smell better, feels better, and the clothes get cuter (IMHO). Instead of having a set uniform of tank and shorts (because I would melt into a puddle if there were any more clothing involved), I get to bust out my favorite jeans, scarves, and boots. YES!

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A big ‘ol pot a something good.

I also LOVE the food of colder months. I’ve said before that my favorite thing to cook is a roast chicken. It’s so comforting and makes your whole kitchen smell amazing while it roasts in the oven. I’ve posted about roasting chicken before and the post also included a few tips and tricks from none other than Thomas Keller, Ultimate Blackbelt Poultry Master. Also, here’s the food blog post that inspired me to try my hand at chicken roasting in the first place: userealbutter.com. You already love the blog just based on the name, right?

My next favorite thing to make after a roast chicken is chicken stock. This is a peek into my weird food neuroses. I love the process of trying to get everything I can out of one chicken and how many meals I can stretch it to. I feel so accomplished and frugal after I’ve completely maximized the utility of a chicken. I am a novice poultry master.

We use the chicken stock for sooo many recipes and I like to freeze some for future use as well. After our roast chicken dinner generally follows a combination of chicken soups and chicken and dumplings. It’s hubby’s favorite part of the roast chicken dinner – everything that follows, that is.

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Chicken and Dumplings

It was a recipe on simplyrecipes.com that inspired me to begin my stock making career. She offers 2 ways to make stock and a basic recipe. I do admit that if you aren’t use to working with raw meat, let alone a whole chicken then you may need to take this in baby steps. In fact, you can skip handling a whole raw bird all together. It’s super easy to get a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket and after you’ve eaten your fill, use the remaining to make stock.

The general recipe for stock consists of chicken bones, skin, fat, mirepoix – just a fancy way of saying carrots, celery, and onions; parsley, water, salt, and pepper. You put everything except the salt and pepper into a big stock pot, bring it to a boil and then lower the heat to a very low, soft simmer. Let the stuff simmer away uncovered for at least 4 hours and occasionally skim off the foam that comes to the top. After a fair amount of simmering, remove all the vegetables and bones. I also like to put the stock through a mesh strainer to get it really smooth. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

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The delicious beginning

I made stock with my sister for the first time and she even exclaimed about how simple it was. She has a famous lemon rice recipe that uses a lot of chicken stock and when she used our homemade stock in the rice….. oh man, that was some damn good lemon rice. I’ll have to get that recipe from her….like, now.

Sister’s first chicken broth

If you’re a very accomplished chicken stock maker I would love some tips and advice. If you’ve never made stock, you totally should! It is a bit time consuming (make sure you have at least 4 hours to let your broth simmer to full brilliance) but so worth it. Everything tastes so much more amazing with your own homemade stock in it. There will be more recipes to come, including a chicken and dumpling recipe! Go now! Make broth!

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

 

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View from Observation Point in Zions National Park.

We had a trip to Zions National Park planned months ago and then the government shut down. Luckily, our state rallied to fund the national parks during the shut down and Zions opened the day of our trip. We had a short weekend to explore the park and I think we chose some amazing sites. It was gorgeous! It was breathtaking! It was cold as hell! Well, not the entire time. Midday was fine but as soon as the sun went down it was frigid!

We chose a pretty big hike for our first day. We hiked to Observation Point which was about a 5 hour hike total and we climbed nearly 2,000 feet in that time. It was a pretty hard hike for me, I’m not the best specimen of human athleticism but I made it and the view was spectacular. We also found out why feeding squirrels in the park is against the law. The critters are fearless! They headed straight for anyone standing on the rocks. They swarmed your backpack if you set it down and scampered around and across your shoes in the hopes of delectable people food falling from the sky.

The leaves were also changing in bursts of ridiculous colors. The changing foliage seemed to highlight the amazing red rock even more.

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The next day, we got the bright idea of doing a little sunrise hike… That’s right, SUNRISE. Meaning we’d set out on our hike before the sun came up, hike up a steep trail in the dark, brave whatever wild things might still be prowling, oh – and did I mention the freezingness??? It was pretty wicked cold. We set off on the rocky trail with our flashlights and headlamps, hiking higher and higher until we came to this scene. To which my bro-in-law exclaimed, “holy shit!”

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View from Overlook Point, Zions National Park.

It was pretty amazeballs. No photos will EVER do this scene justice. It was scary high and the weathered chain link railing only ran along a small portion of the platform but the view was priceless. You can see the sun shine on the peaks waaaayyy in the back as it came over the hills behind us. This scene and the crisp autumn weather inspires some cooking for comfort.

Fall is my favorite season. By far the most colorful, best season for clothes, best season for sleeping in without waking up in a cocoon of sweat – it’s gross but so true. AND some of my favorite recipes work best with this season. I’m a big fan of roast chicken, it is one of my favorite things to make during the fall. It’s the dish that keeps on giving! I make a roast chicken for dinner one night, strip the meat off the bones and make stock, then I use the stock and left over meat to make chicken soups of all kinds – noodle, dumpling, tortilla… whatever your mood. The basic recipe for roast chicken is pretty easy but there are a couple of things I learned that helped me make an even better bird.

One chef that makes a mean roast chicken is Thomas Keller. On the show No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain does a show entirely of kitchen basics that he feels EVERYONE should know. In the episode he has Thomas Keller, whom he describes as “justifiably revered”, cook up his simple and delicious roasted chicken. Here’s video of the segment:

I like to add a few more things to my chicken seasoning mix, jazz it up a little. My mix usually includes rosemary, minced garlic, lemon zest, and salt and pepper. I like to season my chicken and then let it sit in the fridge overnight to really get the bird tasting jazzy! (yikes – I’ll stop now.) I rub the spices all over the bird and under the skin and then pop it in the fridge to “steep”.

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The next day I take the bird out of the fridge and let it sit for at least 30 mins. before cooking. Like Chef Keller says – it’s important to bring the bird up to room temperature to help it cook thoroughly. And I love a little roasted vegetable action with my chicken so I’ll throw those in under the bird. It’s also important to truss the bird before roasting to help it cook evenly. You’d think someone that understands the value of trussing a bird, would have kitchen twine on hand… I was short on twine so I had to get a little creative with my trussing technique in these pictures. If you want to learn how to truss, there are millions of tutorials and youtube videos on the subject.

After the bird is trussed, I brush melted butter all over it and give it a good, generous sprinkling of salt. Sprinkle the salt from up high a la Thomas Keller for extra chefy flair.

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Into a 425 degree oven for 45 mins. to an hour depending on the size of your bird. Generally, I use a 4 lbs. chicken and cook it for about 50 mins. You can also use a meat thermometer to check if it’s ready. Insert it into the thigh of the chicken and you want an internal temp. of about 170 degrees. Once the chicken is done roasting it will look something like this:

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I usually carve up the bird before it hits the table to make serving it easier but sometimes it’s just too pretty to carve up.

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Oh man, do I love roast chicken! There are so many variations of this recipe and it’s actually really easy to do. This dish is also an economical wonder. After dinner, pick the meat off the bones, throw the carcass in some water with carrots, onions, celery, and a little parsley, boil it down and you have delicious, golden, homemade chicken broth. Use the broth to make soup, chicken and dumplings or freeze it for future use.

Hopefully this inspires you to make some roast chicken tonight! And if you do – I’m coming to dinner, right?