And there are few things easier and quicker to put together than a roast dinner. All it takes is a bit of prep before everything goes into the oven for a couple of hours of cooking time, time which you can enjoy as you please.
The appeal of that free time while the meal cooks is a major reason I like to use squash for this meal. You can, of course, substitute any vegetable you'd like. But I like that squash can go into the oven along with everything else. I also love the color it adds to the meal. And, of course, I love how delicious this powerhouse vegetable is.
Once everything is in the oven, the only remaining task to take care of before the roast and accompanying sides are ready to serve is making a nice, colorful, tossed salad. That only takes minutes, so for very little effort, you’ve got a wonderful, satisfying, and balanced meal your family will love.
As if that weren't enough, there’s even more to like about roasts.
And you can get even more mileage out of your purchase by using the leftover bones to make broth (stock) for a delicious pot of hearty soup. In that way you get more meals out of the roast, save yourself some meal planning time, and stretch your food dollars to boot.
There are many excellent recipes out there for soup that make use of roast leftovers, including my Mom's classic and well-loved soup recipe that you can find here.
Food safety concerns dictate using separate cooking utensils and cutting boards, etc., when working with raw meat, and also always keeping the preparation of meat and vegetables separate by using different cutting boards, knives, and plates, etc. during the meal prep. This is simply a good, safe food habit to establish in your kitchen, even if you intend to cook the vegetables.
I also recommend cleaning and washing any surfaces or sinks that may have come into contact with the chicken or other raw meat during the preparation process with hot, soapy water.
That means, for example, that the plate you use to carry the raw chicken or hamburgers to the grill or stove should not be used for the cooked meat unless it is washed with soap and water first. A simple rinse will not do.
BUT contrary to popular belief, you should not wash your meat or poultry before cooking, despite what your mother or grandmother may have told you about that practice being an essential part of the process.
Doing so can actually cause accidental splatter and contamination of other surfaces in the kitchen, so skip this step. The fact is that thorough cooking is the only way to eliminate bacteria in the meat.
If the raw poultry or meat does happen to splatter or drip onto your counter or stove, then be sure to wash the surfaces with hot, soapy water or wipe it with a paper towel and bleach to prevent contamination (this is one of the rare times when I actually condone the use of paper towels.)
When you handle the raw meat, you will also need to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching any surface or other food --- including towels, cupboard or faucet handles, spice containers, etc. So be prepared to wash your hands frequently during the preparation of this meal.
Here's the recipe:
Makes 6-12 servings, with leftovers for soup (Mom’s Chicken Noodle)
Prep Time – Approx. 20 minutes
Start to finish time – Approx. 2-3 hours
Total recipe cost – Approx. $8-15
Total per person meal cost with salad, potatoes, vegetable, and bread – Approx. $1.75
1 3-7 pound chicken (calculate about 2 servings per pound)
4-12 medium potatoes (depending on individual appetites)
1 large (about 3 pounds) butternut, acorn, or buttercup squash
Vegetable of your choice
Tossed Green Salad
2-3 tablespoons canola oil
Dried or fresh basil or any other herb or spice of your choice
Recipe continues after photos
- Place the still-wrapped chicken in a large roasting pan and check it for fit in your oven. Make adjustments to the oven racks to accommodate the pan and chicken. Set the oven to 425º F bake.
- Place the chicken in the sink and find the weight on the label before removing the wrappers. Calculate cooking time by figuring on about 15 minutes per pound.
- Remove any wrappings and ALL giblets from the cavities on BOTH ends of the chicken. You can unwrap them and cook them along with the bird, or use them to make broth for gravy by cooking them in water separately, or you can discard them.
- Once you've taken care of the giblets, use clean hands to handle the shakers and lightly salt and then pepper (to taste) the inside and outside of the chicken. Then, again using clean hands, sprinkle a bit of basil or any other seasoning you’d like on the outside of the chicken.
- Place the seasoned chicken on the roasting rack in the roasting pan, breast side up (timer popper side).
- Discard the wrappings directly into the trash, wash your hands, and scrub out the sink (see the blog post above if you're wondering why)
- Now prepare the potatoes. Scrub them, remove any damaged parts, and cut them into pieces approximately 1-inch in size. Toss them with the 2-3 tablespoons of oil and a little salt and pepper.
- Spread the prepared potatoes evenly around the chicken and the roasting rack, or in a separate roasting pan.
- Put the pan(s) with the chicken and potatoes in the pre-heated oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350° F, and set the timer for 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, wash and cut the squash into portion size pieces. Scrape out the seeds. Place the pieces on their side or face down in a shallow baking dish and add about ½ inch of water. Seal the pan securely with foil or an oven-proof lid.
- Place the squash in the oven next to the roasting pan with the chicken if there's room, or in a separate oven. A toaster oven large enough to accommodate the pan will do quite nicely.
- Alternatively, you can plan to microwave the squash in a covered, microwavable dish with about ¼ cup of water about 15 minutes before the chicken is scheduled to be ready. If that is the case, then just cover the squash and set is aside for now.
- Once everything is cooking, take the time to prepare and wash the salad greens and set them aside to drain.
- When the timer goes off after 25 minutes, turn the potatoes and set the timer for another 20 minutes. When the timer goes off this second time, turn the potatoes again and then re-set the timer for the remaining cook time required for the chicken.
- If you are microwaving the squash, start it on medium-high power about 15-20 minutes before you expect to eat. It is done when a fork pierces it easily.
- The chicken is done when the popper pops up, or the juices run clear when you insert a knife. Once it is cooked, remove it from the oven and allow it to stand for 10 minutes or so before carving.
- If the potatoes need more time, or if you like them crispier, set the oven to 425º F and return them to the oven for another 10-15 minutes or so. They are done when they can be pierced easily with a fork.
- Meanwhile, finish making the salad by adding some cut-up vegetables, and dressing it.
- Serve the chicken hot with the tossed salad, roast potatoes and squash, and an optional loaf of fresh whole grain bread.
- Reserve any leftover chicken and its bones to make soup.