Daily Archives: September 22, 2014

What Price Convenience?

We don’t use a lot of convenience foods; whenever possible, we cook from scratch. A notable exception, of course, is the boxed macaroni and cheese she enjoys.  Sure, we’ll buy a bottle of ketchup rather than make our own (though I have considered homemade), and neither of us has a moral objection to frozen pizza in a pinch, but for the most part we start with ingredients and end up with a meal.  We passed through the frozen-food section at Trader Joe’s yesterday and realized there was nothing we wanted for the freezer.  This is a good thing; cooking from scratch is usually less expensive than a pre-packaged meal, and always gives us control over what’s included.

We had decided on a roasted chicken for Sunday dinner, since fryer-roasters were on sale at our preferred supermarket. It seemed like such a civilized, normal-family sort of Sunday dinner, and would provide plenty of leftovers for repurposing during the week. There was only one of the sale-priced chickens left, and a small one at that.  There were, however, several “Oven-ready” chickens, which come pre-seasoned.  Also, even less expensive, and a little larger.  So we gave one a shot.

I didn’t realize the chicken came in its own roasting bag; I wasn’t thrilled about the extra plastic, but figured it would make cleanup easier.

As soon as a perfect-looking cast iron skillet of cornbread came out of the oven, I parked the chicken-in-a-bag-in-a-roasting-pan between the roasting beets and sweet potatoes, and set the oven timer for the short end of the chicken’s recommended range. The sides came out first (because I, unlike my godmother, did not study Home Economics and have impeccable meal-planning timing), but they stayed foil-wrapped and happily warm until the chicken finished.  At timer’s beep, the meat thermometer said the chicken was a couple degrees from perfect, so I removed the chicken to allow for carryover heat, bumped the oven to low to bake a pan of granola, and sautéed the beet greens to accompany their roasted roots.

Whatever seasoning solution had been added to the chicken didn’t do much other than keep it from becoming dry–which is certainly worthwhile, but if I’d put a chicken in the oven myself I could have controlled for that with timing (and maybe a judiciously placed soda can full of broth). If the liquid was seasoned, it had no recognizable flavor  More disappointing was the chicken’s skin, which was sort-of-brown, but not at all crisp. The whole meal was fragrant enough to attract the attention of a small Feline American Companion, but she knew she wasn’t going to get any table scraps, and she was more companionable than begging.

All told, the convenience of this Oven-Ready Roaster didn’t outweigh its disadvantages. If this one had been more expensive than a “regular” chicken, we wouldn’t have even considered it.  But it was worth a try. We won’t be buying another, but the leftover chicken is in the fridge, and its bones (along with those from several other chickens or pieces thereof) are in the slow-cooker becoming stock.

Sunday dinner was served a little later than back in my childhood, but with our little family around our little table, it was every bit as pleasant.

She liked the chicken, but the cornbread really got her attention.

She liked the chicken, but the cornbread really got her attention.