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Growing Up Gourmet: No Bones About It

Thursday, April 3, 2008

No Bones About It

Having dinner with my 27-year old friend the other night reminded me of one of my biggest (and silliest) 'food fears' as a child: chicken bones. My friend hesitated to order the roasted chicken, asking our waiter if it would be 'on the bone'. While I was hardly a picky eater as a child (fond of sushi and caviar by 5), I was quite picky when it came to eating chicken on the bone. Thankfully, I've come to realize just how much better chicken actually tastes when it is on the bone.

In two of my recent kids' cooking classes, we have roasted bone-in chicken breasts. Rib bones intact, the meat has been roasted with cherry tomatoes and thyme, or lemon and rosemary. The pan sauce is rich and flavorful; the meat moist and tender. This chicken was no match for it's boneless, skinless brother. Having hesitantly confronted the bone in the kitchen and tasted the results at the table, both groups of children readily admitted bone-in chicken simply yields a more complex and delicious meal. And discovered they had no problems working around the bone.

Aside from the far superior taste of chicken on the bone, my family came up with a list of other benefits last night at dinner, over you guessed it, roasted chicken.

1. It's quick. Okay, well, a 4 lb bird will take about 1 1/2 hours to roast, but it is sure quick to prepare. I was lamenting the fact I'd be roasting such a behemoth after a long day at work. But I mixed up an herb, lemon, and mustard marinade, smoothed it on my chicken, and halved some potatoes, onions and carrots to go in the roasting pan, all in less than 10 minutes. With a side of spinach sauteed in 30 seconds when the bird came out of the oven, I spent less time actually making this dinner than I would have seasoning and sauteing 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and some sides.

2. It's cheaper. Much cheaper. Last night's whole chicken was $1.59/lb for a free-range, organic, grass-fed bird. The boneless, skinless version would sell for nearly five times that amount.

3. It's healthier. Well, I can't promise more vitamins and minerals, but it certainly has seen less commercial processing equipment than the pre-packaged chicken tenders.

4. It feeds a family. With leftovers -- chicken sandwiches... chicken soup....chicken salad....

5. It's an age-old tradition. Roasting a whole chicken has been a culinary adventure since... no joke, the Babylonian times. Your grandma would be proud.

6. Your house will be filled with wonderful aromas that will make you feel like Julia Child.

So next time you're family is in the "chicken-rut", grab a whole bird and give it a roast.

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