Thankful for Thanksgiving (and Weeknight Roast Chicken)

I love Thanksgiving. There is nothing better about a holiday that is centered around food. Of course, I grew up in a family where one meal was spent carefully plotting the next, so maybe it’s just me, but I think Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday.

It helps that we have never traveled for it. EVER. We spend it at home, avoiding the stressful are we going to make our flight or is our connection canceled because of snow and if so, how and when are we getting home because every American has the same 4 day window for flights. (And the thousands of dollars that it costs due to holiday airfare gouging). It’s just always been so difficult, and not just financially. When you’re in academics, like at least one of us has been for the past 10 years, school  takes that same 4 day break and then it’s back to a very hectic last-dasy of grading the last assignments and writing the final lectures when you’re completely out of fuel before finals, so it’s not such a relaxing time off anyway. As a result, we’ve always tried to keep it low key. It helps that we’ve lived in Arizona that whole time, where even when it’s been cold it’s still been lovely enough to spend a good chunk of time out on a long walk. But more importantly, we both love to cook, and over the years we’ve had friends and family join us for the showcase showdown that is the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the cranberries, the homemade rolls, the apple pie…

Sorry. I’m in a food coma now.

Last year we scaled back our efforts a bit. We had a 4 month old, and were just utterly behind on housework (and sleep) so before we could even think about cooking anything we had to clean up our place. Luckily my parents were here, and that was a huge help. We alternated with my parents: some taking on the task of soothing or feeding Baby while others took over mopping the kitchen and cooking, then we would trade. And the meal was lovely all the same.

This year we’re not having anyone over, which is something we are both really looking forward to. Finally – some time off for both of us to just sit around in our sweatpants and watch some football and go for walks and eventually eat an amazing meal. So back to that meal. What to serve? We’ve always done a turkey. Some years it’s roasted, some years it’s brined, some years it’s smoked, but it’s always been there. And we do love turkey. But is it necessary this year? In keeping with our hopes of being as lazy as possible that day and just enjoying spending the weekend with Baby (who is now a toddler), maybe we should consider a roast chicken. Because that is at least as delicious as turkey in my book. And a whole lot less of a time investment. Last weekend, I happened to catch an America’s Test Kitchen episode in which they did a “Weeknight Roast Chicken” that was both simple as ALL GET OUT and amazingly succulent. Basically they browned the chicken in a skillet, then transferred the skillet to a preheated over…and then turned the oven OFF. That’s it, folks. So that might be my route. I’m definitely going to do that recipe, just not sure yet if we’ll do that one for Thanksgiving.

Turns out I’m not the only one thinking this way. This week’s Culinate just arrived in my inbox, saying: “It’s turkey-roasting season, and many of us are looking forward to feasting on our yearly Thanksgiving bird. But my colleague and friend Carrie Floyd may not be among the turkey-eaters this year; instead, she might replace her turkey with a roasted chicken — Roast Chicken with Mustard Butter to be exact. Carrie found the recipe in A Bird in the Oven and Then Some, Mindy Fox’s book about roasted chicken — and it was a big hit. The recipe worked well, as a recipe should, and her family loved it and begged her to make it again — for the upcoming holiday.”

Scuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

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