…especially if you live near a Trader Joe’s.
TJ’s has been in California for almost half a century, but in recent decades, stores have been sprouting up all over the U.S. Each store opening has been met with rabid excitement, and it’s not hard to see why. As Fortune Magazine once put it, “Trader Joe’s is no ordinary grocery chain. It’s an offbeat, fun discovery zone that elevates food shopping from a chore to a cultural experience.“
The success of the chain is due in large part to its offerings: A tightly-curated selection of budget-friendly upscale goods, gourmet staples, and time-savers like pre-washed bagged kale, trimmed leeks, hardboiled eggs, you name it.
Of course, like just about every other big grocery chain, there’s plenty of super-processed Frankenfoods in the shopping aisles, too. Not everything that TJ’s carries is awesome (or awesome for you), but after two decades of shopping at Trader Joe’s, I still supplement my farmer’s market and CSA hauls with a weekly visit to the friendly workers at TJ’s. After all, there’s always something new to discover.
In fact, just last week, my super chef sister alerted me to one of TJ’s newest items: Organic brined whole chickens!
With this bird, it takes just ten minutes of hands-on prep time to make a complete supper that’s satisfying and flavorful. (A caveat: the chicken ain’t Whole30-approved ‘cause the brine contains some sugar.) While you’re waiting for the chicken to cook in the oven, you’ll have time to cuddle on the couch with your kids – or spend quality time surfing the interwebs. No judgment, I promise.
Here’s what to gather to feed 4-6 people:
- 1 whole organic brined chicken (5 pounds)
- 4 trimmed leeks, sliced
- 4 organic carrots, cut medium
- 8 ounces of cremini mushrooms, quartered
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons of softened butter or ghee, divided
- Aged balsamic vinegar
The brined chickens at Trader Joe’s are about 5 pounds each, and will easily feed 4 to 6 people.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Although the instructions on the packaging tell you to rinse the bird, just blot it dry with a paper towel. (It won’t end up too salty, I promise.)
With a sharp pair of kitchen shears, cut out the back bone…
…and trim away excess fat and skin. (Don’t forget to save the carcass and back bone for bone broth.)
Then, spatchcock the bird: Flip the chicken over and open it up like a book. Using a kitchen knife, cut a ½-inch through the cartilage on the breast bone and firmly press down with your hands to flatten it.
Next, prepare the veggies that will line the roasting pan.
Even though the trimmed leeks from TJ’s look clean, there’s still lots of dirt hidden in the folds. Keeping the root end intact, cut the rest of the leek in half lengthwise.
Give the leek a quarter-turn, and then slice it lengthwise again (at a right angle from the initial cut). Keep the root end intact!
Fan the leaves under running water to release the sand and mud.
Once the leeks are cleaned, flick off the excess water and slice ’em crosswise.
Chop the carrots in uniform medium chunks…
…and toss them on a tray with the leeks.
Add the quartered mushrooms and toss on some salt and pepper.
Dot the vegetables with half of the softened butter or ghee (2 tablespoons).
Lay the chicken on top of the seasoned vegetables, breast-side up.
Smush on the remaining two tablespoons of butter or ghee.
Roast the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes or until the breast registers 150° F on a meat thermometer and the thigh meat hits 170° F.
(As you can see, I cooked my chicken in my amazing toaster oven. Yes, my regular oven remains broken. Boo!)
Brined chicken skin doesn’t get as toasty and crispy as a dry-rubbed chicken – but I’ll trade perfectly bronzed skin for juicy meat any day.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving it. In the meantime, toss the vegetables in the pan with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
While you’re waiting to cut the chicken, sauté some greens to go with your chicken and roasted veggies.