Rotisserie Chickens to the Rescue!: How to Use the Already-Roasted Chickens You Purchase at the Market to Make More Than 125 Simple and Delicious Meals

By Carla Fitzgerald Williams

Rotisserie Chicken to the Rescue

Published by Hyperion

A graduate of Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School and with more than 20 years experience in the food industry, Carla Fitzgerald Williams put together this book in order to simplify her busy and chaotic life while still being able to put home cooked food in front of her family each night. With two young sons under foot, Carla found it challenging (as do all of us with young children!) to find enough time in the day to prepare a delicious meal and actually be able to sit down together and enjoy the results. Limited time is what inspired her to create a cookbook with more than 125 recipes based on rotisserie chickens from the grocery store. Not only are these chickens  a fresh, tasty answer for a quick dinner solution, they are also priced quite reasonably. And if you are anything like our family and use the leftover carcass for making stock for soup the next day, you actually end up getting two meals out of that handy bird!

Carla’s goal in creating this cookbook was to combine readily available ingredients, easy-to-do techniques, and equipment that even the most basic home cook would have in their kitchens. She definitely achieves her goal, and it was great to discover I had most ingredients on hand for the recipes I tested. Not having to drag two kids to the supermarket makes me happy!

I liked the additional sections included at the bottom of each recipe, such as the ‘lighter touch’ (suggestions on how to reduce fat or calories), tips for making a dish ahead of time, how to jazz up a recipe for company, and ideas for using leftovers to create a whole new meal. She also provided tips on creating a shopping list (NEVER shop hungry!), how to make your pantry more efficient, and ways to care for your kitchen equipment.

This book is based entirely on the idea of using frozen and canned vegetables, jarred sauces and dried herbs, all in the name of putting food on the table in record time. Now before I met Mr. Spock I was known to enjoy a box of those instant mashed potatoes and my cupboard was full of ready made sauces and marinades, but this isn’t the way that my family cooks anymore. Cooking from this book was like going back in time to visit my single self, but somewhere along this super highway of quick cooking meals much of the flavour and depth that I have grown to love in my food was missing.

So how does the working mom or dad put in a full day at the office and whip up something in the kitchen for their hungry families without compromising taste? While I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, some of the things that I love doing is shipping the kids off to the grandparents and spending an entire day in my kitchen cooking up double (sometimes triple) batches of meals that freeze well (like lasagna, soups, Sheppard’s pie, even homemade burger patties). It’s reassuring to know that I am able to grab a meal and thaw it out in the fridge for those days when I know I won’t have time to spend fusing around in the kitchen.

I also like turning to my crock-pot, throwing together ingredients first thing in the morning (or even the night before) and setting the timer so deliciousness can simmer all day long while I’m out saving the world. There’s nothing better than stopping at the bakery to grab a fresh loaf of bread and opening your door to the smell of yummy chicken chili (click here for the recipe…it’s gold people!) Alternatively, if Mr. Spock’s got the apron on that day one of his favourite quick meals is pan seared chicken breasts (click here for his recipe). Done. Delicious. Quick. Add a salad or some other vegetable side dish and some rice and you’ve got a speedy and super yummy dinner solution that only uses fresh ingredients.

In regards to this book, I have to admit that I was disappointed and couldn’t wait to be done testing my three recipes so I could move on to another cookbook. The results were mediocre at best, and while I’m all about quick meals that come together in a hurry I also need my food to actually taste good too. Needless to say this book will be disappearing from my shelves, and I can only hope that it will find a better suited home.

Chicken and Biscuit Pot Pie

RATING: 2 out of 5

THE TEST: This dish happened to be the meal I whipped up for me and my eldest daughter after we both came down with severe colds over the (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend. I happen to be the type of person who LOVES seasonal holidays, so I would be damned if I let a hacking cough and runny nose get in the way of our celebration. Chicken and Biscuit Pot Pie might not be considered traditional fare for this particular holiday, but poultry was involved while pot pies themselves definitely fall under the comfort food category. Good enough for me!

Chopped Veggies

I have to admit that normally if I buy pre-sliced mushrooms I feel dirty, as if I’ve cheated on an exam and I’m afraid I’ll get caught by the teacher. But this time instead of being consumed by guilt I embraced the convenience! Amazing how your culinary conscience can disappear when you’re feeling under the weather. I found myself getting excited at the possibility of making a (hopefully) tasty chicken pot pie in less than 40 minutes. Talk about the perfect weeknight meal! Silently I crossed my fingers and toes in the hopes that this recipe turned out to be one of the greats.Cream of Potato Soup

Now I think it’s only fair to say that while I was busy preparing this dish, Mr. Spock was beside me creating what smelled like the best scalloped potatoes in the entire world. Personally, I thought it was unfair that the tantalizing smells of cream, cheese, butter and potatoes were able to penetrate my swollen sinuses to tease me. I felt glum as I caught a glance of the golden crusty goodness that topped his masterful potatoes before he quickly covered it in foil and whisked it out of the house along with our youngest child. The idea of everyone having a good time with their healthy selves eating those potatoes along with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and whatever other goodies graced the Thanksgiving table where I was not seated made me grumpy. So my three-year old and I got dressed up in our fanciest clothes, cranked the music (who knew you could rock out so hard to Banana Phone?!) and had pumpkin pie as our first course. Ha.

Pot Pie (unbaked)Pot Pie Baked

THE RESULTS: This pot pie was actually not bad. However, similar to the other recipes I’ve tried from this cookbook the dish lacked any real depth of flavour and I found that everything (veggies, broth, meat) ended up tasting the same. This recipe would definitely have benefited from the addition of fresh herbs (such as thyme) which would have helped bring it alive. Also, I would have liked the sauce to be thicker in consistency. The runniness of the filling kept reminding me that I made it simply by opening a can of soup.

I liked the idea of topping the pot pie with biscuit dough, and found this to be a nice change from puff pastry which we normally use to cover our pies. Made me excited to try a homemade biscuit dough recipe to top off my favourite chicken pot pie recipe (click here for a copy).

If you find the idea of making chicken pot pies from scratch rather daunting, this recipe could be a good starting point for you. The dish was super easy to throw together and there is lots of room for you to improvise according to your personal tastes. Would I make this recipe again? No. To be honest I would rather spend a weekend making my more time consuming but oh-so-much-more-delicious chicken pot pies and freezing them for future use.

Chicken and Biscuit Pot Pie

Chinese Chicken Salad

RATING: 2 out of 5

Chow Mein Noodles (uncooked)THE TEST: While this salad was relatively straightforward to put together, I didn’t enjoy the process. Having to boil and then toast the chow mein noodles was tedious, and in the end I baked them in the oven for 30 minutes and they still didn’t crisp up. Instead all I got were burnt noodles stuck to the bottom of the pan while the non-stuck ones were still goopy. Next time I would definitely invest in the dried chow mein noodles found in the produce section of most grocery stores. Much easier (not to mention tastier).

Chow Mein Noodles (cooked)

I have to confess that I used spring mix salad instead of coleslaw mix, and cashews rather than peanuts simply because I had these ingredients on hand and didn’t fancy a trip to the grocery store an hour before dinner. I also opted to make the dressing from scratch (for which she includes a recipe) simply because I had all of the ingredients and was curious to know how it would turn out. Because my noodles were gummy, it was hard to mix the salad properly and in the end the noodles just clumped together no matter how hard I tried to separate them.

Mixed Greens

Chinese Chicken Salad

THE RESULTS: Sigh. I’m starting to feel like a broken record! Again, this recipe turned out okay, but I wouldn’t make it again. There was something lacking in terms of the contents of the actual salad, and I would have much rather seen some sugar snap peas, bean sprouts, peppers…anything to make the salad more interesting. I will say that I happened to LOVE the dressing by itself, and will be making this again to drizzle over a different salad.


Hoisin Lettuce Rolls

RATING: 2 out of 5

THE TEST: Gotta love the short list of ingredients necessary to whip up this appetizer, which came together effortlessly. It was easy to prepare this dish ahead of time and let it sit at room temperature, allowing the flavours to be enhanced.

Filling

For me, the best part about this recipe was that it gave me a simple, no-cook starter that was also substantial. In fact, these lettuce rolls could be part of an array of cocktail nibbles or add wonton soup (like we did) for a complete meal. However you use this recipe, the dish was simple and looked impressive as if you had slaved over it for hours!

Despite the speed with which this recipe came together, the author still includes a ‘do-ahead tip’: wash and dry the lettuce leaves the day before. Not sure how much time this really shaves off, but as a busy mom I completely understand how there could be days where this step might be desirable!

Green OnionsIceberg Lettuce

THE RESULTS: The lettuce rolls tasted pretty good, but Mr. Spock and I both found they lacked depth and authentic flavouring. Everything tasted like Hoisin sauce, and while I happen to enjoy that particular flavour I found myself wishing for some added complexity in the form of ginger, garlic, chilies and sesame oil. I appreciate the speed with which this recipe came together, but couldn’t help but feel there could have been a few simple additions that would have gone far in improving the results without turning this into a time consuming endeavour.

I liked the twist on traditional lettuce wrap filling with the addition of green apples and walnuts, but while I enjoyed the tartness of the apples I still found my inner purist was left wanting some water chestnuts, julienned carrots, bean sprouts or peanuts. But that’s just me!

Hoisin Lettuce Rolls