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1 roast chicken, 3 meals: Make the most of your kitchen time as fall begins and life gets busy

Every year, right after Labor Day weekend, I get this sinking feeling in my gut. The days are getting shorter, and the reality of a new season is settling in. I’ve had this knot of anxiety for as long as I can remember. Even though I haven’t been a full-time student in decades, I can’t shake the feeling that the official end of summer means all the fun is over.

I try to remind myself that crisp fall days and cold nights simply mean there’s a shift. Not the end of one thing, but the beginning of something else. In terms of cooking and time spent in the kitchen, it means a renewed interest in turning on the oven again and roasting dinner or simmering up soups and stews. But during the early fall what I don’t have, like many others, is a lot of time.

This is the season when kids go back to school, activities resume, work kicks up a notch and the word “busy” comes up in conversation quite a bit. For many, this means that dinnertime and cooking preparations get cut short. We have this belief that ordering a pizza or getting takeout is the only answer to the time crunch that comes with a new school year and a busy fall season. But here’s a shout-out to the parents and all those who feel that with the end of summer approaching there just isn’t time to cook. I propose a different way of looking at the situation.

What if you cooked once and it gave you possibilities for the rest of the week? Roast a chicken (or better yet roast two at the same time) surrounded by potatoes and late summer/early fall vegetables. All in one roasting pan. (That’s right. Just one dish to wash at the end of the night.) There’s dinner for tonight. But wait … You still have half a chicken (or a whole chicken if you have a larger family and roasted two) and now things get interesting. Tomorrow you can pack up a chicken salad sandwich with a tarragon and caper mayonnaise. And then, the next night you can use those last leftover slices of roast chicken to make a quick, flavorful curry spooned over rice.

Cook once. Get three meals. Now, who’s got time to make dinner?

Roast chicken with lemon and the last summer herbs

Roast chicken with lemon and the last summer herbs. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

If you’re going to roast a chicken and you have more than two or three people at your table, why not roast two chickens? It literally takes almost no more time or effort and you will be left with so many possibilities for lunches and dinners in the coming week.

Here chicken is stuffed with a lemon (which flavors the inside of the bird as well as the juices) and a simple garlic-herb butter is tucked under the breast and onto the outside skin of the bird. You surround the bird with potatoes and any vegetables you have on hand — zucchini wedges, fennel slices, carrots, parsnips, leeks, onions, garlic, turnips, etc. You can use as many or few varieties as you like.

The chicken is roasted at high heat for the first 20 minutes (to ensure a crisp skin) and then the oven is lowered and roasted until everything is tender and fully cooked. Figure 1 to 1 ½ hours, depending on the size of the bird. Your whole meal is there in one roasting pan. Maybe you want a green salad? No problem.

If you roast two chickens you don’t really need to double the potatoes or vegetables since they are really only for the first meal.

Serves 2 to 4.


  • 2 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup fresh herbs, parsley, chives, basil, rosemary, tarragon, thyme or any combination you have, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, 1 finely chopped and the remaining 4 thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, with an “X” cut into the skin
  • 1 roasting chicken, about 2 ½ to 4 pounds
  • 8 to 12 new potatoes left whole, or 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • About 2 to 4 cups vegetables, peeled if needed and cut in 2-inch chunks if large or left whole if small, see above for ideas
  • 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white or red wine, optional


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl mix the butter, half the herbs, the one clove of chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Using your fingers, gently separate the breast skin from the meat and tuck a tablespoon of the butter onto the breast and under the skin. Repeat on the other side of the breast. Rub the remaining herb butter all over the outside of the chicken.
  3. Place the lemon into the cavity of the bird. Place the chicken into a large roasting pan or sheet pan.
  4. Surround the bird with the potatoes and vegetables, remaining herbs, and sliced garlic, and sprinkle the oil over the vegetables and potatoes. Season everything with a generous dash of salt and pepper. (The chicken can be prepared up to 12 hours ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate until ready to roast.)
  5. Place the chicken and vegetables on the middle shelf and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees, add the wine on top of the bird, if using, toss the potatoes and vegetables, and roast for another 45 to 55 minutes, depending on the size of your bird. To test for doneness, gently wiggle the drumstick; it should feel loose, or insert a small sharp knife just above the wing or in the thickest part of the thigh and when the juices run clear and not pink the bird is done.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the lemon and carve the chicken. Serve the chicken with the potatoes and vegetables, topped with juices from the bottom of the roasting pan.

Quick chicken, potato and squash curry

This is one of my favorite ways to use leftover cooked chicken. The whole curry comes together so quickly, but it tastes like it’s been simmering all day. You’ll need to buy curry paste and coconut milk at the grocery store.

Serves 2 to 4.


Quick chicken, potato and squash curry. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

1 tablespoon safflower or vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 large or 2 medium onion(s), thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium or 1 large potato, about 6 ounces, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped, white and green sections
  • 2 small zucchini or ½ head broccoli or 1 cup string beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small chili pepper, like a jalapeno, serrano, or habanero, chopped with or without seeds, or dash of hot pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red or green curry paste*
  • 3 to 3 ½ cups leftover cooked chicken, cut into 1-inch cubes, with or without the skin
  • One 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • Garnishes:

    • 2 scallions, finely chopped, white and green sectioned
    • 1 lime, cut into wedges
    • ½ cup salted peanuts, optional
    • Hot pepper sauce, optional

    *You can usually find red and green curry paste in the Asian food section of many grocery stores or online.


    1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over low heat. Add half the ginger and the onion, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the potato, half the scallions, half the chili pepper or hot pepper sauce, and the squash or other vegetable and stir to coat all the ingredients; cook for 3 minutes. Add the curry paste, stirring well to coat all the ingredients; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken, remaining ginger, scallions, chili pepper or hot pepper sauce and then the coconut milk, and water. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes and vegetables are just tender. Season with more salt and pepper as needed.
    2. Serve in a bowl with the garnishes on the side and let everyone add the lime, peanuts, hot sauce and scallions.

    Roast (leftover) chicken salad sandwich with tarragon mayonnaise and capers

    Roast (leftover) chicken salad sandwich with tarragon mayonnaise and capers. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

    This is a pretty sophisticated sandwich for most kids, but a great choice for a to-go lunch for any adult. For kids, you can substitute chopped pickles for the capers and add about a tablespoon of lemon juice instead of herbs to the mayonnaise. Serve with pickles, olives, and raw sticks of carrots and celery. This will make two hearty sandwiches or 4 open-faced sandwiches.

    Makes 2 traditional sandwiches or 4 open-faced sandwiches.


    • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
    • 2 scallions, very finely chopped, white and green sections
    • 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon or dill, finely chopped
    • 2 tablespoons fresh finely chopped chives, optional
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken from roast chicken
    • ¼ cup capers or thinly sliced caperberries, or finely chopped pickles
    • Several crisp lettuce leaves
    • 4 slices your favorite bread


    1. In a medium bowl mix the mayonnaise, scallions, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the chicken and capers (or pickles) and taste for seasoning.
    2. Place your bread on a work surface and top 2 slices with the lettuce. Divide the chicken salad on the other two slices of bread and place the lettuce half on top. Cut in half or quarters. If making open-faced sandwiches, place the lettuce on all four pieces of bread. Divide the chicken salad on top.

    Another great way to use chicken leftovers is to make soup or use the carcass to make chicken stock. Find more ideas here:

    Watch on YouTube.

    This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

    Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Quick chicken, potato and squash curry. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
    Quick chicken, potato and squash curry. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)