Chicken is versatile and combines well with a wide range of seasonings, making chicken-for-dinner a constant source of new tastes and menu ideas. Some classic baked chicken dishes, like coq au vin and chicken paprikash, obtain both their names and their popularity from distinctive seasonings. Add your favorite flavor profile -- no matter what it is -- to versatile baked chicken for a delicious, easy meal.
Roast Chicken Classics
Use a whole roast chicken as your main course; if you don't eat all of it, the remainder becomes tasty, adaptable leftovers. Fill the chicken cavity with fresh herbs, the classic parsley-thyme-bay-leaf bouquet garni, tied to a celery stalk or scallion stem. Vary the mixture with a handful of French fines herbes, parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon. Create a Provencal mixture by adding a curl of orange or lemon peel and a sprig of aromatic rosemary or thyme. If fresh herbs are hard to find, sprinkle small amounts of dried herbs throughout the empty cavity or sew them into a muslin bag to place in the roasting pan. A cup or two of broth, water or wine intensify the flavors of fresh or dried herbs and provide the base for a sauce or gravy to serve with the chicken.
For All Seasons
Celebrate spring with a fresh set of flavors. Fill the cavity of your roasting chicken with parsley, mint and chopped shallots. Halfway through the roasting process, surround the chicken with new potatoes and baby carrots tossed with a little oil, sea salt and coarse-ground pepper. Summer calls for fresh garlic, basil and oregano. Add cherry tomatoes and thin slices of summer squash for the last 15 minutes of roasting. Roast a fall chicken with chunks of onion, apple and butternut squash, seasoned with late-summer rosemary or sprigs of thyme. In winter, replace squash with prunes and a handful of juniper berries or some grated fresh ginger root. A cup of red wine and a dusting of cinnamon complete a hearty winter roast chicken dinner.
Baked Chicken Parts
Bone-in, skin-on chicken parts are the foundation for well-seasoned classic baked dishes like French coq au vin, which blends pearl onions and mushrooms with red wine, garlic and bacon. Italian chicken cacciatore -- hunter-style -- includes onions, mushrooms and peppers in a tomato sauce. For a similar Hungarian chicken-parts paprikash, keep onions, mushrooms and peppers, but enhance a small amount of tomato sauce with sour cream and sweet paprika.
Save calories and time by basing recipes on skinless, boneless chicken breasts and thighs, and save even more time by baking a double batch of these quick-cooking parts. Choose seasonings that can work equally well in two different recipes. Season thighs with garlic, chili powder and a bit of heat, to serve as a main course with beans, rice and and a big salad for Friday's dinner. Chill and shred remaining seasoned thighs to make tacos for Saturday lunch. Bake a double batch of boneless breasts in citrus-soy ponzu sauce. Stir-fry onions, peppers, pineapple chunks and a touch of ginger with half the chicken for a quick sweet-and-sour dish. Combine the remainder with chopped scallions, sliced water chestnuts, snow peas and some slivered almonds or chopped peanuts for an Asian-themed salad. Dress both dishes with more ponzu. If this Japanese favorite is not available in your market, substitute equal amounts of rice-wine vinegar and soy sauce. Cook once to make two good meals.
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