Roast chicken offers frugal answer to shortage-driven turkey prices

Talking turkey this Thanksgiving 2022 won’t come easy.

You may have noticed that many grocery prices haven’t backed down in the same way that some other costs for, say, gasoline have. The Turkey Day bird, certainly a major grocery item this time of year, is pricey, and will stay that way.

It’s a nasty combination of a severe bout of avian flu across the U.S., the inflation of feed grain (especially corn and soybean) prices and, finally, a decline in what’s known as “live-weight” turkey production. It all just spells out to say, “Thanksgiving dinner turkeys will cost a lot this year.”

So seconds Walter Kunisch, senior commodities strategist at Hilltop Securities Commodities, writing, “Year-to-date, 2022 turkey production is the lowest in 10 years and is running 5(%) below 2012 levels . . . .  2022 whole 8- to 16-pound wholesale hen prices are estimated to be 23(%) higher than 2021.”

Another factor is lower-than-usual availability. Even if you’re willing to spend more on your bird, your tom or hen might not be there to take your cash. That’s according to Gro Intelligence, a think tank that charts connections between economies and ecologies, as it states that “Turkey cold storage quantities are currently at a 22-year low.”

Is it “the pivot” that will mark the pre- and post-pandemic years and even those during it? Maybe this Thanksgiving, talking turkey is less important than merely talking Thanksgiving.

When our son, Colin, was much younger, we set him up with daycare at the home of a wonderful woman whom everyone just called “Nanny,” but with a soft “a,” as in “nah-nee.” Her proper name was Vivian; she was Italian born; and she was a fine cook.

She prided herself on feeding her eight or so daily charges with a whole meal, but always in “their size.” She broke up the broccoli and cauliflower into wee florets; she used only new potatoes.

And she never roasted an adult-sized chicken. It was always what we call a “Cornish hen.” For Vivian, food should never threaten.

Maybe this Thanksgiving, it’s time for a smaller bird, just a terrific regular roasted chicken. We could be thankful for that, right?

And of all the things that a cook can make ahead for Thanksgiving dinner (and dinners beyond), a patiently made, deeply flavored stock or broth made of chicken or turkey parts is most important. It will make up a soup, moisten and flavor stuffing or be the base for the gravy, to name merely three foods it might aid.

Herbed Roast Chicken

For crisp skin, do not baste the chicken while it roasts; do not place butter under its skin; do not add vegetables, aromatics such as onions or broth to the roasting pan. Any of these will “steam” the skin, keeping the skin from crisping. Serves 2-3, easily multiplied.


1 3-4 pound chicken, “air chilled” if possible

1 small lemon

6-7 cloves garlic, unpeeled but lightly crushed

Large sprig fresh thyme

3 tablespoons butter, unsalted and at room temperature

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 heaping teaspoon dried herbes de Provence, lightly crushed in the palm


Take the chicken out of any packaging, rinse it well inside and out and dry it well with paper toweling inside and out. Place it on a tray or baking sheet and let it sit in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight, so that the skin dries off.

To cook the chicken: Heat the oven to 425 degrees. On the cutting board or counter, firmly roll the lemon under the palm of your hand and pierce through its skin overall with sharp fork tines. Place the lemon in the bird’s cavity along with the garlic and thyme.

If the chicken’s skin is not too thin and fragile, insert a finger underneath it, atop the breast region especially, and gently pull the skin away from the flesh. This creates an air pocket and helps crisp the skin even more. Truss the chicken at legs’ ends, if you wish.

Assure that the chicken’s skin is dry and slather the butter all over it, including on and under the thigh meat. Place the chicken on a low rack in a shallow roasting pan and liberally pepper and salt the bird. Sprinkle the dried herbs all over the top.

Roast the chicken for 60-90 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh meat (being careful not to touch the bone) reads 165 degrees. Remove the chicken, place it on a cutting board, and let it rest, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes (and up to 25 minutes) before carving it, being sure to include as much of the crisp skin as possible.

Concentrated Make-ahead Turkey or Chicken Stock

Makes 4-5 quarts.


5 pounds chicken or turkey parts (see note)

2 medium onions, unpeeled but halved along their “equators”

4 stalks celery (leaves OK), cut in halves

4 medium carrots, peeled, cut in halves

6-8 cloves garlic, to taste, peeled, lightly crushed

8-10 parsley stems, leaves OK but not necessary

1 bouquet garni (optional)

2 bay leaves

1 heaping teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt


Rinse well the pieces of turkey or chicken and remove any excessive pieces of fat. Set aside. Heat a very large stock pot over medium-high heat and place the 4 onion halves, sliced sides down, on the bottom and let them char to a light brown, about 10-15 minutes. Remove, set aside, and do the same with the carrot and celery pieces, another 10-15 minutes. Set these aside.

Add 8-9 quarts of water to the pot and the reserved pieces of fowl. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook for 90 minutes, skimming off any white or grey scum that rises.

Add the reserved and browned vegetables, the garlic and all the seasonings and return to a simmer and cook, the pot’s lid ajar, for 2-4 hours or until the level of the liquid in the pot is about half as much as when started.

Cool enough to strain the stock of its large solids, then let cool in a refrigerated (or cold outdoor and secure) space overnight. Remove the fat that has risen to the surface and congealed. Strain further, if desired, of any other fine solids and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen, in conveniently sized blocks or portions, for up to 3 months.

Note: If using chicken, choose wing sections, thighs or drumsticks only. If using turkey, use thighs and drumsticks only. In either case, use only bone-in parts and with the skin on.

Reach Bill St John at [email protected]

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