Cooking for the Weekend


A lot of people cook on weekends--for meals to be eaten during the week. Let’s consider another strategy--cooking on the weekend to enjoy the weekend. There’s nothing quite like relaxing at home with friends and family.

This is the scenario: one easy dinner, at least one other informal meal. Roasting a chicken is a good idea--you can use the leftovers in salads and/or sandwiches. The recipes that follow include a roasted capon with a garlic-tarragon smear as the key to subsequent informal weekend meals. If you have more than four people to feed, roast two capons simultaneously. It’s not much more work and guarantees that there will be enough chicken to accommodate your plans.

Prepare the chicken the night before you plan to serve it so that the seasonings permeate the chicken. The split garlic tucked under the skin of the chicken combined with the smear rubbed all over the surface yields highly flavorful meat. Roast the chicken and serve with simple accompaniments such as a rice and mushroom casserole, a steamed fresh vegetable and a salad of mixed greens. A simple fresh strawberry sundae ends the meal on an appropriate note.


For follow-up meals, use the remaining chicken for the chicken and vegetable pasta salad and/or “club” chicken salad sandwiches. Neither recipes smacks of leftovers.

In the laid-back weekend spirit, these recipes can be set up in advance so that the last-minute effort is relatively hassle-free.


Compared to a fryer, a capon boasts richer flavor and serves six generously even though it roasts only a little longer. Be sure to roast two capons simultaneously if you need more left-over meat than one capon will yield.

ROAST CAPON WITH TARRAGON AND GARLIC SMEAR 1 (6 1/2-pound) capon, washed, patted dry 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 large cloves garlic, split lengthwise Herb and Garlic Smear 1 medium onion, quartered Tarragon sprigs

Rub surface of capon with oil and place capon on back. With fingers, separate capon skin from flesh around breast area, starting at cavity. Be careful not to tear skin. Push garlic cloves under skin, cut-side down, over each breast. Rub Herb and Garlic Smear on surface and in cavity. Place onion and 2 tarragon sprigs in cavity. Place on shallow roasting pan lined with foil. Tent capon with foil. Refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, remove foil from capon and roast at 450 degrees 30 minutes in lower third of oven. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Roast until juices run clear when meat between thigh and breast is pierced with knife, about 30 to 40 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Use paper towels to remove burned smear particles. Garnish top of capon with tarragon sprigs. Makes 6 servings.


Each serving contains about: 607 calories; 1,293 mg sodium; 184 mg cholesterol; 44 grams fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 47 grams protein; 0.27 gram fiber.

Herb and Garlic Smear 3 large cloves garlic 3 tablespoons tarragon leaves 1 tablespoon salt 1/2 teaspoon paprika 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix garlic, tarragon, salt, paprika, thyme and pepper in small processor until garlic and tarragon are minced. Alternately, mince garlic and tarragon and combine with salt, paprika, thyme and pepper.


Even if you run out of chicken, this pasta salad would succeed with just the vegetables. The ditali pasta--a short ( 2/3-inch) fat tube--is a good choice since it is roughly the same size as the vegetables and chicken.

PASTA SALAD WITH CHICKEN, VEGETABLES, BASIL AND MUSTARD-BLUE CHEESE DRESSING 2 cups small broccoli florets 2 cups small cauliflower florets 2 cups slender carrots, cut in 1/3-inch wide slices 4 ounces ditali or other tube pasta Mustard-Blue Cheese Dressing 2 cups mushrooms, cut in 1/2-inch dice 2 cups cooked chicken, cut in 1/2-inch dice 1 cup red onion, cut in 1/3-inch dice 1 small sweet red pepper, cut in 1/3-inch dice 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, cut into fine julienne

Bring large pot salted water to boil. Drop broccoli into boiling water, then scoop out after few seconds with slotted spoon or strainer. Run broccoli under cold running water to lock in color. Let water resume boiling, then follow same procedure with cauliflower and carrots, blanching each vegetable separately. Cook pasta in same boiling water according to package directions. Hold cooked pasta under cold running water until chilled.


Toss Mustard-Blue Cheese Dressing with chilled pasta, blanched vegetables, mushrooms, chicken, onion, sweet red pepper and basil leaves. Refrigerate about 2 hours. Toss before serving. Adjust seasonings to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about: 607 calories; 632 mg sodium; 123 mg cholesterol; 36 grams fat; 40 grams carbohydrates; 33 grams protein; 2.03 grams fiber.

Mustard-Blue Cheese Dressing 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1/4 cup water 2 teaspoons sugar 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons safflower oil 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 3 ounces crumbled blue cheese

Combine vinegar, mustard, water, sugar, olive oil, safflower oil, salt, pepper and cheese in small jar. Gently shake to combine. Can be made day ahead and refrigerated. Shake before using.


Here, chicken leftovers are mixed with other ingredients typical of a club sandwich--tomato, bacon and mayonnaise. Light mayonnaise can be substituted for regular mayonnaise; just add a few drops of lemon juice. This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.

“CLUB” CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICH 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into 1/4-inch cubes 2 thick slices apple-wood smoked bacon, cooked, crumbled 1 large firm, ripe tomato, shell only, cut into 1/4-inch dice 3 tablespoons mayonnaise 1 tablespoon water 2 teaspoons ketchup 2 tablespoons minced onion Salt Freshly ground pepper Mayonnaise 4 large slices bread of choice 1 cup thinly sliced iceberg lettuce


Put chicken, bacon and tomato in small mixing bowl. Toss to mix. Combine mayonnaise, water, ketchup and onion in small dish. Add to chicken mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss until evenly coated. Can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated.

To assemble, spread thin layer of mayonnaise on bread. Divide lettuce between 2 bread slices. Spoon chicken salad over lettuce, dividing evenly. Close sandwich firmly. Cut in half. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Each serving contains about: 697 calories; 1,052 mg sodium; 119 mg cholesterol; 36 grams fat; 50 grams carbohydrates; 41 grams protein; 0.95 gram fiber.