What to Cook after Vacation

What to cook after vacation?


Just don’t.

You just got back from vacation and if it’s anything like over here, unpacked three bags worth of stuff. (Somehow a one- year-old single-handedly destroys the dream of not checking luggage. We travel with 10x more now that there’s a baby.) The last thing you want to worry about the night back from vacation, which is often also the night before going back to work, is standing in front of the stove. What are you, Betty Draper? No. Grab a beer and order a pizza, or Indian food, whatever. Relish the last moments of total freedom and just don’t bother.

I have a long-standing tradition of cleaning out our fridge completely before we leave for vacation. Bare bones. Total deep clean. I don’t do much grocery shopping before heading out of town so anything that’s in there is either a leftover, long forgotten, or never to be consumed. The day before we take off, I throw away most of it (usually old vegetables and jars of who-knows-what; so, please don’t get all up in arms about food waste). This results in coming home to a clean slate and very little pressure to cook immediately.

Then, once I’ve snapped out of “ugh back to reality” mode and checked days’ worth of unread work email, I can plug into cooking. Very recently, I’ve developed a system which is proving to be no fail. As always with my blog - limited effort, maximum result. So, the answer to what to cook after vacation? Roast a chicken. (Not immediately, do it on a Tuesday night. Trust me. It pays off for the rest of the week.)


Here’s what you do. Pull a chicken out of the freezer to defrost the night you get home. Or, if you don’t have one, buy one. This is where you’re probably rolling your eyes at me because roasting a chicken sounds SO labor intensive. It doesn’t have to be! The below recipe isn’t totally mine, it started from the genius mind of Mark Bittman. However, I’ve adapted it a bit to satisfy my taste and to make it even easier. Make either one, I promise it’s not hard.

Seriously, the whole thing has like seven ingredients and one of them is a skillet.

Mark Bittman’s Version

Easiest Roast Chicken


  • 1 whole chicken, not too big.

  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

  • 1 head of garlic, cut into wedges

  • olive oil

  • salt

  • pepper

  1. Heat up the oven to 400°F.

  2. Meanwhile, take your whole bird, remove everything that might be inside, and pat down the entire thing with paper towel. Use half a roll if you need to but the dryer the crispier the skin.

  3. Place the bird in a cast iron skillet.

  4. Rub the chicken all over with olive oil.

  5. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Seriously, don’t skimp on these.

  6. Cut a lemon into 4 wedges. Stuff them inside the bird.

  7. Cut a head of garlic into wedges. Stuff inside the bird. Don’t even bother peeling it.

  8. Roast for 30 min at 400°F then turn the oven down to 350°F and roast until the chicken is golden brown, and an instant read thermometer reads 155 to 165 degrees. Or, if you’re me, just cut into the thing and see if the juices run clear. It’s probably fine.

  9. Remove and rest the bird for at least 15 min before serving.

  10. Carve and serve.


Serve the chicken with mashed sweet potato, baked potato, sautéed green beans, or even just some sliced tomato and cucumber!

When you’re done eating and ready for clean up, make your partner do the dishes while you do this:

  • Take all the meat and put it aside in a Tupperware container for the rest of the week. Make chicken salad, put some in a sandwich for lunch, throw it in some pasta, or make Tomato Basil Chicken Paella. Easy meals for the rest of the week!

  • Take all the bones from the carcass, all the fat and olive oil at the bottom of the cast iron skillet, the lemon, the garlic, and put in the fridge - post about what to do with these soon!

That’s it! That is it.