- Food and Cooking
Best Recipe Ever. Roasted Chicken and Potatoes. One Pan. One Piece of Foil. Dinner for Four.
There are lots of ways to experience the rich flavors of local produce in San Pedro, Belize. Nearly every block has restaurants and street vendors, and every snorkel shop offers beachside fish barbecues. But cooking at your vacation home is one of the best ways of tapping into the lush flavors of pesticide-free produce and all-natural meats.
The quality of food in San Pedro is amazing, whether the food comes from a local restaurant or the local grocery store. Belizean authorities take great care of La Isla Bonita to preserve the purity of the nearby marine reserves and snorkel spots. The environmental benefits carry over into the food.
Cooking on Vacation?
When you think of vacations, you don't usually think of cooking. After all, the main point of getting away from home is getting away from the chores and drudgery of household maintenance.
However, cooking while on vacation can be a great way to save money and enjoy the best produce your vacation spot has to offer. Cooking can also be a great way to settle your family into a daily routine, provide inexpensive nutritious meals and spend quality time apart from hectic activities.
If you plan on cooking during your vacation or at least want the option to prepare food, you'll need a vacation rental with a kitchen and utensils.
San Pedro Town, Belize has loads of hotel-condos, where owners rent their units when they're not in residence. This means most units come fully equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, stove and dishwasher, as well as a full complement of kitchen utensils and appliances. Check with the property management company to confirm your unit's equipment.
Ingredients and Materials
- 1 Whole Frozen Chicken
- 4-6 Potatoes
- 4-6 Onions
- 2-3 Carrots (optional)
- 1 Oven-safe Roasting Pan
- 1 Roll Aluminum Foil to Cover Pan
Super-Simple Roasted Chicken
A simple roasted chicken can be a welcome break from the spicy flavors of San Pedro cuisine. Roast the chicken for a couple hours while you watch movies or relax, and enjoy delicious shredded chicken in burritos, tacos or omelets.
An entire chicken may seem like overkill, but San Pedro chickens are much smaller than their US counterparts. An average frozen bird only weighs 2 pounds.
On the plus side, the meat is much more flavorful than what you'll find in the States. If you don't usually purchase grass-fed, free-range, organic birds, you're in for a treat.
Step #1 - Finding a Chicken
Finding a whole chicken can be a challenge. Smaller grocery stores stock chicken pieces and gizzards, but not entire birds.
The large Lebanese grocery stores (Harmoosh and the Public Supermarket) and the downtown meat store are the best places to find whole chickens for roasting.
The chickens will always be frozen to keep them fresh. You can thaw them in the refrigerator overnight, or if you have a couple extra hours to spare, throw the frozen bird into the oven.
Step #2 - Buying the Veggies
The chicken is only half the equation. A proper roast requires lots of fresh vegetables: potatoes, onions, carrots, and anything else you want to throw in the pan.
The best veggies on San Pedro are from the road-side stands. These vegetables are guaranteed to be fresh and delicious. Vegetables from supermarkets and grocery stores are okay, but they've probably been sitting around for a few days. They'll be better than most produce found in the States, but they won't have the best flavor available.
Details, Details, Details
Step #3 Preparation and Cooking
- Place the frozen chicken in the roasting pan. Cover with aluminum foil. Place in oven set at 350 degrees. (Pre-heating is okay, but not a priority). Let the chicken bake for 30 minutes. It's not cooking, just thawing. Nothing exciting will happen.
- While the chicken is thawing, chop vegetables into large chunks. Onions can be cut into eighths. Potatoes and carrots are great in 1/4-inch rounds.
- When the veggies are chopped, and you've enjoyed a rum punch on the balcony, (approximately 30-40 minutes) remove the chicken from the oven. Remove the foil cover. Surround the chicken with veggies. Re-cover the pan and stick it back in the oven.
- Wait a really long time. If you're a casual cook like me, and your chicken went straight from freezer to oven, it could take up to 3 hours to reach its fully cooked potential.
Step #4 Take a Break
The best part about this recipe is that you can do other things while you wait. Super-simple roasted chicken = hours of guilt-free downtime.
Naps aren't recommended; you don't want to burn the place down. But you can sort through your growing collection of vacation photos, pick outfits for a night on the town, catch up on email or Facebook, or lounge on a nearby balcony.
Basically, you can do anything you might feel guilty doing if the oven wasn't on.
After all, shouldn't you spend every moment of your vacation making the best of your surroundings, gallivanting through the streets and absorbing local customs and culture? Sorry, no can do with the oven running. Enjoy your brief respite from frantic fun.
Step #5 Back to Cooking
After a couple hours, test the chicken with a meat thermometer to see whether it's done.
Alternatively, if food safety isn't your primary concern, shred the meat off the bone with a fork. If it shreds easily, consider it done enough for the additional cooking it's about to receive.
- If the chicken is "done", remove the foil cover and place it back in the oven. Have another rum punch (about 30 minutes) and wait for the chicken to brown.
- When the chicken is brown, remove the pan from the oven. You can cover it and let it cool a bit, or immediately begin prepping it for storage.
- To prep the chicken for storage, use two forks to shred the chicken from the bone. Place the shredded meat in a clean bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge.
- Cover the pan with foil and (as soon as it's cool) stick it in the fridge, too.
After the pan cools, finish shredding the chicken from the bones. It's much easier now that the bones aren't boiling hot. Be sure to check the interior of the carcass for a special surprise. San Pedro chickens don't have gizzards, because those pieces are packaged and sold separately. They do, however, come with a chicken foot or two. I'm not sure what purpose it serves, but I cooked it with the chicken and threw it out with the carcass.
Step #6 Eating and Recipes
The shredded chicken and roasted vegetables are the main ingredients for a variety of different meals.
- For a quick-and-easy breakfast, add oil to a pan and heat/fry the veggies and chicken.
- Stir in eggs to make a tasty breakfast omelet.
- Wrap in tortillas and top with cheese to make breakfast burritos.
Lunch or Snack
- For an easy lunch or snack, heat/fry the veggies and chicken with local spice blends. You can pick up local spices at any San Pedro grocery store. Just remember to start with a pinch - a little goes a long way.
- The tortilla + cheese trick works great for burritos or tacos. For a lunchtime twist, serve with salsa, sour cream, sauteed green peppers and/or fresh chopped tomatoes.