Tuesday, 4 February 2014

One chicken = one week

One of our laying hens.
Chickens are amazing! They're curious little creatures, fun to have around, easy to raise, and they provide us with two amazing sources of protein - eggs and meat. 

We are a small family, so the meat from one chicken can nourish us for a week or more, and that's a week with a lot of protein. I feel better about eating an animal that I've raised when I make full full use of it, too. So, this is how I make one bird last for many meals.

The Roast Chicken Day
I start by roasting the chicken. It doesn't get much simpler, or, much tastier.

Start with a defrosted bird, in the fridge. Before cooking, rinse the bird in cool water and remove any stray feathers. To roast the chicken, I tie the legs together and turn the wings under the back of the chicken. This slows down the speed that the legs and wings cook so that they don't overcook and get dry. I'll season it inside and out with herbs, salt and pepper, and pop it in the oven. For our 5- and 6-lb birds, it usually takes about 2 hours at 350 degrees. At the end, when the juices are running clear and the drumsticks are loosening off, I will crank up the heat to brown the skin nicely (if it's not already nice and brown).

Stuffing
Sometimes I will stuff the chicken with a stuffing of sautéed onions and garlic, apples, cranberries, herbs and bread. It's easy: sauté your ingredients, then stuff the cavity and around the neck before roasting. If you stuff the chicken, you'll want to roast it for longer on a lower temperature.

I usually save a roast chicken for the weekend, and I'll serve it with some roasted or mashed potatoes, some vegetables from our freezer, and some bread. Yum! If I'm really going for it, I'll have baked that day and have fresh buns, and for bonus points I'll whip up some gravy:

Chicken Gravy
Once your bird is roasted, brown a few tablespoons of flour on the stovetop. When the flour is warm and brown and BEFORE it's burnt, whisk in the drippings from the roasted chicken. Then whisk in water until you get your desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

I really don't think there's anything more satisfying than a herby roast chicken with stuffing and gravy...

The Leftover Days
Since we really can't manage to eat more than a quarter of the bird at one meal, we have lots for leftovers. Our favourites are
Chicken sandwiches made with slices of the breast meat, either cold or fried, and cheese and tomato.
Chicken salad sandwiches made with chopped pieces of the back, thigh or wing meat, a chopped red pepper and celery, and mayo (with tomato and cheese of course!).
Chicken croquettes made with chopped up chicken, mixed with sautéed onions, garlic, and herbs, add some shredded carrot and a beaten egg or two, some herbs or spices if you like, formed into patties, breaded lightly and pan fried.
Chicken fried rice is Ryan's specialty. Sauté your onion, garlic, and a bit of veg, then add in cooked rice and some of the leftover chicken. Season as you like it, and then add in an egg or two, beaten in, towards the end.

The Soup Days
When most of the meat is gone, it's time for soup - or at least time to make some broth to save for later. I start by picking off all of the bits of meat that are left on the bones and setting it aside, this meat you can add back in later. Put the bones in a big pot and cover with water. Add as much or as little salt as you like, bring it to a boil, and then simmer for several hours. Sometimes I'll add a couple bay leaves, herbs, onion and garlic, and a carrot or celery to flavour the stock. I take my time making broth, since the whole house fills with a warm delicious smell, and since the longer you cook it the more goodness you get out - and more jars of broth for later.

After several hours, when most of the meat has fallen off the bones, I turn off the heat and let it cool. Then I strain out all of the bones and other solids. Now, if you want, you could just take your broth as is and be done with it. But I will usually go through the bones to separate out the good bits, the dog bits, and the bones. Then I'll add the good bits back into the broth, as well as any leftover meat from before. I'll usually get at least two big mason jars of nice, strong broth from one chicken, and consequently I always have a few jars of frozen broth ready to go.

For those final remaining cooked bones, we usually put them in our long term compost heap, but some municipalities allow bones in green waste pickup.

On one of those crazy busy days, I'll throw the makings for a chicken soup in my slow cooker in the morning: whatever leftover vegetables are in the fridge - potatoes, carrot, celery, onion, and garlic being the standard - along with a jar of broth (which, if they're in mason jars, you need to plan ahead to defrost, or use the microwave, or warm water...or just freeze it in a yogurt container and you won't have that problem, which I can never seem to remember to do). Add enough water to cover, and let it go all day. Supper's ready at supper time.

And then, inevitably, of course, come the soup-leftovers-from-leftover-chicken days. One or two at least!

So there you have it: One chicken = many meals. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has a similar bent and other recipe suggestions:
 http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chicken-recipes/using-the-whole-chicken

Thank you, chickens!

3 comments:

  1. Great post, thanks! Perfect inspiration for the chicken we have from your farm in our freezer. The little clucker is pretty huge so hopefully our roast pan is big enough... :)

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    1. I hope so! But if not, there's nothing wrong with a cookie sheet, you can drain the drippings off once or twice while cooking. Enjoy it!

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  2. Thank you chickens, indeed! And thank you for the great post, Erin!

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