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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

One Chicken, Three Ways

Pretty much every week there's one of these in my grocery cart coming home with us. At Costco they are $4.99. $4.99!! WHAT!? Each time this bad boy comes home with us he has a future life in three meals:

Meal #1 - I slice off a breast, a leg and a thigh and serve those alongside a roasted vegetable and some Artisan Bread or rice. My current favorite veggies are roasted broccoli and roasted kale:

Roasted broccoli and/or kale
  • Pre-heat oven to 425.
  • Wash and chop two heads of your green veggie (I like to separate the broccoli head from the stem and peel/chop the stem as well - it's delicious - don't waste it!)
  • Spread on a baking sheet and drizzle with a healthy coat of olive oil, sprinkle with salt
  • Roast for 10 minutes, shake the pan around to turn the veg and roast 5 more minutes or until just starting to brown. (For kale, usually 12 minutes is enough, just keep your eye on it) 

Meal #2 - later on in the week I pull the hacked up little guy back out of the fridge (if I was super smart I already did this after prepping Meal #1, I'm not usually super smart.) and pull all the remaining meat off his bones, remove the skin and chop it up. 

Then I make one of the following Master Meals:
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Pesto Pasta
Pad Thai
Chicken Divan
Quinoa Fried Rice
Chicken Curry with Apples

Chicken Pot Pie

1 cup chicken broth (if using store-bought, go with low-sodium, so you can control salt in recipe)
1 small potato, diced (sweet or regular)
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped (I pretty much only ever use yellow onions in every single recipe)
2 sprigs fresh thyme (substitute 1 tsp dried thyme or poultry seasoning)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk (we only buy whole for the kids and it helps make all these recipes extra yum)
2 tablespoons All-Purpose flour
2 cups leftover rotisserie chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 9in pie crust
1 egg, lightly beaten (crack into a cup, whisk a bit)

  • Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. 
  • In a medium saucepan or dutch oven (I use my dutch oven for everything) bring broth to a boil. 
  • Add potato, carrot, onion, thyme, salt and pepper (add more salt than you think you need if you're a novice cook - I find lots of my recipes that don't taste quite right just need more salt)
  • Simmer 15 minutes or until veggies are soft
  • While they simmer, whisk the milk and flour together. 
  • Slowly add the mixture to the vegetables, stirring until thickened. 
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in chicken and peas. 
  • Pour filling into a pie plate, cover with pie crust and cut a few slits in the top
  • Paint with egg wash 
  • Bake 25-30 minutes, until filling is bubbly. 
Store-bought pie crust works just fine! But to be thrifty and/or avoid a trip to the store, try making your own using this recipe. It is really easy (trust me, pastry is not my thing) and can sit in your freezer waiting for the one time a month you're going to use it. I usually have one or two in my freezer, which makes this recipe something I can almost always put together.

Meal #3 (or at least the foundation of it) - Right after I pop that pot pie in the oven, I start making chicken broth. I've posted about this before, but making chicken broth is ridiculously simple, ridiculously cheap and will make you feel ridiculously capable. 

Homemade Chicken Broth
  • Throw the carcass of the chicken you've just picked apart into a large stock pot and cover with cold water.
  • Add in the tops of carrots, the skin of onions and/or garlic and any wilted celery you have laying around.
  • For good measure add two bay leaves. Or don't. It's optional, this isn't supposed to be stressful. 
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer for HOURS. This is the important part. I don't know if it's possible to simmer a broth for too long. Is it?? I usually leave mine simmering from whenever I started dinner (6ish) til bedtime (10ish) 
  • After several hours, pour the broth out through a strainer and into a waiting tupperware container (or two, or three).
  • Leave on the counter overnight and in the morning, skim the fat that comes to the surface. 
  • Pop in the fridge for use in a soup later that week or freeze in 1 cup portions to make cooking simple later on down the road. 
In order to facilitate my broth habit, I keep a gallon size Ziploc in the freezer for the sole purpose of collecting my vegetable scraps when I'm making other meals. The tops and ends of carrots get thrown in there, celery I let wilt goes in there, the skins of garlic and the ends of onions all get collected. If I ever have half an onion in the back of a fridge drawer that's starting to look not-so-fresh, I'll throw it in my broth bag. This way, I can pretty much always make broth once I have a rotisserie chicken carcass on hand. Also - carcasses can be frozen in the same bag if you are feeling lazy and not ready to tackle broth at the end of a day!! Just throw it in your scrap bag and wait until Saturday or Sunday, then use the same method just as if you were making broth from fresh ingredients.

At the grocery store you can pay more money for carrots with their perfectly usable tops, ends and skins already cut off, these are called baby carrots. You can also pay more money for celery that has the ends and leaves cut off as well. Unless I'm making a crudite platter, I always buy whole carrots and celery. They cost far less per ounce and every part of them is usable! One of the best investments you can make in your home-cooking career is a knife skills class. Learning how to chop vegetables quickly and efficiently will save you loads of time in the kitchen and is actually pretty fun. Or you can come over here and I'll teach you what I learned when I took the class. Yes, actually let's do that. Call me to schedule a time to come play kitchen with me. 

Using homemade broth will elevate all your soups and sauces flavor-wise and also it's SO HEALTHY! AND CHEAP! Please please please try it out and let me know if you do! 

Next week I'll post a few of my Master Meals that make use of chicken broth - if you can't wait, you can find our family's favorite Chicken Noodle Soup on the blog here.  

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