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Monday, April 4, 2011

Eat it the way you found it: 2 Chickens 4 Ways

Don't they look jaunty?
It's amazing how much mileage you can get out of a modest frying chicken--breasts, legs, carcasses, giblets, fat, it all gets used.  Whole chickens were on great sale at the grocery store, so I stocked up.  I'm turning two of them (~ 4 lbs. each) into four separate meals big enough for 2 adults and 2 kids, plus leftovers.

First of all, you gotta whack these babies into pieces.  There are many really good picture tutorials about how to do this out on the interwebs.  Huzzah for YouTube!  Pick one, and go for it.  You want to end up with 4 boned, skinned breasts, 4 skin-on, bone-in leg quarters and two carcasses plus all assorted leftover bits (including necks and giblets, if included).

Meal #1: Chicken Stirfry
Put the breasts in a vacuseal bag to use for stirfry...go ahead and slice them now, if you like, or leave that for later.  Your choice whether to do the prep-work on the front end or the back end.  In fact, you could freeze them 2 and 2 for TWO rounds of stirfry instead of one (giving you FIVE meals total) if you like your stirfry lighter on the protein.

Meal #2: Quick Stew with Carrots and Olives

4 chicken leg quarters, skin-on
3 medium carrots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp citrus zest
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
pinch of cinnamon
1 cup chicken broth (or 1 cube bouillon)
1 15-oz. can black olives

Vacuseal the chicken.  Vacuseal the carrots and garlic.  Combine lemon juice, zest and spices in a small ziptop bag.  Bag frozen cubed stock, or bouillon cube.  Put all ingredients in a large zip-top bag and include the following instructions (including note to retrieve olives before cooking).  Label olive can and put in pantry. 

To cook, thaw ingredients thoroughly.  Brown chicken legs in 2 tbsp oil over medium heat, 3-5 minutes per side.  Remove from pan.  Saute carrots/garlic for 3-4 minutes, until slightly softened.  Add juice/spices and cook 1 minute.  Add chicken back to pan with stock (or bouillon plus 1 cup water) and olives.  Cook 15-20 minutes over medium heat until chicken is cooked through.  Serve over rice or couscous, if desired.

Intermediate Preparation for Meal #3 & #4: Italian Chicken Stock

2 chicken carcasses and giblets (except livers--reserve if desired)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 onion, quartered and unpeeled
1 carrot, broken into quarters
1 celery rib, broken into quarters
handful fresh parsley (if available)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp peppercorns
2 1/2-3 quarts water

Heat 8 quart stock pot over medium-high heat.  Brown 2 tbsp tomato paste in the pot, 2-3 minutes.  Quick add vegetables and scrape up browned bits.  Add chicken carcasses and allow to brown slightly, 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add parsley, bay leaves, peppercorns and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Skim foam if desired.  Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours. 

Remove chicken parts from stock and strain stock.  Discard vegetables.  Set chicken and stock in fridge to cool.  When cool, pick meat off of chicken bones and skim fat off of stock.  Set aside 1/4 cup of chicken fat and 1 1/2 cups stock for gravy.  Pour 6 cups of stock into a gallon zip-top bag for scrippelle.  Freeze any remaining stock in ice cube trays for other use.

Meal #3: Scrippelle

Scrippelle are Italian crêpes, and my husband's family has traditionally served them filled with grated Locatelli cheese and submerged in hot chicken broth.  It's a light but comforting meal that only needs a salad on the side.

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley (if available)
8 oz. Romano cheese

Combine all ingredients except cheese in a blender, and blend thoroughly.  You can make the scrippelle now and freeze them like crêpes, or freeze the batter and make crêpes on Dinner Day.  You can also choose to grate the cheese in a food processor and freeze it, or leave it as a chunk to grate later.  I prefer to grate right before serving to avoid picking up cross-odors from the freezer.

To cook, thaw ingredients.  Grate cheese, if necessary.  Heat stock in a pot, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Make scrippelle with a crêpe-maker or in a small skillet.  To serve, put 2-3 tbsp of cheese in the center of a scrippelle, and roll into a log.  Put 2 or 3 rolled scrippelle a shallow soup bowl and ladle hot broth over the top.

Meal #4: Chicken Gravy & Waffles

Just trust me.  This is essentially a pot pie filling, and you could put it in a casserole with a pie crust and bake it if you wanted, but try the waffles.  Using the chicken fat instead of butter to start the gravy gives it such a deep flavor.  Extra chicken fat can be saved like bacon fat and used in place of butter in smashed sweet potatoes (!!) or instead of oil for the recipes above.

The gravy can be made entirely ahead and reheated.  The waffles can be prepped ahead and cooked on Dinner Day, or make entirely ahead and frozen as is.

Chicken Gravy
1/4 cup chicken fat (reserved above)
chicken livers, finely chopped (reserved above, optional)
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (reserved above)
1 1/2 cups milk (use 1 cup milk if making pot pie)
2 cups shredded chicken (reserved above)
1 cup frozen vegetables

Melt fat in a pot and saute chicken livers until cooked, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in flour.  Cook 1 minute.  Whisk in stock, then milk until completely combined.  Raise heat to medium-heat until bubbles form, then lower to medium and cook 5-7 minutes, until thickened.  Stir in chicken and vegetables.  Freeze in a zip-top bag or hard-sided container.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup canola oil

Mix dry ingredients in a ziptop or vacuseal bag.  Mix wet ingredients in a ziptop bag.  Put waffle mixes in a large ziptop bag with chicken gravy.  Or stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients and follow waffle maker directions.  Freeze cooked waffles on a tray, then transfer to a vacuseal or ziptop bag for storage.

To cook, make waffles if necessary.  Reheat gravy on stovetop, simmering to thicken if necessary or adding a tbsp or two of milk to thin, depending on your preference. 

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