One Chicken, Two Meals

March 18, 2009 at 6:58 pm Leave a comment

two_mealsRoasting a whole chicken is one of the easiest ways to make a delicious meal. And then when you’re done with it, you can get a whole second meal out of the carcass.

Most contemporary Americans go straight for the boneless chicken breasts when shopping for poultry, but not only are they expensive, those little cutlets are lacking in flavor and doomed to end up dry and mediochre on your plate. I recommend going for a nice big hunk of bone-in chicken, like wings and legs (great for the BBQ), and I’ma  particularly big fan of the whole chicken. This is how most chickens come at the farmers market, and pound-for-pound it’s the cheapest way to buy a bird.

Roasting chicken is easy. You simply rub it down with salt and pepper, put it in a pan and throw it in the oven at 450 degrees for about an hour to an hour and a half. Don’t cover it, don’t stuff it (make sure there isn’t a bag of organs in there, though) – just put it in the oven and watch TV or something until an hour has passed. You can tell it’s done because the skin gets a beautiful golden brown color. Take it out of the oven, spoon some juice from the bottom of the pan onto to the top to give it a nice, juicy shine and let it rest for a couple minutes before diving in and carving it up. It goes great with potatoes and winter root veggies (throw them in the oven in a different pan while the bird is cooking), or with a salad in the summer time.

Once you’ve gobbled (clucked?) up the roaster, hold on to the leftover carcass. It’s still good.You can pick the extra meat off the bones and make a nice chicken salad sandwich with it, or put the meat aside and use it in a chicken soup. The rest of the carcass gets thrown in a pot – skin, bones and all – and boiled in several cups of water until you’ve got a nice broth. Don’t stir the chicken while it’s boiling – you want to leave it alone and get a nice, clear broth out of it.

Usually I use my chicken broth in chicken soup (broth, salt, chicken, onions and veggies – very simple and delicious). But you can also use it in sauces, polenta, stir fry or anything else that calls for broth. This time I made a nice borscht with it.

I love borscht because it’s hearty and sweet and totally Russian. This was my first time making it, and it came out really nice. I roasted a few large beets in the oven (skin on) to soften them up, then peeled them and chopped them into small enough pieces so they would fit into the cuisinart. I used the shredder setting on the cuisinart and ended up with about three or four cups of shredded beets. Then I sliced a quarter of a large red cabbage (I think green cabbage would work too, though) nice and thin and tossed it with salt and vinegar in a bowl.

Next came the red onion, which I also sliced thin and then sauteed in a big pot with some oil until it browned a bit. I poured in my chicken broth (4 cups or so), stirred it up a bit, got the broth boiling and added salt to taste (I like my soups nice and salty – don’t be shy to add a nice spoonful because no matter how much you add it will never get as salty as a can of Campbell’s).  Then the beets went in, and I let the whole thing simmer for about 15 mins while the beets got soft, and then added the cabbage (which at this point had a nice sauerkraut taste to it).

About ten more minutes of boiling and the borscht was as good as anything I’ve had in a Russian restaurant. I topped it off with a dollop of yogurt (a nice greek yogurt like Fage is best) that I mixed up with chopped fresh dill, and served it with sliced rye bread.

There you go. Two meals, one chicken, and it was all cheap and easy but very home-made, very tasty and totally green.

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