How to Make One Chicken Last a Week
You and Your Chicken
It’s time to break up with cheap chicken. If you have a £5 body, then buy a £5 chicken. Always insist on genuine organic free range, and this means more than reading the label. “Free range” can mean 10,000 chickens in a concrete shed with a cat flap out to a concrete yard. Free range does not mean it is organic. Organic is a legal definition, but the animals can still be fed grain and soy, which is not what we want.
So What Chicken Should I Eat?
The essential quality is that the bird has been raised with full and continued access to pasture, or grass and insect in other words, as this is what a bird is supposed to eat, not grains and soy nuggets. The label probably want give you all the info you need, so become a real-food nerd and speak to the supermarket product buyer, farmers market stall owner or butcher. Even better, buy direct from one of the many online artisanal meat producers that the UK now has. I maintain a list of suppliers here:
The most economical way to eat chicken is to buy a whole one, preferably with the giblets for stock or gravy. Buying portions, other than wings, is a very expensive way to eat, and you don’t get all the wonderful connective tissue to make into real stock afterwards.
Eating the Week – Chicken 5 Ways:
- Roast Chicken Casserole
- Chicken Clubs
- Chicken Salad
- Barley risotto
- Chicken soup
Roast Chicken Casserole
I think this is pretty much our favourite way of eating chicken now. Basically it’s a chicken prepared for roasting à la Chmelik, then add wine and stock and keep the whole thing sealed for the cooking time, which should be long and slow like a casserole. It’s also a one-pot fire-and-forget dish that can’t really go wrong.
Stuff a pasture-raised chicken with a lemon, a whole head of garlic, bay, thyme, rosemary and a big knob of butter. Season inside and out. Lay breast side DOWN in a suitable dish and surround with seasonal veg like spuds, baby onions, squash or whatever you fancy. Use more veg than you will need for this meal so that there are left over’s for another meal. By keeping the breast down, the white meat will always be in the cooking liquid so wont dry out. Cooking the whole chicken in liquid makes this dish self-saucing, and the veg are fabulous as they soak up the stock.
Add enough white wine and real stock to cover about two-thirds of the chicken with the back sticking out so the skin can get crispy. Add a handful of pot barley or spelt to the liquid. Use a tight fitting lid or cover with foil and pop into a pre-heated oven set at 150C to cook for 4-6 hours. You can also blast cook it at 220c for about 90 minutes if you are short of time.
One thing many people forget to do is to allow meat to rest after cooking. This allows the juices to return to the meat and give it succulence and flavour. Allow at least 15 minutes before carving, covered in foil and a teal towel. Pour off the juice that is left and add to stock with wine or port to make gravy (and don’t use the B word in my presence please).
After the first meal, strip all remaining meat off the bird. With two adults and two kids we are usually left with the whole breast to use later if we have cooked lots of veg. Retain every scrap of bone, skin and connective tissue to make your next batch of stock.
The breast is good to use cold for Club sandwiches. Between two slices of spelt or rye sourdough toast, layer chicken, avocado, crispy bacon, tomato, cheese with mayo and mustard or pickle. Serve with gherkins and salad. Another option if you are avoiding bread is Chicken Salad.
This uses the rest of the remaining meat and vegetables. Cube all the leftovers and put in a bowl. Add grated cheddar, sliced onion, some of your favourite herbs and a big dollop of double cream. Season and add olive oil. Stir the mix and pour into an oven dish. Dot the top with knobs of butter and more olive oil. Sprinkle on a little paprika, cayenne or turmeric. Cook in an over at 180C for 20-30 minutes until bubbling.
Now to use all that lovely grain that was cooked in the stock and chicken juices. You can cook this in a pot or in the oven. Add grated Parmesan (a lot is good), butter, olive oil, and herb such as sage or parsley, a splash of white wine or dry sherry and season. Add more stock to loosen up if needed. Also add a new ingredient, such as pumpkin cubes, ham, cherry tomatoes or kale. Heat gently until cooked, serve with rocket.
This should be a staple in every house, for its healthful properties and economical nature as well as the taste. Sauté onion, celery, garlic and maybe a leek in butter with a little olive oil added until soft. If you like you can add carrots or any other veg you wish. Add bay leaf and thyme. Add a your home-made chicken stock and either water, wine or cider until you have enough to make your meal. Cook gently for 30 mins or so and eat as is or you can blend for a thick soup (remove bay leaves first). Swirl in some double cream at the end if you want a richer version.