The Versatile Whole Chicken

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Several times a year, whole roasting chickens go on sale at my grocery store for ridiculously low prices (like 30 cents a pound, I am not kidding). I always take advantage of these sales and stock up on whole chickens because there are SO MANY things you can do with them. I also make sure to use the entire chicken, bones and all. Once or twice a month, during Daniel's nap time, I will prep and roast two whole chickens. Once the chickens are roasted, I tent them with foil and allow them to cool completely. I then remove all the meat from the chickens and divide it up into 2 cup portions and freeze them for later use. When I make a recipe calling for cooked chicken, I simply go to my freezer, pull out the chicken, defrost and add it to my recipe. It is that simple! Here are some of the ways I use my roasted chicken:

  • I add it to soup recipes all the time
  • Chicken tacos (just toss it with some cooked onion and spice it up with some taco seasoning)
  • Chicken enchiladas
  • I add it to homemade mac and cheese
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Chicken quesadillas
  • Chicken salad (and other salads)
  • Casseroles
  • Add it to pasta dishes
  • Chicken chimichangas
  • Barbecue chicken pizza
  • Chicken burritos
  • Sandwiches
  • Stir Fry
  • Chicken tetrazzini
And the list goes on and on. When I am roasting chickens for the purpose of freezing, I tend to roast them very simply. I usually roast two chickens at once, as it saves time. I add the two chickens to a roasting pan and fill the bottom with half white wine and half chicken stock and stuff the cavity with half a lemon. This keeps the chickens moist. If you do not want to use white wine, then you can use all chicken stock. I then lovingly massage the chickens with a mixture of olive oil or melted butter, poultry seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper. I roast in a 375 degree oven for about two hours or until a meat thermometer inserted between the leg and thigh reads 165 degrees and/or the juices run clear.
Whole chickens really are a fabulous way to stretch a buck because you can use the entire chicken. I also use my roasted chickens to make chicken stock. I use chicken stock a lot in cooking and tend to avoid store bought broth and stock because it can be highly processed, high in sodium, and more often than not contains copious amounts of MSG. After I have removed the meat, I place what is left, the bones, the skin, etc. into a large stock pot. I then add one onion per chicken carcass, 2 whole carrots per carcass (or about 1/2 cup baby carrots), 4 cloves of garlic per carcass, and 1 celery stalk per carcass (I say per carcass because I tend to make stock with two at once to save time). I also add approximately 3 tbsp. herbes de provence (or rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage), salt and pepper to taste. I then add enough water to just barely cover the chicken carcasses and put the lid on the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove the lid and turn the heat down to low. Replace the lid and allow to simmer on low for several hours (I usually let it go about 4 hours but the longer you leave it the more flavorful it will be). Test it and adjust seasonings. Once it is done, strain the stock, and discard the chicken parts and the vegetables. At this point you can use your stock as is, or if you want to store it, place the lid back on the pot and put it in the fridge and allow it to cool completely. The fat will solidify and rise to the top - you can remove this fat and discard it with a slotted spoon if you like, or just leave it too, there is not a lot of it usually. To freeze, store in freezer safe jars (make sure the jars are freezer safe or they will crack when the liquid expands, or you can store it in ziplock bags.
I use chicken stock in soup, to flavor rice instead of using water, to flavor pasta instead of using water, I add it to my béchamel sauce to add flavor...the possibilities are endless!

Tonight I will be using my roasted chicken and chicken stock to make Tyler Florence's (LOVE HIM!) Tomatillo Enchiladas. I will post the recipe and pictures of that (and of course pictures of my precious Daniel enjoying the meal) later on this evening. Until then, Foodie Mommies and Daddies, HAPPY COOKING!


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