When I was writing my first book, I had a chapter called “Stretch a Chicken” in which I was going to try to stretch one chicken over as many meals as I could. That chapter never materialized but last week I found myself stretching a chicken without really thinking about it. I made two dinners and froze the carcass for chicken stock. Both dinners were excellent and, because I used the same chicken, relatively cheap. Here’s what I did.
For Dinner #1, I decided to do everything in a cast iron skillet. Normally when I roast a chicken (and my usual go-to recipe is Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Chicken), I do it in a big roasting pan which makes for some intense clean-up. In a cast-iron skillet, the clean-up would be easier PLUS, if I played my cards right, I’d have a bit of a fond on the bottom to use to make a gravy.
See, with Thomas Keller’s chicken, you rest it on a bed of root vegetables and those vegetables get all the good stuff. You can’t really make a gravy because all the brown bits and chicken juices go into those vegetables (which makes them so good.)
Here, I decided to shove the vegetables around the chicken but to keep the chicken itself touching the bottom of the pan. What I’m really saying here is that I’m a better chicken cook than Thomas Keller.
So here’s the deal: buy a chicken (3.5 to 4 pounds). Pat it dry, remove the giblets. Season the inside with salt and pepper then stuff it with a head of garlic and some thyme or rosemary. Rub the outside with vegetable oil or canola oil (actually, this totally is Thomas Keller’s recipe) and season generously with more salt and pepper. Plop that into a roasting pan and then surround it with 3 or 4 parsnips that you peel and slice in half lengthwise, and a few small red potatoes. Drizzle some more oil over the vegetables and sprinkle them with salt and pepper too.
Pop into a 475 oven and cook 20 minutes; then reduce to 425 and cook another 40 minutes. In the middle you may want to move the parsnips around a little to make sure they don’t get too brown on any one side.
After the hour, remove the pan from the oven and remove the chicken to a plate to rest:
Your vegetables will look like this:
Remove them to your serving plates and then study your pan. Do you see brown bits? If you do, give yourself a high five and do the following….
Add a big spoonful of flour to the pan (enough to soak up the fat that’s in there; if there’s a TON of fat, you can pour some of it out, but that’s not really necessary.) Also add a spoonful of good mustard:
Heat, stir and cook until there’s a definite paste and some of the flour flavor cooks out. At this point you could add white wine or chicken stock, but I like to add Sherry. Add about 1 cup (if that’s too intense for you, you could add a little water.) Whisk whisk whisk over high heat and the sauce will thicken. Look at that gravy!
Cut up your chicken into pieces and serve with the vegetables, spooning the gravy (or sauce, it sounds better) over everything:
Dinner #1 is complete!
Now on to Dinner #2….
So assuming you didn’t eat all that chicken the first night, you should wrap up the carcass in foil and save it for the next night. Here it is, the next day:
Step one is to pick off all the chicken meat. You have to dig deep here, you don’t want to waste anything:
You could do a lot with that chicken meat—you could use it in a pasta, in a salad, in a soup—but here, we’re going to use it in a chicken burrito.
This chicken burrito is based on this old post, “Make Your Own Chicken Burrito.” The only difference is that instead of cooking chicken specifically for the burrito, you’re using leftover chicken from the night before.
So in a pot, cook 1 onion chopped up in vegetable oil (1 Tbs) with a spoonful of brown sugar on high heat until the onion caramelizes.
Add 1 large chipotle in adobo sauce (the key ingredient here) which you should chop first and also add 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce itself straight from the can.
Add 1 cup canned diced tomatoes (I added the whole can and it didn’t matter) and let simmer for 10 minutes. Then blend everything with a hand blender (that’s the easiest way, if you have it) and add all your chicken. Stir it around and taste, adjusting for salt and pepper.
Now, for assembling your burrito, buy some pre-made flour tortillas (or you can make your own) and heat them in a cast iron skillet:
They’ll get puffy and brown.
Now lay in your chicken filling and top with some shredded cheese (I used white cheddar), sour cream and if you have it, chopped pickled jalapenos:
Roll it up, and there you are! Dinner #2.
Now then, take the bones from the leftover chicken (the whole carcass) and either wrap it in plastic or stick it in a freezer bag. Put it in the freezer and do this every time you make chicken. Also, and perhaps more importantly, if you make spatchcocked chicken, save the backbones the same way. At some point, your freezer will be jammed with dead chicken parts. That’s when you take all those parts and put them in a big stock pot:
You add a whole onion (don’t peel it, the skin adds color), a carrot or two broken in half, some celery broken in half and a few sprigs of thyme:
Cover everything with water keeping in mind that the more water you use, the less intense your stock will be:
Put it on medium/low heat and just get it to the point where you see some tiny, tiny bubbles (barely) and keep it at that temperature. You do NOT want it to boil (then all the chicken flecks will come out and cloud your stock.) Cook like this for hours and hours (at least three); it’s best done on a Saturday or a Sunday while you’re watching TV or reading a book. When the kitchen smells cozy and the liquid is a beautiful golden color, your stock is done:
Turn off the heat, let it cool a bit, and then strain it into freezer containers:
Use that stock to make soup or, better yet, risotto.
And there you have it: two whole dinners plus stock from just one meager chicken.