Do you know how to stretch a chicken? I don’t mean literally, as in the featured photo (cartoon) for this post. By “stretch a chicken” I mean make it of maximum benefit, both nutritionally and in regard to culinary pleasure.
Here are two reasons to stretch a chicken, or any other kind of meat, for that matter.
- It saves money. Benjamin Franklin correctly observed, “A penny Saved, is a penny earned.” If you can do it without too much trouble, why not stretch your dollar?
- By using the tips I’m sharing here, you are likely to experience a culinary delight which is seldom experienced by others in this day and age.
Start with a whole chicken.
If you can start with a chicken you or a friend raised, that’s all the better, but even a store bought chicken can produce a number of delightful meals. Rinse the chicken and place it, with its back down, in a roasting pan or Pyrex tray. Once in the pan, sprinkle it with either lemon juice and salt, salt & pepper, or Creole seasoning. Then, without covering it, place this in the oven at 350 F. Bake the chicken until it not only smells done, but you can pull a leg, and it separates easily from the carcass.
We usually serve this with a side of rice or potatoes and at least one vegetable. If you want, you can start stretching your resources by baking some potatoes, in the oven, at the same time the chicken is cooking.
Baked/roasted chicken can go fast. It’s tasty and, if not careful one can eat more than they need.
It’s a special meal for us. We feel rich when we enjoy such a meal. But if you did nothing else with that chicken, you wouldn’t stretch it very far. To stretch a chicken one needs leftovers. Generally we go one of two directions with the leftovers.
- Pick the bones and make stir fry with the leftover meat, mixing it with lots of vegetables and some kind of oriental sauce. Or, …
- Stick the entire remaining carcass, bones and all, into a slow cooker, add water, some chopped onions & garlic, salt and pepper and simmer it overnight.
Right now I want to talk about the second option. This really stretches a chicken!
After the chicken carcass has simmered in the slow cooker, turn off the heat and let it cool a bit. You’ll find:
- That you need to pick the meat off the bones, and that there is much more meat than you’d have thought.
- Picking the bones is 10 times easier after slow cooking.
- You will have about 1/2 gallon of the best chicken broth possible.
Remove the bones, shred the meat and put it back in the broth. Now…
Add some more ingredients. Here’s a partial list of ingredients you might add.
- potatoes, parsnips, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes
- sweet corn kernels, peas, green beans, mixed vegetables
- barley, wheat, rice, dry beans or lentils
- canned mandarin oranges or lemon juice and/or pieces of lemons or limes
- hot sauce or hot peppers
Mix in what you’re going to, and then let the whole thing simmer for a couple more hours.
This pot of stew will feed you and one or two other people for multiple meals, a lot more than what you’d have gotten if you had just picked that carcass clean and discarded the bones. Part of the reason this is so, is that the slow cooker helped you access meat (also flavor & nutrition) that would otherwise have been wasted, another reason is that you just added a lot of really good food stuff to that stew. When you eat a bowl of this stew, you may roll your eyes and exclaim just how good it is. You have just made several economical meals with gourmet flavor and excellent nutrition.