Today I’m starting a new series called Food Hacks because when we’re aiming at simplifying our lives, we need to learn some optimization techniques. These are some of the things I do to keep a smooth flow of life, to avoid unnecessary shopping trips, to save time and money, too. To become the queen of zen (don’t ask how far along the way I’ve got on this one).
So I decided to talk about chicken, one of the most wonderful birds that have walked this earth. Truth is, one chicken goes a long way; I’ve been brought up in a tradition that celebrates the creative usage of every bit & piece. I know the best meat is on the bone (only emperors eat this, as per my grandpa), I know the carcass is the best thing to make soup of and I know the (roasted) butt of the chicken is absolutely the ambrosia of gods- by the way, when was the last time anyone had a chicken butt?
You’ve gotta buy a whole chicken from a good butcher, make sure there are no burned/ brownish patches on the thighs or belly (do chicken have bellies?). Bring the animal home, wash it & dry it, put it on a big cutting board face up and arm yourself with a small, sharp knife. Have a glass of wine to gather your courage…especially importnat if it’s your first time facing the beast. And then start cutting. The thighs go first: cut around the joint and simply break the bone (as a consequence of their diet, chickens today have very porous bones, easy to break. If you have trouble breaking the bone you’ve hit the jackpot, this is one good chicken). Then remove the breast with one cut in the middle and then simply by cutting close to the sternum: it’s not gonna be perfect at first, but who gives a shit? Then remove the flappers and voila: the chicken is in pieces.
Now, sky is the limit! People think chciken is bland and drab, I like to think of it as a blank slate, a starting point on which you can build many different flavors. From one chicken you will make three dishes that will feed you and your significant other for at least a couple of days.
As it follows, the breast goes in the freezer, the carcass, the thights and the flappers, together with the skin go into a big pot for soup. Easy-peasy soup: carrots, potatoes, whole onion and white root. One bay leaf, few caraway seeds. Salt and pepper. Once everything has boiled, you take out the meat & veggies and strain the soup. Chop the carrots and the white root and return them to the pot together with the chopped potatoes, throw away the (whole) onions and the boiled skin (yuck!). I’ve made semolina dumplings for this wintery soup, but I admit it takes art and craft to make the perfect Romanian dumpling, so go for some good quality noodles. Or just keep it simple.
Let the meat chill and take it off the bone: You’ll have the thighs, the back of the chicken and the flappers. Bones in the trash, meat in the next dish. What I made? Fast-Poulet basquaise, evidement. For this, I prepped the sauce while the soup was boiling: olive oil, red pepper, finely chopped onion, crispy bacon, six garlic cloves (LOVE!) and preserved tomatoes (I used home-made, but canned tomatoes will do fine). Tarragon, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. I just dumped the meat pieces in the sauce and cooked for 10 more minutes. Done! The whole affair lasted about 40 minutes, the equivalent of 2 SATC episodes…and everyone has 40 minutes on a Sunday.
One week later: we had warm soup for dinner almost every evening, we ate it with parsley & chills, both home-grown. The poulet basquaise became a hot lunch at the office, combined with orzo (Greek pasta) and a small salad. The chicken breast is still frozen, no one knows what awaits for it in the future. So many options, so many choices!
What have we learned from this chicken journey…besides that the chicken butt tastes divine? That buying a whole chicken has a ton of advantages: you’ll have three delicious meals in almost one go, you’ll get closer to the food you eat and you’ll save lots of time and money, too. I encourage you to discover the beauty of the whole chicken and spread the love allover the place.
3 thoughts on “Food hacks, ep.1: One chicken goes a long way”
1. When you say tights, I think you mean thighs ;’) 2. The font you’re using is really, really hard to read! On my iMac the letters are so far apart from one another that it makes reading a real strain. 3. Great post, I look forward to seeing more!
Hi Emily! Thanks a lot for your comment. It seems I’m not only the wanna-be queen of zen, but also the queen of typos (correcting that, thx again!). 🙂
As for the font- I had no idea, how it looks on Mac…do you have any suggestions?
And yes, keep on reading, hope you’ll enjoy!
Hey Mona, I’ll email you a screenshot :’) but all that is just detail. You write really well, I think you have a great voice, keep up the great work!
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