Chicken is one of the more favored meats by all five people in this house. My nearly self proclaimed vegetarian will even consume it in various forms from time to time. The same cannot be said about steak or salmon I’m afraid. When I purchase chicken, I almost always buy it whole. While I would prefer to purchase my chickens exclusively from local farmers, I admit to most of them being of the organic free range variety from Central Market… not a terrible second. I prefer to think it’s the foodie in me that causes me to cook every last bit of my chickens, but I suppose there’s something to be said about the frugality of it all. The following suggestions are not exact recipes in the least, just a glimpse into what I like to do with my whole chickens.
Roast Chicken: Cut chicken into eight pieces (two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks, two wings) and set aside the back piece which is saved for stock. I like Eric Crowley’s video for thorough instruction on how to accomplish cutting a raw chicken. You may be interested in checking out a couple other methods for splitting the breasts as many chefs tend to take out the keel bone. Trim the fat and set aside for later use. Nestle the chicken in a roasting pan, drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper, a couple heads of garlic cloves and thyme. Roast at 350 until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Eat some of your roast chicken for dinner with brussel sprouts and potatoes.
Chicken Stock: Place the backbone (more than one if you have them available) of the chicken into a large pot, add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, peppercorns and herbs. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 6-8 hours. Cool, strain and store. I often use many additional vegetable scraps in my stock including leeks, carrot tops, brussel sprouts, etc. Use what you have available.
Curry Tarragon Chicken Salad: Dice chicken breasts, chop a few celery stalks, gather cranberries, curried nuts (pecans, cashews, whatever you have (they don’t have to be curried)), plain yogurt, curry powder, sea salt, fresh ground pepper and tarragon. Mix up to taste.
Schmaltz: I only have so many Jewish friends out here on the West Coast. Perhaps if I lived in New York I would be more familiar with this thing called schmaltz. Either way, I have learned about the beauty that is schmaltz and you can rest assured that it will always have a happy spot in my kitchen. Take the fat you have trimmed from a few chickens, place in a pan, add sliced onions and cook until things begin to brown. Strain through a mesh strainer and store in the fridge. Spread on bread with salt or replace the fats called for in recipes with schmaltz. Now, say it out loud… “SCHMALTZ!” It’s a fun word, yeah?