Monday, February 28, 2005

A Lot of Mileage from a Chicken

Matt was sick earlier this week, so I made him some Jewish Penicillin, a.k.a. home made chicken soup. I always crave chicken soup this time of year because it is getting close to Passover season and I live for my grandmother's matzoh ball soup. So, even though I rarely cook meat, I usually make a batch of chicken soup once a year. I'm always amazed at how many meals I can get out of one chicken. The big pot of soup is enough for 3 or 4 meals (for 2 people). Then, with the chicken meat, I made a big pot pie, that will last for 2-3 meals (for 2 people), and a batch of chicken salad that will make about 3-4 sandwiches. All that from one chicken!

Following are the basic recipes for the soup, pot-pie, and chicken salad:

Note: In order to alleviate some of my pseudo vegetarian guilt, I bought chicken that was fed an all vegetarian diet and had been given no anitibiotics. I would have liked to have purchased organic, free-range, but I couldn't find any.

Chicken Soup

  • one chicken cut up into parts

  • one large onion, quartered

  • a few cloves of garlic, unpeeled

  • a couple large soup carrots, unpeeled and cut in half

  • a couple of parsnips, unpeeled and cut in half

  • one small turnip, (peeled if waxed), quartered

  • a few springs of fresh parsley (and any other fresh herbs if you have any)

  • about 12 peppercorns

  • 3-4 whole cloves

  • about a teaspoon of dried thyme (use fresh if you have it)

  • about a teaspoon of dried dill (use fresh if you have it)

  • 2 bay leaves

  • water

  • salt and pepper

  • cooked small pasta (or rice, or matzoh balls)

  • chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Pile everything except the salt, pepper, and pasta in a big pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Skim the scum off the top (yuck - a reminder why I don't usually eat meat). Let simmer gently, partially covered for a couple of hours.

After a couple of hours, remove the chicken pieces and all of the vegetables. Reserve some of the carrots and parsnips to chop up and return to soup. Discard the other vegetables as they are mushy and have no more flavor. Reserve the chicken for the following recipes. If you aren't planning on eating the soup right away, refrigerate it and then skim the fat off of the top when it solidifies. If you do plan on eating the soup right away try to skim the fat off with a shallow spoon. It's harder this way, but I also find it hard not to eat the soup right away.

Chop up the reserved carrots and parsnips (the carrots used to be my favorite part of my grandmother's matzoh ball soup) and return to pot. Add cooked pasta. (Note - don't boil the pasta in the soup because the pasta will absorb much of the soup itself and that is not good. Cook the pasta separately in water and then add to soup when al dente.) Salt liberally and add ground pepper and any chopped fresh herbs you have. Serve with tissues.

Easy Chicken Pot Pie

  • about a cup or 2 of left over soup chicken meat, shredded or chopped

  • about a cup of chopped carrots

  • about a cup of diced potato

  • about a cup of frozen peas

  • any other veggies you have laying around - I used up some chopped onion, celery would also be good

  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or any other fresh herbs you may have)

  • 1 tsp dried thyme

  • 1/2 tsp celery seed (I actually forgot this part)

  • 1 can of Campbells cream of whatever soup, undiluted (I used cream of mushroom)

  • 1 frozen pie crust that has been sitting at room temperature for about 15 minutes to defrost

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl - no need to cook the veggies. Put right in a pie dish - no bottom crust necessary. Top with pie crust. Note, the pie crust will break and look unattrative, but that's ok. Bake at 400 degrees for 1/2 hour or until brown and bubbly. You could coat the pie crust with egg if you want. I didn't bake my pie yet. I plan on making it for dinner on Tuesday. I'll let you know how it turned out.

A note on my shortcuts: Normally, I would prefer to make my own pastry and sauce, but as I already had a can of soup in the cabinet and a pie crust in the freezer, I decided to use them up. Nothing wrong with shortcuts now and then.

Chicken Salad

  • 1-2 cups of leftover soup chicken, shredded or chopped

  • 2 ribs of celery, diced

  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, diced

  • enough mayonaise to coat everything (the real stuff!)

  • salt and pepper

Mix it all together and serve on bulky whole wheat rolls. I suppose you could get fancy and add chopped walnuts and apples or grapes, but I prefer the traditional fruit and nut-less chicken salad.