Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chicken Days, Chicken Nights

There are few things that can provide more meals in one than a whole chicken. With the economy the way that it is and food prices skyrocketing the way they are, most people, it seems, are just trying to eke by until payday. Sadly, though Husband and I do well for ourselves financially, there's this little thing called identity theft. It sucks. Even when your bank catches it within an hour. I'm not even going to tell you how many thousands were gone. So, I got to reach back in my memory of being a starving waitress and trying to feed myself before I met Husband. Nothing like trying to buy a couple weeks groceries for thirty dollars, eh?

Luckily, one of our benefits from being enslaved to the government is the commissary. I've ranted about the commissary before, and don't get me wrong, if I could choose I would not shop at the one near where we're stationed, but the prices simply can not be beat. Everything is sold at cost, plus the overhead of running DECA (the commissary bigwigs). Now, before you get all "Lucky you!" and "Aww. That's not fair, what about me?" remember that I had to sit at home for 15 months while my husband was in a big ol' sandbox. Think I'd switch ya for a higher grocery bill? I'll let you decide.

My point in all of this is that grocery stores are raising prices to outrageous amounts feigning high gas prices and whatnot, even the commissaries. It's times like these that require pinching pennies and trying to get the most out of the items you can afford to buy. I was shocked walking into a civilian grocery store and seeing boneless skinless chicken thighs $3.99 per lb. And boneless skinless chicken breasts at $6.99 per lb. Outrageous! The whole chickens weren't hugely better, but at $2.19 per lb, you're saving money - plus there's so much more you can do with a whole chicken. Breasts or thighs - once you use 'em they're gone. But, a whole chicken - that's got some lasting power. So, stop buying all that pre-skinned, pre-boned, way more expensive stuff and come with me.

Following are four recipes, and three meals, using only a whole chicken and a few other ingredients, most of which I bet you've got in your kitchen.

Pantry Items

Sea Salt/Salt of some kind
Black Pepper
Dried Herbs
Ingredients to make Pie Crust/Frozen Pie Crust

Shopping List

1 4 lb. Whole Fryer Chicken
1 box Stovetop Stuffing (or make your own at home)
1 head Celery
1 2 lb. bag Carrots
2 tins Chicken Stock
3 Onions
1 head Garlic
1 Broccoli Crown
1 Russet Potato

Roast Chicken Dinner
Serves 2

4 lb. Whole Chicken
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
6 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, divided
1 box Stovetop Stuffing

1 cup Rice
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon dried Sage

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Remove giblets and neck from cavity, discard or reserve for another use. Rinse chicken with cool water, inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels and let rest for ten minutes at room temperature. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, prepare stuffing according to directions. Fill cavity with stuffing and truss legs together. Place in oven, uncovered and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and chop up remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and place pieces all over the breast and legs. Cook for 25 minutes further, basting with juices in pan every ten minutes, until bird is golden brown and registers 180 F both in center of cavity and in thigh or until a knife inserted in thigh produces clear juices.

Meanwhile, rinse rice until water runs clear, drain. Follow directions to prepare in rice cooker or place rice in saucepot with lid with the 2 cups chicken stock and dried sage. Bring to a boil for 1 minutes, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

Serve Roasted chicken legs, and ½ breast each, with rice and stuffing.

Shred remaining breast and thighs, plus pulling any meat possible off of the back or around the cavity. Be sure to exclude fat, skin, and ligament. Halve the shredded meat and store in refrigerator in separate containers. Save carcass for stock.

Chicken Stock

1 Chicken Carcass
2 Carrots, chopped
2 Celery Stalks, washed, chopped, leaves included
1 Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon Whole Black Peppercorns
1 tablespoon Sea Salt
2 Bay Leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot, add water to cover plus two inches and bring to a boil. Keep at a low boil for three hours, skimming fat and scum when necessary. Strain into a bowl, discard solids. Cover and chill overnight. Skim solidified fat off top the next morning and save for future use.

Chicken and Broccoli Pot Pie

Serves 2, with leftovers

½ Shredded Chicken Meat
2 Celery Stalks, sliced
1 Onion, chopped very fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Broccoli Crown, florets and chopped stalk
1 Russet Potato, cubed
¼ cup Butter
¼ cup Flour
1 cup Chicken Stock
½ teaspoon Sea Salt
½ teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Egg, beaten
1 portion pie crust/puff pastry, equal to 2 8 in. rounds

Preheat oven to 375 F

In a sauce pan over medium heat melt butter. Stir in flour and cook, stirring continuously for 1 minute. Slowly stir in chicken stock until fully incorporated. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add chicken, celery, onion, garlic, broccoli and potato. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Line an 8 in. pie plate with one portion crust, top with chicken filling, and lay second portion crust over top. Seal edges with beaten egg, pressing down with fork after to seal. Brush top with beaten egg and pierce with knife to vent. Bake for 25 minutes, or until heated through and crust is golden brown.

If desired, vegetables may be cooked/roasted separately before adding to sauce to deepen flavor.

Chicken and Rice Soup
Serves 2, with leftovers

½ Shredded Chicken Meat
Remaining Chicken Stock
2 Carrots, chopped
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
1 Onion, chopped fine
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Rice
2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper

In a large soup pot melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add celery, carrot and chicken. Cook for a further 3 minutes. Pour in chicken stock, season to taste with salt and pepper, bring to a boil. Add rice, stirring well. Boil for 1 minute, cover, reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

P.S. We did finally get our money back, but that was a rough two weeks. It opened my eyes to how much I really could cut back on our grocery bill if I tried a little harder. I'm already frugal, but there's always somewhere one can cut back. Even if you don't like these recipes, take a look at your receipt the next time you go grocery shopping. I bet there's a few things you could do without. Take a little time, and a little effort, and stretch that food budget like it's Jane Fonda in a Jazzercise video! I'll be making the stock tomorrow, along with the pot pie, followed by the chicken and rice soup after that - I'll prove this menu's not boring, and it's totally doable.


April in CT said...

How scary about the identity theft. It's something that is always in the back of my mind these days with such high use of debit cards and shopping online. I'm glad you were able to get your money back.

These recipes look fantastic! I'm with you on shopping at the commissary, but where we're stationed now the nearest one is 45 minutes away and I hate to say I miss it. I got to go yesterday and it REALLY shocks me when I compare prices where I have to shop at now. I'd almost rather never go just so I'm not reminded how cheap it is!

Leslie said...

Omg..Identity theft scares the daylights outta me! I am glad you were able to get your money back!
And I have a huge amount of respect for military spouses! Hats of to you! I know I couldnt do it.
Thanks for your comment on my dulce de leche and the tip on the pot! Ohhhh I would be so mad if I ruined my Le Crueset pot!

Kristin said...

So was that really Sweet Bird commenting about peeling pears on my site, or an imposter? SKETCHY.

katie said...

Aw sweet bird, I'm sorry that happened to you but glad it worked out. That's a ton of use out of a whole chicken! I usually only get one dinner-maybe two-out of a chicken. Impressive.

Kevin said...

Identity theft is a scary thing. Hopefully the bank takes responsibility and you are not out anything.

That roast chicken looks good. I like to cook whole chickens more for the leftover than the first meal. :) You can do so much with the leftovers.

Sweet Bird said...

April - The commissary can be great, depending on where you're at. Our old installation had a wonderful facility, this one? Crap. Complete crap.

Leslie - Thanks for the kind words, they're appreciated. Though, I'd like to point out I'm not going for the sympathy vote. Those military wives aggravate the shit out of me. I just can't stand it when people complain about the benefits military families receive. Boggles my mind.

Kristin - I promise, it's me. They may take all our money, but they'll never get my Blogger password! Wait, no. They can take my friggin blog, just stop stealing my money.

Katie - It really depends on how much meat you eat in one sitting. I try to make it that meat is the smallest portion of the meal. More practical and much healthier.

Kevin - The bank took some coercing to get everything done, but all in all it was a fairly easy process. They could've performed much worse. Sure makes me glad Husband and I have separate banking accounts!

eMerly said...

I found you on

I LOVE chicken and I make a mean roast, but this recipe really made what I normally do PERFECT!

merci beaucoup!