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September 25, 2005 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Help me learn to use up a whole roast chicken.

I'm single and a good cook. I try to get the most out of a smallish grocery budget. With fall-y weather setting in, I decided to experiment with roasting a whole chicken each Sunday, and then using the chicken for the next several days. I'm looking for your tips on getting the most out of said chicken after that first serving of carved white meat is gone.

I don't especially relish wings and dark meat, so I need some recipes that sort of disguise their heavier flavor. Healthier recipes are especially appreciated. Sandwich and salad suggestions, preferably those that travel well to work for lunch, are welcome. Also, do you use the roasted carcass to make stock? Is it worth the trouble? Thanks in advance.
posted by Miko to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I just chop up rosted chicken and throw on my daily salad - delicious, easy and protein filled. Yum.
posted by tristeza at 6:56 PM on September 25, 2005

Real homemade chicken stock can be used do make delicious and inexpensive risotto.
posted by Kwantsar at 6:59 PM on September 25, 2005

Using the roasted carcass to make stock is indeed worth the trouble, however, it's considerably LESS trouble just to use it to make chicken soup. You can pretty much tailor any basic stock recipe into soup by deciding what vegetables and spices you want to leave in and whether you want to add pasta or rice.

Take a large carrort, a large celery stalk and an onion and roughly dice them, then sautee in some olive oil at the bottom of the stock pot until the celery is translucent, then add the chicken carcass and let it brown in the oil for about a minute (longer if you want the soup to be darker and richer). Then, add COLD water to the stock pot until you cover the chicken and throw in any spices you want...i like lots of pepper, paprika, a bit of cumin and some rosemary and thyme as well as four or five smashed garlic cloves.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and let the mixture cook down for about two hours or until you see a nice golden color to the soup and it tastes rich when you sample it. Use a slotted spoon to remove the scum from the top of the water about every 10 minutes while simmering.

When done, remove the carcass and then with a slotted spoon remove as much of the vegetables and chicken meat as you can and set aside. Then strain the liquid through a fine seive (if you have one) and re-add the meat and vegetables. Voila..awesome chicken soup.
posted by spicynuts at 7:10 PM on September 25, 2005

I tend to roast the bird with salt, pepper, butter, and garlic (maybe a sprinkle of seasoned salt if you have it), eat as much of it as possible, and then pick the carcass over and shred what's left into small chunks and pieces. My favorite things to do with chicken bits:

-Wrap up in a tortilla with refried beans, cheese, and some chipotle salsa (portable).
-Use to make a chicken quesadilla.
-Over salad as per tristeza's suggestion.

You could also make chicken salad sandwiches out of the bits or toss them in with some pasta and pesto.

I've never made stock, but it is worthwhile to invest in a roasting rack so the bottom of the chicken is not soppy with juices.
posted by amber_dale at 7:11 PM on September 25, 2005

Response by poster: Many sources I've read -- the serious cook stuff -- says that the only decent stock comes from boiling off the entire chicken. I'm hoping to find that I can make stock with just the leftover bits and still eat the good stuff. But if it came to it, and folks recommended it, I suppose every few Sundays I could sacrifice that delicious roast-chicken flavor and aroma to the stockpot, just to set myself with up lots of good stock for later.

I understand that the cooked chicken left from traditional stock-making is inferior for most other eating uses. It's supposed to be flavorless and dry, because all the fats and flavors have travelled into the stock liquid. Maybe it's good for cat food, I don't know. I'm interested in hearing opinions.
posted by Miko at 7:11 PM on September 25, 2005

Once, when I first was living on my own when I was eighteen, I made homemade chicken soup with much of a whole chicken--I, too, don't like dark meat and so had eaten the breasts but had everything left over. Anyway, I boiled it off for many hours and used that as the base for the soup, along with the meat. That was the best chicken soup ever. I have no idea why I've never done that again in the subsequent 20 years.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:14 PM on September 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

I think for getting good use of the dark meat you'll need to add a lot of other, stronger flavor to it since you don't like it generally. I'd say your best bet there is to throw it in a deep baking dish with a can of diced roma tomatoes, a cup or two of dry white wine, a lot of garlic cloves, a crap load of rosemary and some really fresh basil if you have it and then toss it in an oven at about 475 for like 20 minutes or until the liquid cooks down and thickens. Then you can throw that over some rice and you'll get meat that falls off the bone but should take on most of the tomatoe/wine/garlic flavor.
posted by spicynuts at 7:16 PM on September 25, 2005

Making stock is worth the trouble. Making stock each week is not. I'd save up the leftover bits and freeze them, including the parts that you don't like, then I'd choose an empty Saturday morning to defrost and make a big batch of stock that I'd freeze in individual containers.

Also, if the point of this is to cook on the cheap, rather than roast the whole bird, you should learn to break it down. That way you could do something fresh every day and wouldn't be limited to leftover chicken recipes.
posted by greasy_skillet at 7:19 PM on September 25, 2005

This recipe for laab kai calls for white meat, but I would think it'd be OK with leftover thigh / drumstick / wing bits.

I like making a big batch of jambalaya on the weekends for easy meals after work during the week. It reheats pretty well, and you can put any sort of meat(s) you want in there.
posted by letourneau at 7:21 PM on September 25, 2005

I understand that the cooked chicken left from traditional stock-making is inferior for most other eating uses.

Well, I mean, it's essentially been boiled for five to six hours, so yeah. However, it also depends on the kind of stock you want...a very clear chicken stock will just be boiled chicken, while a darker one will involve browning the chicken first. Either way, no one in their right mind would make a stock and also hope to eat the remaining chicken as a separate meal.

Remember also that most of the flavor of a stock does not come from the protein tissue (meat..muscle) but from the breakdown of the collagen and connective tissue of joints, marrow, and fat. This is why to make beef or veal stocks bones with a lot of marrow and connective tissue are don't see cooks throwing slabs of meat into a pot to make stock. So the fact that you are eating most of the protein material before boiling for stock is not going to make a gigantic difference. You can absolutely eat the good stuff first and make a very good stock or soup afterwards.
posted by spicynuts at 7:24 PM on September 25, 2005

Three recipes that would be good with the leftovers and even dark meat:

We make Chicken Caesar Salad almost every week. It's just romaine tossed with chicken, some nice romano cheese, some anchovies, and a dressing. You can add croutons if you like. Sooooo good.

I made Tortilla Soup for dinner tonight and everybody really liked it. Recipe for two servings:

* 2 tsps cilantro, well washed (leaves only)
* 1 clove garlic
* 1/4 small onion, chopped
* 1 small can of green chilies
* 2 cups chicken stock/broth
* 1/2 a can (14.5 ounce) tomatoes
* 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
* 1/2 tsp. salt
* Corn tortillas (about 5) cut into thin strips
* vegetable oil
* 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
* Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
* avocado, small slices or cubes

Puree everything except the last five ingredients, all together in a blender. Heat it up and simmer it for about half an hour. Fry up the tortilla strips until golden on each side, using the vegetable oil. Lay the strips into two bowls. Add the last three ingredients after you ladle the soup into the bowls.

I also make a killer Sweet Chicken Salad that you eat with a fork like a regular salad, not as a sandwich filler. Recipe for two:

* cup of green grapes sliced in half lengthwise
* 2 cups chopped up chicken
*cup of blanched almond slivers
*half cup finely minced celery
*half cup honey

Just mix it all together and let it sit in the fridge for an hour or so to blend all the flavors. Serve it over some crisp romaine leaves.
posted by iconomy at 7:32 PM on September 25, 2005

I'm with you - I'm not crazy about dark meat. Unless I know i'm having company that likes it - I've just started buying whole breasts. You can roast them in the same way you do a whole chicken - and then you don't have any left overs you don't really want to eat.
posted by Wolfie at 7:44 PM on September 25, 2005

Yes, you can make chicken stock using only the carcass of the bird, you just can't make nearly as much as you would using the whole bird.

Take the roasting pan, pour in some water, and put the pan over two burners on the stove, pressing down on the carcass and scraping all the yummy bits off the bottom of the pan so they incorporate into the stock. It helps to break, crush, and cut the bones too, but this is not strictly necessary. I find this saves enough time in cleaning the roasting pan that it almost takes less time to make stock than not to.

As to using up your roast chicken, one obvious thing to do is experiment with sauces-- if you like barbecue sauce, mustard, chipotle paste, or relish the chance to make your own (mustard is hard to make but barbecue sauce is easy), or to make a number of different homemade mayonnaises, all of those lend punch to the dark meat. Obviously mayonnaises are going to be less healthy than, say, strong dijon mustard with a healthy sprinkling of tarragon, so follow your needs and tastes here. Basically a few slices of dark meat, a condiment of choice, and a relatively durable vegetable make the perfect sandwich, wile giving you plenty of flexibility so you can eat these for a very long time without being fatigued.
posted by willbaude at 7:47 PM on September 25, 2005

I wish I lived near you - I only like the dark meat, and I could go halfers on the bird with you. My problem is always a pile of uneaten white meat after the legs and wings are gone.
Should you move to Kyrgyzstan, your problem is solved...
posted by Meatbomb at 8:47 PM on September 25, 2005

Stock and soup ideally should be from raw chicken (or chicken carcass - boil water until it roils, drop the carcass in for a few seconds, drain over sieve, rinse in cold water, re-boil carcass in fresh water).

Do you like chicken salad? Debone the remainder, add mayonaise, sugar, salt, pepper, chopped carrots/celery/whatever - and use it as a sandwich filling for lunch?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:48 PM on September 25, 2005

I'm going to ignore a formal definition of "chicken stock." I will, however, assert, as others do that you can make a tasty and culinarily useful chicken flavored liquid from the remains of a roast chicken carcass.

No need to boil things for hours and hours, or pile up a big project in the freezer either. I just do pretty much what willbaude does. I pull the carcass apart so it is fits as flat as possible in the bottom of the pot. I deglaze the roasting pan with water and maybe some left over white wine and add it to the pot I add more water to partially cover the carcass, season with salt, pepper, and maybe some thyme garlic, onion, vegetables, etc and simmer covered for ~60-90 minutes stirring things up occasionally to immerse the uncovered bits. When done I drain in in a collander, mashing it to get all the liquid out and freeze the resulting 1-2 cups of liquid.

If there is much meat left on the bones I'll pull it off to use later for chicken salad, soup, etc. I like dark meat usually anyway, but I find the flavor mellows and the texture improves after a 60-90 minute boiling.

Roasting a chicken, eating it, and then making use of the carcass is a true carnal pleasure.
posted by Good Brain at 9:11 PM on September 25, 2005

I usually roast two chickens. One gets eaten that night with roasted vegetables. The other has the meat pulled from the bones.

Both carcasses go into a pot with celery leaves, bay leaves, a couple of carrots, a quartered onion, parsley stalks, thyme, a lug of wine and - secret ingredient for golden stock - a whole tomato. Barely cover with water, simmer a couple of hours, strain.

We use the meat for:

- sandwiches: dice some meat, mix with a good mayonnaise and some fresh basil leaves, serve on toasted sourdough

- tortillas: shredded chicken, some avocado, crisp lettuce, some fresh sprigs of cilantro and lots of hot sauce

- noodles: toss the meat with hokkien noodles, Asian greens and some sweet chilli or peanut sauce OR shredded chicken, cold soba noodles, sesame seeds, a little wasabi and soy

- burgers: smother Turkish bread with hommus, add sliced tomatos, red onion with sumac, lots of flat-leaf parsley, a yoghurty-lemony dresing and a sliced breast, into the sandwich press for a couple of minutes

- salad: cold chicken, a can of chickpeas, lots of cucumber, some roasted peppers, fresh mint, olive oil and lemon juice

- a quick fricasee: some butter in a pan, a splash of wine, a clove of garlic, cream, a little mustard, some tarragon; add the chicken, warm through, serve with mashed potatoes

- a quick curry: a can of diced tomatoes, a generic curry paste, some leftover chicken warmed in the sauce, some steamed rice
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:12 PM on September 25, 2005 [2 favorites]

I have EXTREMELY fond early memories of leftover chicken (or turkey). Whenever it got to the point that you couldn't really carve any usable slices from said bird ... we kids knew that mom would be whipping up a batch of "Chicken Croquettes".

Sorta like "Hushpuppies" with finely minced chicken mixed in (and served with gravy)!

(nb: The recipe I linked to is just a guide; there are as many recipes for this as there are Nebraskan grammas.)
posted by RavinDave at 9:20 PM on September 25, 2005

I like to use the leftover meat for burritos (cumin, chili powder, onion, garlic, a bit of tomato paste) or korma (I just use a jar of prepared paste).
posted by acoutu at 9:28 PM on September 25, 2005

This recipe for laab kai calls for white meat, but I would think it'd be OK with leftover thigh / drumstick / wing bits.

Why, thank you. :)

I think that it would work, though some of the more subtle flavours may not be as easily evident. Perhaps you can try my other recipe for a stir-fry with chilli, garlic, and basil substituting chopped roast chicken leg too. It was born for the dark meat portion.

I was going to mention Caeasar Salad (or any other salad, really) as well as rolls from various countries, but that's already been said. So I'd like to add that a Thai red curry will taste fabulous with roasted chicken meat. Get the Mae Ploy brand red curry paste, follow the instructions on the pack. (Fry paste, add a bit o' fish sauce and palm sugar, coconut milk and some kaffir lime leaves. Simmer.)

You can also try making the Vietnamese beef noodle soup called Pho, but instead of using beef, start with the bones of your roasted chicken as the stock base. And of course, the meat for the soup. (I have never tried this; I'm speaking purely from chef's instinct. :)

Good luck with this. I think you've got plenty of good suggestions from a lot of people. Should be easy enough to polish off two chicken legs.
posted by madman at 9:35 PM on September 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

As a change of pace from roasting, slice off and saute the breasts. Make stock from the rest of the chicken.
posted by jjj606 at 4:58 AM on September 26, 2005

A few more thoughts on making stock. I agree with the posters above who wish to bracket the question of whether the yummy-chicken-liquid we advocate is actual "stock". (There are also fights about the difference between stock and broth, equally uninteresting.)

But for what it is worth I am against adding onions, thyme, or anything else to the water you use to deglaze the pan. Any spices you already put on the chicken will obviously end up flavoring the end product, but aside from those, I think it's better to get as chickeny of a liquid as possible. To the extent you later want aromatics and the like, you can add them to whatever you're using the stock in.
posted by willbaude at 6:02 AM on September 26, 2005

StockFilter: Even after you've made your other meals—particularly if you pull the meat off before seasoning it again—you can make stock from the rest.

The best method/recipe for stock I've found was in a book called Thanksgiving 101. My memory probably isn't perfect here, but I:
Freeze the bones and pieces—not the liver—until I have a potful;
thaw and then roast the lot with some onions (skin on), celery, and a carrot or two;
cover with cold water and let cook on very low heat overnight;
strain through cheesecloth;
cook until it's reduced;
(chill and) skim the fat off the top;
freeze in pint-sized plastic bags.

Don't salt the stock. If you want to see if it's reduced enough, put a spoonful or two into a coffe cup and add a light sprinkling of salt to that.

The result is brown and rich. It tastes like comfort food, but it's fat free.

Sure, it's time consuming, but I have a big enough pot that I only end up doing it every few months, and I get gravy and barley (or rice) pilaf and soup and braised cabbage and ... that can't be beat.

Lesson learned: Charcoal-grilled chicken should be used sparingly if at all. That nice smoky flavor breaks down and becomes slightly salty and very bitter.
posted by phrits at 6:45 AM on September 26, 2005

My dad loves to eat the neck. Gross.
posted by poppo at 8:24 AM on September 26, 2005

Chicken enchiladas!
posted by wsg at 9:07 AM on September 26, 2005

Response by poster: My dad loves to eat the neck. Gross.

Yeah, when I said 'whole chicken' I must admit I was not planning on getting involved with the nasty packet of organs you have to pull out of it.

Thank you all for the excellent suggestions. A delicious season of chicken awaits.
posted by Miko at 9:07 AM on September 26, 2005

I second phrits method. It's the one that I use as well. The only difference is that I keep a bag in my freezer of "less than ideal vegetation" (celery that is a little wilty, parsley leftovers, etc, etc) which goes in with everything else. I toss in 1 teaspoon or so of whole black peppercorns, a few whole garlic cloves, a few bay leaves and I also jam a half dozen whole cloves into the onion that goes in.

Oh and the strain through cheese cloth? I use a collander for the first pass and a wire mesh strainer for the second. Cheesecloth and I aren't friends after it wads up into a ball and I get second degree burns trying to salvage it.
posted by plinth at 9:19 AM on September 26, 2005

Here's something completely different. I picked all the leftover meat off of a carcas and pushed it through my meat grinder (food processor works too) (yes cooked meat) along with a few strips of uncooked bacon for flavor and to hold it together in burger-like patties. Then simply pan-fry and if you feel like it, top with some cheese. Delicious!
posted by clgregor at 7:46 PM on September 26, 2005

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