Molecular gastronomy gedempte chicken?
January 2, 2020 9:47 AM   Subscribe

I have an amazing chicken soup recipe. It involves boiling a whole chicken (usually in quarters or 8ths). At least half of that chicken makes its way into the soup, but there's always a few pieces left. I've done many variations of roasting / baking / broiling briefly with olive oil and herbs or spices, but it's just too dry to really enjoy. What else can I make with chicken that's been boiled for hours?
posted by Mchelly to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Buffalo chicken dip might be okay... Pizza or nacho topping.

Otherwise, increase the rest of the soup recipe and freeze half?
posted by papayaninja at 9:55 AM on January 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

I ended up with a lot of boiled chicken similarly a while ago, and found it was best utilized as a filling for things like dumplings and hand pies. You can add oil or fat to make up for the dryness of the meat, and usually such foods are pretty strongly flavored, which also helps. The good news is that I found boiled chicken like that freezes pretty well, so you don't need to use it all at once.
posted by lhputtgrass at 9:56 AM on January 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you have a dog, you can make really high value ”meat brownie" treats by blending the chicken (no skin or bones) with an egg and some whole wheat flour and then baking. It's usually what I do with our spent soup carcasses and our pup is quite enthused about them.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:58 AM on January 2, 2020

Don't boil it for so long - you can ruin meat by overcooking it, even via a low and slow approach, especially lean meat like chicken.

Consider altering your process a bit. Monitor the chicken as you simmer it; when it starts to fall off the bone (1.5-2 hours), pull out the amount you want to save for another purpose. Since it's mainly the bones, cartilage, and fat that give flavor to your stock, leave those in for the rest of the time along with ~half the meat and the final flavor ought to be nearly the same, but the meat you pulled out will have a much better texture.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:07 AM on January 2, 2020 [10 favorites]

Seconding and thirding folks suggestions that you remove some of the meat before its so overcooked. the bones and other bits do give off more to your soup for longer but youre not extracting significant additional flavor by leaving (white meat in particular) chicken to boil forever.

If you were really committed to using it (and i make a lot of stocks and hate waste) i think chopping it finely and blending it into some greens is a good strategy, or using it as the base for a dumpling or other filling.

also, my thanksgiving leftover game was forever changed by my introduction to this turkey carnitas recipe from serious eats. assumes your poultry has already been boiled to death.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:12 AM on January 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Maybe thinly layered in lasagna? Drench it in a Carolina style BBQ?
posted by Candleman at 10:17 AM on January 2, 2020

What I do for chicken soup is roast the chicken whole (spatched if I feel like it) and take most of the meat off it once cooked. Then I boil the roasted carcass with a quartered onion, a chopped carrot, garlic, and herbs. Roasting first gives it a deeper, nicer flavor. And then I add the chicken meat into the soup at the end.
posted by bilabial at 10:17 AM on January 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you’re really attached to continuing to boiling a whole chicken, maybe use the boiled meat in a pot pie? The gravy might disguise the dryness. But I also use roasted chicken for pot pie so I haven’t tested it.
posted by bilabial at 10:18 AM on January 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

There's only so much flavour to go around in a chicken, and if you're boiling it into water to be delicious broth, you're going to be by definition leaving the resulting meat much less flavourful. That's okay when the meat is in the delicious broth, but not when the meat is on its own. The good news is that chicken flavour comes from all the parts of the bird; the meat, but also the fat, the bones, the various gristly bits. (Beef doesn't work like this; you need meat to make beefy stock.)

Therefore, if you want to use the boiled meat in some other function, it's going to be best the less you need any flavour or texture from the meat - stir fries, anything with a lot of strong sauces or other strong ingredients. The sorts of dishes where chicken, pork, beef and tofu are interchangeable.

My recommendation, though, is to just cut off the breasts while the chicken is still raw, keep them aside and use them in some other dish. You don't need to worry about doing perfect butchering, since the meat on the bones will still be used. The breasts are the mildest parts (read: will yield the least flavour in soup-making). Your broth will still be amazing, you'll have the right amount of meat cooked to make the soup, and chicken breast is the most versatile protein in existence, so they won't go to waste.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:23 AM on January 2, 2020 [9 favorites]

Even something as simple as a mayonnaise-based chicken salad (with lots of other textures and flavors added) would probably help out a dry bit of chicken.
posted by xingcat at 10:25 AM on January 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

Roast the chicken and eat delicious roasted chicken first. Save half for soup. Then make stock with the carcass and scraps.
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:39 AM on January 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Was coming here to suggest what others already have: roast first (save all the juices in the pan), eat the best meat reserving the bones, boil everything left over.
posted by AndrewStephens at 1:36 PM on January 2, 2020

When meat is overcooked, the texture becomes dry and powdery, no matter how much sauce or broth you have to eat with it. Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking writes that there are two conflicting processes when you braise/boil/roast animal proteins. One is that the cartilage, the connective fiber, which is to say gelatin, melts into the liquid. That gives the sauce flavor and texture but if you cook all of it out of the meat itself, the meat will be dry. You want to stop before it's all out. (People say its the fat that makes long-cooked meats juicy but not primarily. Fat melts before gelatin. It's the liquified gelatin, whether in a poach or a roast that makes a meat feel good in the mouth.)

You can go on with the bones and joints for longer cause you're not going to eat them. Get all the gelatin out of those parts that you can.

The other thing that happens is the proteins in the meat, which when raw have spaces among them that capture water, become more and more tightly bound which squeezes out the water and...makes the meat taste dry and powdery.

So even in poaching or braising you can overcook the meat and there is no way back!

I agree with those who suggest, when the chicken is cooked, take it out and let the bones continue. You may find that the breasts are cooked sooner than the thighs and legs so you can take out the breasts first.

If you do this well, the meat that you add back into the soup will have a better texture and flavor and the meat you use in other dishes will be better, too.

Myself, the last thing I add to a chicken noodle, chicken rice, chicken vegetable soup, a chicken pot pie, is the cooked chicken. Just let it heat through. Don't cook it anymore.
posted by tmdonahue at 2:16 PM on January 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

These days I only use Empire kosher chicken "quarters" (thigh+drumstick) that I get from TJ's. White meat is ruined in soup, as you say, but also, there's no point in wasting it in soup: it doesn't add much. The quarters have these advantages:

1. the packaging is incredibly convenient: the meat comes cleanly out of the package and goes straight into the pot from the freezer. Other brands' packaging sticks to frozen meat. Empire's doesn't.

2. even if you don't keep kosher, the kashering process makes for a tastier final result.

3. the proportions in the "quarters" are perfect for soup: plenty of bone, plenty of flavorful dark meat, just the right amount of fat. No need to skim as with a whole chicken.

4. the dark meat survives the soup cooking just fine and is still tasty to eat afterwards.

Also, do you have an instant pot? Game changer. Pop the quarters in there with the water and the veg and press the soup button. If you're REALLY lazy like me, put everything in a mesh strainer basket with a handle (I cut the silicone part off the handle on mine.) Then when you get around to it, just pull the strainer basket out. Your broth is ready in the pot and you can pick out the good meat at your leisure and dump the rest of the stuff out. Wish my Savta could have had one.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:56 PM on January 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

One more voice for cooking in stages. Simmer the whole chicken for 45 minutes or whatever it takes to get it done but not over-cooked. I like it with onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme and whole pepper. No salt! Take it out, don't turn off the gas, it's good that the resulting broth reduces while you take off the meat. Eat the oysters now. Save some meat for making a salad with mayo and whatever else you like in your chicken salad. Save some meat for sandwiches with bacon and less mayo. Save some meat for your delicious soup. The last meat goes into a pie. But first put the bones and cracked up carcass back into the pot and give it all some extra time, perhaps an hour? I'm not good at timing, I just taste. This will add gelatin to your stock and make it much better in every way. Keep the lid off, you want it to reduce. When it's ready, divide the stock: some goes into the fridge and the next day you can take off the fat. Some goes into your pie, and here it is just fine that the fat is still in.

About the pie: I use store-bought puff pastry. Make a velouté sauce of a light roux and some of your stock. Season to taste. Add some chicken meat + either peas or asparagus to the sauce, and a splash of cream. Reduce a bit. Pour into your pie dish and make a lid of the puff pastry. Make pretty flowers or whatever and coat with an egg mix. Bake till golden, let it rest for ten minutes or more. Serve with a fresh crispy salad. I like it cold too, and it heats up really good if you don't.
posted by mumimor at 3:54 PM on January 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by 8603 at 4:38 PM on January 2, 2020

Chicken salad. Kids who are picky eaters will often eat boiled chicken with ketchup or hoisin or whatever.

After marrying outside of Judaism, I think the soup with raw chicken vs roasted carcass is one of the biggest food differences - my Jewish mother will only make soup from raw chicken (mostly wings and dark meat!), while my Christian mother-in-law finds that shocking, and always uses roasted chicken bones.

Their soups are both good but different, but I like the Jewish kind best.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:54 PM on January 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Our excess soup chicken meat becomes chicken salad.
posted by Ruki at 10:39 PM on January 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Use a roasted chicken, including pan juices. That roasted skin is full of flavor. Use the white meat for dinner, chicken salad, etc., the dark meat will stay a bit more moist. I use only bones, skin, trim for soup broth. In any case, using a roasted chicken or poaching it whole, remove meat after 1 hour of simmering. You'll have gotten most of the flavor, and the meat will be usable.
posted by theora55 at 9:49 AM on January 3, 2020

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