23 May 2012

chicken cooking and meal ideas

Here is an example of what I do with a whole chicken:

1. Cook the chicken.
I have 2 ways I like to do it depending on what kind of time I have--roasting and crock pot cooking.

Roasting a whole chicken.
I use a 9x13 pan and a rack from my toaster oven turned upside down (because I don't own a roasting pan). I take the chicken out of its bag and put it straight onto the rack-pan combo, breast side up. I don't wash it first. All the bacterial is going to get cooked, so it seems to me that rinsing the chicken is just going to potentially contaminate more of my kitchen with salmonella. But I am careful about washing everything that touches the raw chicken with soap and warm water-- including the sink and soap dispenser after I finish washing my hands. I usually rain salt over the chicken in the pan, then put it in the oven, preheated to 350. I cook the whole chicken for 20 min per pound plus 20 additional minutes.

Crock pot cooking a whole chicken. 
I use the same health safety precautions when handling the raw bird. This time it goes straight into the crock pot, breast side up. This way works with either a frozen or fresh chicken. I sometimes sprinkle salt on top, but I've mostly stopped doing that. I cook it on high for at least 4 hours. I keep an eye on it after 4 hours to see when I want to turn it off. I basically just wait til it looks thoroughly cooked. I know this isn't super safe, but I haven't had any trouble cooking it this way. I do err on cooking it a little too long, because in the crock pot, it just gets more tender, not dry. If you aren't comfortable cooking poultry this way, don't do it. Easy enough. I prefer the crock pot over roasting because it makes the next step easy..

2. Make chicken broth by boiling the bones and drippings with a generous amount of water. I usually refrigerate the broth before using it so I can get the fat off the top and throw it away.

3. Make/ cook meals from the meat. I usually get at least 2 meals with 2-4 servings each. Suggestions:

--Just chicken (best the same day I cook it).

--Chicken salad.

--Chicken enchiladas.

--Chicken pot pie (I usually make a version with a biscuit topping rather than making pie crust).

--Tex-mex chicken casserole.

--Chicken tetrazzini.

--Chicken on salad.

--Chicken sandwiches or wraps.

--Chicken chili.

--Pizza with chicken.

4. Make soups from the broth. In the summer I use the broth to cook fresh veggies, but we have soup a lot more in the winter. I also use the broth to make cream of chicken soup for cooking. Sometimes I'll chop up and throw some chicken in the soup too. I get at least 2 pots of soup, 4 servings each. Suggestions:

--Chicken noodle

--Vegetable soup with chicken broth base

--Green soup. I don't have a good name for it, but I use tomatillos, cilantro, black beans (if I planned ahead) or lentils (if I didn't), and sometimes corn. And of course other spices.

--Veggies, lentils, and curry.

--Chowder of some sort, like potato or corn.

--Various beany chili recipes.

It looks like I get 4 meals, each with about 2-4 servings from cooking one whole chicken. Of course, I'm adding veggies, beans, cream soup, spices etc to make the dishes, and we eat appropriate sides with a lot of them. But the chicken is a good/ cheap starting place for lots of different kinds of healthy meals.

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