Thursday, January 5, 2012

How to stretch chickens for $10.

Not physically, of course.  I would know the first thing about stretching chickens - as much as I would like eggs, and some day hopefully will have chickens so I can have eggs, I'm pretty sure I will refuse to touch them, at any cost.  I don't think that chickens need stretching anyways... they do it themselves when they get up after laying some eggs.  Okay, enough. It's the end of a long day, and I'm starting to turn into a pumpkin.  So sad it's not pumpkin season anymore...

Sheesh. Yes, we're talking about chicken here. So here's the deal:  did you know that buying whole chicken is ridiculously cheaper than buying chicken breasts, or any other form of chicken?  It is. At Winco the other day, boneless skinless chicken breast was going for $4.99/lb.  Right next to it, whole chickens were $.99/lb. Crazy, I know.

What's crazier is that usually I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, even though I'm fully aware of the price difference, and the ease of cooking whole chickens.

The craziest thing, is that I finally remembered how easy it is, saved myself some bucks, and bought the whole chicken.

And made 2 different dishes.


That serve 8-10 people each.

And still have left over meat for sandwiches.


Oh, and not to mention, I used the left over bones to make 8 quarts of chicken broth.

2 chickens, $10, and a little bit of time in the kitchen, and I've got myself a fishes and loaves situation.

Okay, so I'm done rambling, and we're going to get down to the bottom of this.  I'll tell you how to cook the chicken, you can choose what you want to do with it.  I made freezer meals for some friends in need, and used one for pan for dinner this week of Chicken and Dumplings and Layered Chicken Enchiladas.  Both freeze very well.

So, first, you want to make sure you have a big roasting pan.  To cook 2 birds at once, they need to not be too cramped; they can touch, but just make sure they're not too squished.  You'll also want a large u-rack.  If you don't have a roasting rack, just make your own out of a bed of quartered onions and chunks of carrots.  Works fantastic.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  To prep the birds:
1. Remove the innards (This is extremely disgusting, and I have to close my eyes and think happy thoughts, otherwise I think about how I'm digging inside a chicken and grabbing its heart and liver and such... gross. Just get in there, get the job done, and get out.)

2. Pat them dry with a paper towel

3. For each chicken, mix 2 Tablespoons of softened butter with 1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, parsley, or chives, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  I know some of you may not like the idea of using so much butter (Total it will be 6 Tbsp.), but Test Kitchen says its extremely important for keeping the chicken from drying out in the oven.

4. Rub 1 Tbsp. of the butter mixture under the skin on each breast.  I did this by using a spoon, then holding my hand over the skin and pulling the spoon out. I squished it all around; this kept my from getting my hands buttery and having them under the skin of the chicken. I find that gross too.

5.  Brush each chicken with 1 Tbsp. melted butter.  Add 2 cups of water to the bottom of the roasting pan.

6.  Roast for 40 minutes.  Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees, rotate the pan, and roast until internal temperature (on an instant read thermometer) reads 170 degrees, about 30 minutes longer.

7.  Tip the pan so that the juice from the cavity runs into the roasting pan.  Let rest for 20 minutes on cutting board before carving.  I'm sure there's a pretty way of carving, but since I knew I was using the meat as shredded bits, I just ripped the thing apart like a scavenger.  It got the job done.

Aren't they pretty?  I was able to get about 12 cups of meat off of these.

** To make chicken broth, put each carcass/bones in a large stock pot (so two pots), fill with water, add in large chunks of carrots, celery, and onion.  Season with large spices such as thyme, sage, bay leaves, etc.  Let simmer for at least 5 hours (We did ours on med-low overnight). Discard everything, skim off the fat, then freeze in quart-sized ziploc bags.