I’m sure a lot of you had a big Easter feast on Sunday and will be living off the leftovers for a few days. I really, really hope you had ham, because next weekend you should try out my roast chicken recipe from my last post. Then your week will be full of delicious leftover transformations again!
I hate wasting food. At the same time, I’m not always in the mood to eat the same thing three days in a row. Unlike pasta or a casserole, a whole chicken has endless possibilities. I’ll show you how I used my leftovers this week, so let’s start where my last post ended.
The bird is broken down into two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks and two wings. Eat your share along with the veggies, get nice and full, lounge around and watch some TV, then when your energy returns, get back into the kitchen. Take whatever wasn’t eaten and start cutting the meat off the bones into strips. Get it in tupperware and into the fridge for tomorrow.
Do not throw away the bones and the rest of the carcass. We bought the whole thing, we cooked the whole thing, we are using the whole thing. Remove whatever was stuffed inside the chicken, put what’s left into your biggest pot and fill it with water until it’s submerged. I’m sure by now you’ve guessed, especially with the feature photo, it’s time to make homemade chicken stock.
This is fun because you can really put whatever your want in the pot to make broth. Essentially you want:
- Vegetables. I used celery and red onion. Usually you would go for a white or yellow onion, but I was all out. Carrot is usually a staple too. But yeah, I was out. I cooked everything for dinner and forgot to leave some for the stock! It didn’t hurt the finished product though.
- Herbs, seasonings, aromatics. I added fresh sprigs of thyme, about a Tbsp of black peppercorns and a half of a bulb of garlic. Don’t forget some salt as well. Rosemary, parsley, oregano, whatever herbs you need to get rid of could be used, just don’t over do it. Stick to one or two, preferably coinciding with what you seasoned your chicken with initially.
- Acid. This will help break down the chicken carcass, as well as brighten up the flavor. I used a whole lemon, sliced in half. You could also use vinegar, whatever you have around. White wine, apple cider, etc.
Place everything you want to add into the water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for at least two hours, stirring occasionally.
Now it’s time to strain it. I personally use this pasta pot with a strainer. I can easily lift out the solids to throw away. Then I take a piece of cheese cloth and attach it to the lid of a plastic quart container with a rubber band. Using a ladle, I carefully pour the stock through the cloth to catch the last of the food particles, leaving a clear, smooth broth in the container. You can store this in the fridge for about 3 days, or the freezer for about 3 months.
So the bones of the chicken have been put to good use and now you have a bunch of shredded chicken in the fridge. Here’s my three favorite ways to use it.
My first dish to recycle the chicken is a salad.
This is a great on-the-go option to take to work. I threw together some chopped romaine, red onion, pickled banana peppers and blue cheese crumbles. Topped with a handful of chicken strips and drizzled with some olive oil or your favorite dressing, this is a quick and beautiful weekday lunch. Of course you don’t have to make it exactly I did, use whatever you like or have on hand.
For a heartier option, maybe for dinner, make some chicken sandwiches. Quickly sauté some chicken in buffalo or barbecue sauce, just to heat it though. Then grab some buns, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ranch, mayo, whatever you like and you’ll have a great meal in a matter of minutes. I wish I had a photo for this, but sometimes you are so ready to eat you forget to take one!
My last idea is great for a lunch at home, and again, it’s quick and easy. Make some quesadillas!
I used a Mexican blend of shredded cheese, fresh chopped jalapeños, red onion, a little fresh chopped cilantro and of course, the chicken. You can chop the chicken more finely if the pieces you have are too big. I like to use two small tortillas rather than fold it over. I put all my ingredients evenly on one, place it in the hot skillet, then top it with the second tortilla. Once the cheese begins to melt, it holds the quesadilla together and makes it easy to flip. I always serve mine with a little sour cream on the side.
All these options have options, how cool is that? Once the chicken is gone, I am always so sad. I want to make another one, because it makes lunch and dinner so easy for the next few days! Like I said in my previous post, a little work on the weekend makes for a few days of 5-10 minute meals. It’s a great way to clear out your fridge and make something delicious at the same time. What are some other fun ways you like to use leftovers?