Saturday, November 03, 2018
Living the Pantry Lifestyle - In Praise of Whole Chickens
Yesterday was my monthly stock up day at Meijers and Aldis. There were some seasonal changes in both, the best change being that Aldis is once again carrying the Kerrygold cheese in the smaller packages. Although they have the salted butter all year (at the best price in town), they only sell the cheese in colder months.
The Blarney Castle (Edam style) cheese is our favorite. I bought one less package of their organic grass fed ground beef (also the best price in town) to be able to purchase three packages of the cheese. The cheese along with some crackers and a sliced apple or clementines makes a perfect quick lunch or dinner. Not to mention picnic if you are in a warmer climate.
That was another seasonal change, the clementines are back in stock! I expect to see Meyer Lemons soon, too. I stopped buying both when they were obviously no longer in season last Spring.
Meijers now has the Christmas season Mrs. Meijers scents available. Once again this year, they have Pine, Orange Clove, and Peppermint. I purchased a dish soap in the Pine scent and the Orange Clove scent since dish soap is the first to sell out in seasonal scents. Since I do a lot of dishes by hand, they are a frugal luxury that makes a boring job enjoyable.
Meijers had an unadvertised sale on their whole chickens (or at least I didn't see it advertised) for only 59 cents a pound. That is 1990s prices! I bought four to put in the deep freeze, choosing the four largest packages by weight that they had available.
My mother always bought whole chickens. She was just glad that she didn't have to kill them and clean them herself! I'm not as good as her at cutting a whole chicken into pieces, she had done that for decades and could do it quickly. You could buy a chicken already cut up in a package but the pieces were all from the same chicken.
As an aside... unless you are around my age or older, you probably don't remember when there was no such thing as deboned chicken breasts available at the store. I can remember the first time I heard about them on the old Bob Braun show that came out of Cincinnati (that is also where I used to watch Beverly Nye share recipes), probably in my late teens.
I roast the whole chicken with an onion in the cavity and either butter or canola oil rubbed into the skin. I don't use olive oil since the carcass will become soup and I don't like the flavor of olive oil in my chicken soup. Tried that only once.
If I have time, I prefer cutting up the chicken spatchcock style. It is easy to take the backbone out (roasting it in the roasting pan along with the rest of the chicken for soup stock), it cuts down the roasting time, and it makes for crispy skin all over the chicken. Otherwise, I just roast the chicken whole.
I use a digital kitchen thermometer to check for doneness with any meat I cook these days. It is one of those items that once you use it, you wonder how you did without it all those years. Thankfully, the price came down a few years ago to make it easy for home cooks to afford. I recently had to replace my old digital thermometer when the sensor failed after using it a few years.
I also have switched to using kitchen shears for cutting up a raw chicken for spatchcock roasting. I used to use my trusty chef's knife but the shears are less slippery when using them with raw chicken and I prefer the only protein to be sliced is the bird and not my hand.
Once the roasted chicken has been enjoyed for a meal, I cut off all the leftover white meat and some of the dark meat and place the chicken into a dutch oven or small stockpot, along with the whole onion that was roasted in the cavity of the bird, and cover it with water. It then goes in the frig to wait to be simmered into stock the next day, with some celery and peppercorns added for flavor. (I learned long ago to not add salt until it has simmered awhile or the stock will be too salty.)
Sometimes I add dried thin noodles for chicken noodle soup, sometimes I add orzo and lemon for Greek chicken orzo soup, other times I add root veggies for a winter chicken veggie soup, and there are other options from time to time like making chicken and noodles to serve over mashed potatoes Midwestern style.
Even when whole chickens are not on sale, they are often the least expensive protein available at the supermarket. Sometimes chicken legs are very inexpensive and they make a rich chicken stock. Wings make a good stock, too, but they are no longer on sale... at least not enough to be used for soup.
I do sometimes buy a package of chicken thighs when they are on sale. I pour half a jar of Aldi's Tikka Masala sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish and carefully place six chicken thighs on the sauce, trying to keep the skin clean of sauce (no more as my husband hates dark meat chicken in general and Indian food specifically).
A whole jar can also be used, otherwise I put the rest of the jar in the refrigerator for another use. Carefully put the casserole dish in a 375 degree oven and bake until the chicken skin is brown(ish). I serve it with brown rice but it can be served with Naan bread. This is the dish that gives me an Indian food fix at a good price.
Happy cold weather cooking (unless you are one of our warm weather friends). ;)
Mentioned in this Blog Post
Digital Meat Thermometer... here. (I recently switched to this brand since my old brand was no longer available.)
Kitchen shears, two good brands are here and here. They are slightly different in style.
How to Spatchcock a Chicken... here. There are lots of other web pages if you search spatchcock chicken.
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Image: Three Hens With Coop