Thursday, 29 December 2011

Getting the Most From Your Roast Chicken

I have long bleated on, to anyone who will listen, about how one roast chicken can see you through at least 4 family meals. I was horrifed, when I watched the Chicken Out programme a few years ago and saw Hayley dishing up what looked like half a chicken for each person for their Sunday lunch. Watching her telling Hugh how she could buy 2 supermarket chickens for £5, I made the decision there and then to buy higher welfare (and therefore more expensive) meat and just make it go further.

And go further, it does. When I think back to when I used to buy the standard supermarket chickens, I sometimes found a lot of mysterious water bubbling away in the roasting tin, making the chicken soggy. The meat on the legs wasn't as dark as on the organic chickens we now buy, and looking back, I can see that they lacked so much flavour. The texture of the meat seems different, too. With a good quality chicken, it seems to be more dense, fibrous and you don't need as much of it to make a meal. So it goes much further.

The meals below are based on a large 2.8kg organic, free-range chicken that we roasted and ate for our Christmas dinner. All meals generously fed 2 adults and 2 children; I didn't try to be frugal with it, and could probably have made it go even further if I wanted to. When it's not Christmas, I'll normally buy a 1.4kg chicken and it will still get us through 4 meals - just maybe not as many sandwiches. For that sized chicken, we'll still get the roast, 2 extra dinners and a soup or risotto. The chicken used below cost me £18.

Meal 1: Roast Chicken with all the Trimmings
Christmas dinner, We each ate a generous amount of chicken, alongside roast potatoes, cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon, sprouts (with more bacon), stuffing, vegetables and gravy.




Meal 2: Sandwiches
We used the leftover chicken to make 4 sandwiches - along with any other parts of the roast that were left over, including stuffing and leftover bacon. They were lovely with a sauce - any of the following works well: cranberry sauce/mayonnaise/sweet chilli sauce/mango chutney.





Meal 3: Cold Cuts
This is the Monday night dinner I always ate as a child. The roast meat leftover from Sunday lunch served cold, alongside chips, pickle and salad. We had a good handful of chicken each.





Meal 4: Chicken Curry
The leftover meat was dropped into a pan of curry sauce - I used Patak's special Christmas sauce as it was handy and in the cupboard, but you can use any sauce or make your own. This one tasted fruity and mild - perfect for leftover chicken or turkey. Just cut into cubes, drop it in, give it a stir, and heat it thoroughly. We ate ours with plain, boiled rice.





Meal 5: Risotto
I always keep the bones from a roast chicken (or duck) and boil them to make the most amazing soup or stock. For something most people just throw away, the bones have a huge amount of flavour. I used this, on the final night, to make a tasty, warming risotto.




The Maths:
  • 5 meals x 4 people = 20 servings in total.
  • £18 ÷ 20 servings = 90 pence per serving.
Did I mention that's organic, free-range chicken, as well?

What are your tips for making a roast go further?

4 comments:

  1. I agree that it's far better to get a decent quality bird and stretch it for multiple meals.

    There are just two of us so we can get a genuinely decent bird from Waitrose for under a tenner.

    Meal 1(a) is either roast chicken dinner

    OR

    Meal 1(b) sometimes I'll cook the whole bird in the slow cooker, in water, it's so tender it nearly collapses into pieces as I lift it out, that's quite a job in itsel.

    Advantage of 1(b) is that the liquid is a fabulous stock, usually popped straight into a box for the freezer.

    In both cases, I take the time to really pick the carcass clean of all remaining meat and there's usually a large amount, one generous portion, sometimes two. It's popped into either fridge or freezer for later use.

    The carcass goes into the slow cooker overnight to make stock. To my surprise, even if I originally cooked the whole bird in the slow cooker, the carcass makes JUST as good stock as the roast chicken carcass, so two generous portions of stock from a single small bird!!!

    Meal 2 The stock is great for risotto or as the base for soups - during tomato season, Pete makes a great tomato soup with home grown toms and the home made stock. And a touch of cream for richness. Cheap as chips and bloody gorgeous. Often we add leftover meat into the risotto, double chickeny goodness, so rich and so very very comforting.

    Meal 3 can either be sandwiches, I adore leftover roast chicken sandwiches, or chicken croquettes, I have a recipe on my blog, hang on let me find link, BRB... here it is: http://www.kaveyeats.com/2009/12/nifty-thrifty-chicken-croquettes-from.html

    And if we went for 1(b) we have a second portion of stock to use for another soup or risotto. And sometimes a second portion of chicken meat too.

    This is for a chicken costing less than a tenner, free range, not usually organic.

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  2. Fab stuff Kavey, love the sound of those chicken croquettes and a fantastic idea to cook the chicken in the slow cooker too. Love your ideas, will give them a go next time. And you're right, as long as the chicken is free range (and not necessarily organic), it will be far superior in quality to those ccheap supermarket birds. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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  3. Kavey and Jo - couldn't agree more with you! I get Him Indoors to do the roast chicken, then we remove the leftover cooked chicken for the nutty chicken cool noodle salad recipe by Ching-He Huang, and make stock for risotto or soup for the rest.

    I'd never thought of cooking chicken in a slow cooker (not sure if mine is big enough, but will have a look later!), but sounds like a great idea!

    We once saw a couple on a programme with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall roast a whole chicken only to eat the breasts and then throw all the rest away. Can you imagine?!

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  4. Hi Snigdha, I know that recipe for the cool noodle salad - it's lovely. I take it on picnics with me! I can believe that, about eating just the chicken breast - I've known people to do the same. Just before Christmas I saw a TV programme with a group of women and quite a few of them admitted to throwing away more than half of their turkey!

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