Guest post from Katie of Kitchen Stewardship
There’s no arguing with the fact that a whole chicken is just about the most frugal meat you can buy. But is it a waste to pay for all those bones?
Won’t your family eat more meat if you serve a whole chicken than if you serve a casserole with a few cut-up chicken breasts? Plus, how often can you serve roast chicken? You’d get tired of it once a week. Right?
Actually, I respectfully disagree. I think a whole chicken is the best meat purchase there is, even if it’s not on sale (gasp!).
Keep reading to learn how I get three meals plus leftovers plus ingredients for even more meals, all from one chicken – and I’m not going to roast it at all.
Meal #1: Chicken & Veggie Stir Fry
I’m no butcher, and I’ve never learned the trick of cutting up a whole chicken into chicken parts. All those bones!
But I do “harvest” the meat from my whole birds sometimes. I use kitchen scissors and hack away at the breast, snipping out bite-sized pieces that are perfect for a stir fry or pasta dish. It’s not pretty – don’t worry, I’m not including photos – but it works, and it doesn’t take all that long because I’m not seeking perfection. I just get some meat out for dinner number one.
It’s titled “Veggie & Chicken Stir Fry” because I don’t have a whole chicken breast for each person, so I make sure I’ve got lots of nourishing vegetables to round out the meal, and some cooked brown rice to go with it.
I always used to follow a recipe when I made stir fry, but now I just follow a pattern:
1. Cook chicken in a little bit of sesame or olive oil over medium-low heat until no pink is left in the center. Season it while stir frying with salt, pepper, and spices that sound good that day. I love to mix up ginger, cumin, sometimes curry and often a dash of cayenne. Sometimes I just use simple Italian seasoning and garlic powder.
2. Remove the chicken to a plate – you don’t want it to get tough.
3. Add veggies, starting with the ones that take longest to cook and cutting the others while the first ones are in the pan: onions and bell peppers, then carrots and broccoli stems, then pea pods and broccoli tops. If I have zucchini or some greens, like spinach or kale, those go in near the end. A stir fry is a great way to use up the veggies that are about to go bad in your crisper drawer, so it’s a money-saving meal because you don’t throw the money you already spent on groceries into the garbage.
4. Season the veggies in the same way as the chicken, then add the chicken back in to heat it up for the last few minutes.
5. Serve over rice with a soy sauce (I buy ones that don’t have any high fructose corn syrup in them).
Meal #2: Chicken Rice Soup
After I “harvest” that bit of breast meat, I put the rest of the whole chicken into a big old pot, cover it with cold water and a little vinegar, and let it sit for an hour. Then I bring it to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook it all night long on low.
After lunch, I’ll add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic for another hour to finish off the homemade bone broth, and for dinner that night, we’ll have a simple chicken rice soup – in the same pot the stock was just in, because I hate doing dishes!
We usually end up using about half the broth and two cups of chicken, which leaves me with 4-8 cups more broth to stock my freezer and at least another two cups chicken for the next night’s meal.
Meal #3: Chicken with Rice and Green Beans
This dish is a new family favorite that couldn’t be simpler.
I reverse engineered it from a casserole recipe that called for chicken breasts, onion soup mix, instant rice, and lots of butter. I kept the butter and ditched everything else, remaking the processed part of the meal into a whole foods recipe that I feel great about putting on the table.
Because I know my weekly menu plan in advance, I would have made a double batch of rice with the stir fry two nights ago. And since there’s already cooked chicken from the stock-making endeavor in the fridge, I can put together this recipe in less than half an hour, with only 5-10 minutes active work time!
Recipe for Chicken with Rice and Green Beans
from Better Than a Box
- 1 stick butter
- 2 medium onions, chopped (about 1-1 ½ cup)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- ¼ teaspoon celery salt (or seed)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 cup fresh green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces (about ¾-1 pound), or 2 cups frozen green beans
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 3-4 cups cooked brown rice
- 1 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, whatever you have on hand, optional)
In a cast iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed pot, melt one stick of butter. Sauté the onions over medium to medium-high heat until translucent, at least 10 minutes. This browning step is what will add much of the flavor, so if you have time to cook them 20 minutes, it’s worth the wait. Feel free to cover them to speed the process along.
Add green beans and stir to saute them lightly. Add the garlic, salt, pepper and all the other seasoning to the onions and green beans. Stir around for a minute or two to release the aromas of the herbs, then add the cooked rice and cooked chicken plus optional cheese.
Stir and cook over medium low to heat through, and serve immediately.
Three frugal, simple meals, all from one whole chicken.
If I’m lucky, I might even have another cup or two of chicken to freeze for the future, and remember I already have a few jars of stock ready for another meal.
The best part is yet to come: Did you know you can actually reuse the chicken bones for another batch of stock, and even a third? You should be able to get at least a half gallon of “seconds” broth which is great for white chicken chili, stir fry sauces, and other uses where the broth doesn’t have to be the spotlight, and the “thirds” work for cooking rice, adding to spicy chili, and mixing with “firsts” for any soup.
Katie Kimball is a mother of three from Michigan who spends a ton of time in the kitchen making real food with whole ingredients and then blogs about her successes and failures at Kitchen Stewardship.