Tuesday, 2 February 2016

One little chicken can go a long way - getting 6 meals from your chicken

Streamvale Farm 06/06/2009
In the UK we probably eat more chicken than any other meat. It’s so easy - because it’s quite bland - you can add any combination of flavours and it’s going to work. Chicken welfare has been represented in the media A LOT in recent years, and great progress has been made, it’s certainly made chicken more expensive.  

That's not intended as a complaint, I’m a conservationist at my core - but I’m also a poor person. Don’t get me wrong, My other half and I live very comfortably, but we have never had any money, the recession hit just around the time that we finished University and we have both had periods of unemployment and a string of TERRIBLE jobs to get to this point.  If we hadn't had such supportive families, I don't know that we would have a thing to our names.

Buying pre-flavoured chicken pieces is one of the most expensive ways to buy chicken. Buying chicken breasts only slightly less so, but that seems to be the most popular option. At time of writing, chicken breasts are approximately £1.35 each in my local supermarket (by no means the most expensive). If we have one each, dinner is £2.70 and we’re on 1 ingredient so far. Surely the news is out that it’s much more cost-effective to purchase a whole bird?

I am a BIG Jamie Oliver fan. I literally have almost ALL his books.  In fact i have more cookery books than it’s probably possible to justify. Especially - pay attention now, this is a BIG secret - you really don't need to buy cookery books any more. I am completely serious. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still nice to have a book in your hand, particularly when you’re trying to follow a recipe, but you now have access to EVERYTHING on the internet, whatever you're looking for is on Pinterest or Youtube. This clip is a perfect example - Jamie is going to demonstrate for us how to joint a chicken - with about 8 slices of the knife - this is a FREE resource, it’s on the internet, available to all. At home there are currently only the 2 of us (and a cat) and - NO JOKE - i can get between 4 and 6 meals out of 1 chicken for each of us.

Jamie lists additional tips here - which I use also with a few variations, so pay attention!  

There are a few things I would change; most recipes for chicken wings will tell you to remove the wing tips - they may or may not tell you to reserve these for making stock - but they are the actual best bit for making stock.  If you aren’t a fan of a crunchy wing tip, make sure that you reserve these parts. Not everyone agrees - see this recipe from Saveur which claims they are the best bit!  

I find it easiest to put a large saucepan on the stove while I joint up my chicken, and ALL of the discarded parts go straight in. This means that the stock get made at the same time as whatever I’m making for dinner, by the time we have finished eating the stock will be ready to be strained and refrigerated ready of another multitude of recipes.  I also remove the knuckle joint from the bottom of the drumstick - you can’t eat it, and it doesn’t add anything unless you are actually making drumsticks and need something to hold on to. Just bend the joint back on itself and cut through the space (similar to how Jamie separated the thigh and drumstick) and in the stock pot it goes.  If you are dieting watching your calorie intake, take the skin off the thighs; breasts and drumsticks and add it to the stockpot too. I’ll do another post all about stock a little later.

Now you have your jointed chicken parts - 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings and 2 drumsticks. Truly it doesn't look like a huge amount - but it's certainly more than a couple of chicken breasts in a nasty plastic tray - and I make mine work for me!  
A note of caution. More and more we are hearing that a mainly plant based diet is the healthiest option and that we should reduce our meat consumption. The European Food Information Council states that we only need to eat meat a couple of times a week.  We struggle with this at home, and there have been many ‘vegetarian’ meals prepared in this house that have reached the table with a last-minute garnish of bacon #shame. We are determined this year to eat less meat and more vegetables and fruit, and if you can get your head around that, then your meat is immediately going to go a LOT further. See this article on Chicken Dump Recipes from The Chaos and the Clutter.com.

As a general rule I use my thighs and drumsticks first, to make something that will do for 2 or 3 meals - curry, pie and various casseroles. As per Jamie’s instructions my chicken wings (with or without tips) go straight into a bag in the freezer until there are enough for a meal. We tend to find that the chicken breasts that come off a whole carcass are bigger than the ones that come in the plastic tray from the supermarket - so it’s possible to feed 2 people on 1 breast. Depending on what I have planned for the week (and how fresh my chicken is) they will be refrigerated or frozen with grease proof or parchment paper to separate, or diced and placed in portion bags with flavouring and refrigerated or frozen for another night. To make a single breast stretch a little further, dice the pieces slightly smaller than you normally would - these are great for stir-fries and casseroles.

So that’s 1 stock; 2 chicken wings; 3 breast; 4 the other breast; 5, 6 and possibly 7- whatever dish I made with the thighs and drumsticks. I realise that this is already a VERY LONG post, so ill leave you with 1 example of what to do with your thighs and drumsticks - Nigel Slater’s chicken and leek pillow pie.

There are a million variations on this theme, and you may think a pie would be a huge hassle to make, but it’s a piece of cake. truly, you don’t even have to make your own pastry. We get 6 portions from our pillow pies - dinner the night it’s made, dinner another night and a lunch each. And so far you have only used 2 thighs and 2 drumsticks. Kitchen magic!

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