The top side benefit in the kitchen

April 12, 2015

Similar to above illustration. I didn't take a pic, but this is what it looked like.

Similar to above illustration. I didn’t take a pic, but this is what it looked like.

I cooked a chicken today.

Actually, I spatchcocked and roasted a chicken today, then picked a good portion of the meat off the bones and made chicken alfredo with the bigger part of it,while saving one breast and maybe a third of the other for a yet-to-be-determined use. And then I used the skin and carcass to make 12 pints of chicken broth, which will shortly go into thse freezer, to find their way into soups and sauces and such over the ensuing weeks.

About 80 percent of the chickens I buy whole get roasted. I like a roast chicken, by itself, as the entree for dinner, and it lends itself to so many other good preparations. You can use it on a salad, put it in a sauce to go over some kind of starch, mix it with a binder and seasonings and fry it as a fritter, or mix it with a different kind of binder and accoutrements and make chicken salad. You can put it in soup, you can put it it tacos or nachos or enchiladas. My imagination stops short of putting it in dessert.

Future meals, right here.

Future meals, right here.

Anyway, I roasted this chicken, the second of my farm-grown birds from down the road. When I roast a bird, unless I have some specific reason for leaving him whole, like I’m going to stuff him or something,  I like to spatchcock him. He cooks faster, and more evenly, and you don’t get any of those troublesome underdone spots near the bones in the thighs. Plus, it’s easier to wash out the cavity. I’m kinda squicky about that.

To spatchcock a chicken, you need two things: A pretty sharp knife, and a good, sturdy pair of kitchen shears.

Lay the bird breast-side down on your cutting board. With your sharp knife, cut down the backbone, making a single cut through the skin. You can’t go very deep.

Then come back and follow that same line, tilting your knife blade slightly, and cut a little bit of meat and skin away from the ribs where they join the backbone. Do this on each side. You don’t have to go far — a quarter to a half an inch. Down toward the nether end of the bird, you will come to an area where the backbone ends; cut all the way through there, down to the end of the flesh. Then lay your knife down and take up your shears.

Following the line of your first cuts, shear your way up through the ribs to the neck opening, and you have the backbone detached from one side of the bird. Repeat for the other side, and chunk the backbone (or save it for stock).

Now take the backless bird in both hands, your thumbs inside the body cavity via the newly opened back. Hold him up toward his upper end, force him open like a book until you break the ribs away from the breastbone/cartilage. He’ll flatten out, well, like a book.

(Aside: This is the first day of National Library Week. I love me a library. Grew up in the one in my home town, where I read my way through the kids’ section before I hit double digits, and moved over to the adult section. The librarian called my mama and asked if there was anything she’d prefer I didn’t read. Mama told her she figured I was smart enough to ask about anything I questioned or didn’t understand. She was right. And I still love a library to this day.)

Once said bird is flattened out, you can wash his insides out good, then pat him dry on both sides with paper towels, season the inside with your seasoning blend of choice, and put him inside-down on a rack in a foil-lined roasting pan. (I line everything with foil. I don’t like cleaning so well but what I’ll do what I can to lessen the chore.) Rub his skin with a nice coating of olive oil, and then sprinkle the same seasonings on the skin as well.

Into the oven he goes, about 400 for about an hour, maybe a little less, until a meat thermometer inserted in his thigh says 160. Take him out and let him sit.

In my case, “let him sit” lasted until after church, when I came home to a cooled chicken which is much easier to pick and shred than is a hot one or a refrigerated one.  I divided the meat as aforementioned, and commenced to cook up my Alfredo sauce.

Confession: I will be 60 in June, if the Lord lets me live that long, and I have never made homemade Alfredo sauce. I don’t know why — it’s tremendously  easy, at least via this recipe from Serious Eats.

You melt 1/3 cup of butter in a sizeable saucepan over medium low heat. To it you add a cup and a half of milk, an 8-0z block of cream cheese, 8 oz of sour cream, a half-cup of grated Parmigiano, and a teaspoon of garlic powder. You heat that, whisking it fairly steadily after the cheese begins to melt, but don’t let it boil. When it’s smooth, take it off the heat and fold in your chicken (I used probably a pound and a quarter, shredded) and two tablespoons of parsley. (Full disclosure: I forgot the parsley. Sue me.)

Cook your pasta, if you haven’t  already. Drain it in a colander. Now, here is where the recipe and I differ.It calls for dishing up the pasta, topping with sauce, and then topping with grilled chicken breast cut into strips. As previously mentioned, I stirred my shredded chicken into the sauce because, well, I like it that way. And then I dumped the drained pasta back in the pot, poured the sauce over it, and tossed it until it was well coated.

I hope it freezes well, because I’ve got three decent sized containers of leftovers in the freezer as we speak. It was good. Maybe not Sweet Baby Jesus good, but good enough not to quibble about.

You do not have photos because what it is NOT is photogenic. It’s very….white. Particularly when you forget the parsley and then serve it on a white plate.

But then, you get into the side benefits.

You take the carcass, the backbone and wing tips, if you saved them, and the skin, and you put it in a big pot. If you have a pot with a strainer basket, use that. Add to it an onion, quartered, and a half-dozen cloves of garlic. Put it on to boil, cut it back to a simmer, and let it go an hour or so. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Take out the strainer basket full of solids and toss them, then package up your chicken stock for future use. I put mine in plastic cartons and freeze them. I have friends who can theirs. Depends on what your storage situation looks like.

This is so many orders of magnitude better than grocery store chicken stock that I can’t even start to describe it. For starters, you can avoid salt as much as you want/need to avoid salt. You can season your chicken with a salt-free seasoning blend, and season your stock not at all. It has all the flavor of your good, farm-raised chicken and your onion and your garlic and whatever else you’ve decided to season it with  (I tend to stop with those, so it’s versatile enough I can use it in most anything, and add additional seasonings later). It’s the base of approximately a bajillion soups and stocks, and I have gotten to the point where I about panic if my stock stash gets down pretty low.

So let’s see. I’ve cooked for the fam, put up three future dinners of leftovers, got enough chicken left over for another use that’ll probably make another two meals for two of us, and a dozen pints of stock. Yeah, I’d say I got my money’s worth out of that $12 bird.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em do this. It’s plumb….sustainable.

 

 

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