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March 05, 2009

Happily, even though they've turned the site into a $3/space parking lot, we'll be getting our local farmers' market back at the end of April. And this year, I want to get our occasional chicken from the market, from a farmer I can talk to, maybe the guy who carries a three-ring binder with enlarged photos of his chickens getting pasture time. I definitely want to get more market eggs this year, which is probably going to mean two trips to the market, one for the eggs and one for the usual post-market picnic dinner.

But back to the chicken. Ian is a vegetarian, and while he will eat chicken broth, he doesn't do the meaty bits. I do better if I get some animal protein on a regular basis; we're raising Caitlyn to eat what's available, be that chicken, fish, cheese, beans, or noodles. What I have been doing is getting boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cutting them in half and freezing those. Half a breast cooks to enough meat for 2 chicken salad sandwiches, sometimes two and a half. Sometimes I'll put chicken on the plate for Caitlyn's and my dinner, while Ian gets extra starch and veggies.

I think I can get farmers' market chicken whole or cut up, and I might be able to get less than a whole chicken. But here's what I need to figure out (and this might not be possible until the end of April):
  • If I cook up all the meat at once, will portions freeze and then thaw into edible sandwich makings?
  • If I have to get a full chicken, how do I split it up so that I don't have to cook it all at once?
  • And what do I do with the bones post-cooking to get chicken broth out of them?

Input from more accomplished chicken cookers and eaters welcome!

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:51 PM

    I've been very happy with my chicken cooking exploits. I buy a whole chicken and roast it or boil it. I've been very pleased with the roasting recipe from one of our French cook books: preheat the oven to 425; rub the chicken with butter, olive oil, spices, garlic, salt, and pepper inside and out; truss the chicken; place the chicken on its side in the roasting pan for 20 in the oven; turn it onto its other side for another 20 minutes cooking; then turn the chicken breast side up and roast for another 20-30 min. Let the chicken rest 15 minutes before carving. If I boil it, I make chicken soup with the whole chicken plus vegetables (usually in the pressure cooker). When the soup is ready I take out the chicken, and cut off meat to go in the bowls. Either way, once the chicken is cool I cut and pick all the meat off and put it in one container, and put all the bones and skin in a ziplock bag, which I put in the freezer. We are usually able to eat one chicken in one week, but if I don't think we'll be able to eat all the cooked meat I'll freeze the extra. The frozen cooked meat is fine, though I usually put it in soup or sauce - something hydrating because it can get a bit dry. Once I have a carcass or two, I make stock by boiling the bones, skin, etc. with onions, leeks, carrots, celery, etc. and salt for as long as I have the patience. I'll often under salt the stock compared to how I'd like my soup to taste, and make up the difference with miso or salty cheese at serving. I like freezing the stock (which I generally strain, while it is still hot because it turns to jelly when cool) in different sized containers, including icecube trays (store them in a ziplock bag after they've frozen). One chicken a month is usually a good amount for us - that's about how long it takes us to use up all our stock and need to start the process over again.
    - Celeste

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  2. Anonymous11:26 PM

    We typically buy a whole chicken. I have three people eating the meat. The chicken is roasted with little fanfare and we eat a formal meal of roast chicken, vegetables, bread, etc on night one.

    The second day I remove a lot of the meat from the carcass and either turn it into something else (chicken salad for lunches, chicken pot pie for dinner...).

    After this the carcass is destined to become broth. If I'm short on time (or gagging and nauseated from morning sickness....), I often just bag it and freeze it for a later date. The carcass goes into a large pot and I cover it with water, then cover the pot and simmer for as long as I can stand it- typically 2-4 hours. I then pull out the strainer and pour the contents of the stock pot through the strainer and into another pot. The bones/tendon/cartilage are now spent. Any meat remaining is pretty waterlogged and sparse since I have picked over the carcass well already. I personally prefer not to pick through vertebrae looking for morsels of meat. I may run the broth through another finer mesh strainer at this point, then boil down or season the broth as needed.

    I freeze broth- currently in plastic, but moving toward glass jars. I tend to need ~4c per recipe, so I freeze it in that volume, but an alternative would be to freeze the broth in ice cube trays, then transfer the frozen cubes to containers for easier portioning.

    I'm trying out a recipe that will involve individual chicken pot pies (if successful, will be useful for after this baby arrives and I need easy but nutritious food) that promises to not leave weird textured meat in the final reheated product. I'll let you know how that experiment works out. For the time being, we're eating an entire 3-4lb bird in a week, generally purchasing one bird a month. Stokesberry definitely has smaller birds sometimes (under 3lbs), but I have a routine down for 3-4lbs and haven't deviated.

    --Erin

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