It's the chicken
Earlier this year I invested in some local, butchered, all-natural chickens. Last weekend I took one out of the freezer, deciding it was time to turn on the oven and try a bird out, especially since the weather is feeling more like fall than summer.
Before my son started eating solid food, a baked chicken at our house could stretch for four meals, keeping my daughter, husband, and I well fed. Now that my 1-year-old has broadened his eating repertoire, I’m lucky if he doesn’t eat half the chicken in the first sitting. Well, actually, things aren’t quite that bad, yet, but he does eat a lot more than the rest of us. Even so, we’re able to easily get about three meals out of a cooked bird.
The first meal, of course, is the baked chicken itself, served with roasted veggies, mashed potatoes, and some sort of salad. The second meal can vary a bit. I pull whatever meat is left off the top of the bird and either make a chicken, vegetable and cheese frittata, or, I make chicken salad. If it’s a biggish bird then I can sometimes make both the frittata and chicken salad, upping the meal tally to three.
The final, fourth (and more) meal use of the baked chicken is soup. I take the carcass and put it in my soup pot, cover it with water, and then bring everything to a boil on my stovetop. I let it simmer for about 30 minutes, then cool down enough for me to handle the contents without burning the tips of my fingers.
First, I remove the carcass from the pot and place it in a bowl. Then I strain off the liquid to ensure there are no little bones floating around in what ends up being chicken broth. Sometimes I use this broth right away for soup the same day, other times I put the liquid in a container and freeze it until I’m ready to use it.
The last step is removing all the remaining meat from the carcass, which can be a slow and tedious job, but if you like chicken and vegetable soup as much as I do, it’s worth it. Finally, if I’m making soup right away, I put the meat back in the soup pot and get ready to cook it up, otherwise it goes in a plastic baggie into the freezer until it’s soup day.
Years back I gave piano lessons to a farming family in northern Wisconsin, and they’d trade pork or chicken for six lessons for their five kids and the dad. One of the things the family introduced me to was using chicken feet to make chicken broth, and I have to say it made the thickest, richest broth I’d ever had on account of the gelatin in the feet. If you ever get the chance, give it a try.
Put the feet in a soup pot, I think I used six at a time, cover them with water and add a chopped onion, two chopped garlic cloves, two chopped stalks of celery and bring it all to a boil. Let it simmer for about 45 minutes until everything is cooked through nicely. Strain the liquid off for soup and discard the rest. It is impressive broth. Trust me!
Claudia Broman lives and writes in Litchfield. Learn more at claudiabroman.com.