Friday, July 24, 2009

1 chicken = 4 meals - part 3

By now the vivid memories of grilling your chicken have faded. Your kids loved the chicken salad sandwiches, and you enjoyed a cool, simple green salad with chicken. Yet your work with this chicken is not quite complete. More flavor awaits in the picked over carcass that is chillaxin' in your freezer.

Homemade chicken stock is a lot less work than most people think. The ingredients are pantry staples and during summer months, the only challenge is keeping your house from heating up like a kiln. My home has very poor air conditioning, so I tend to make huge batches of stock in fall/winter/spring and freeze it for use throughout the year. If that's your preference, keep a large ziplock bag your freezer to collect chicken carcasses over several months.

As with the other posts in this series, the goal is to create something delicious out of very few ingredients. In this case, squeezing several meals out of one chicken. Rather than give you a soup recipe, I'm posting my favorite risotto recipe, which is truly memorable with the addition of homemade chicken stock.

Homemade Chicken Stock
This recipe appears, almost verbatim, in Mario Batali's Molto Italiano cookbook (the best Italian cookbook I've encountered). It yields approximately 8 cups of stock.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • bones, wings, and scraps from 2-3 whole chickens (you could cut this recipe in half if you only have parts from one chicken)
  • 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch parsley stems
  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the chicken parts and brown all over, turning frequently. Transfer the chicken parts to a platter and reserve.
  2. Add the carrots, onions, and celery and cook until softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and add the water, tomato paste, peppercorns, and parsley, and stir to dislodge the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook at a low simmer for 2 hours, or until reduced by half, occasionally skimming the fat.
  3. Remove from the heat and strain into a large bowl, pressing on the solids with the bottom of a ladle to extract all the liquid. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Cover and refrigerate. For longer term storage, pour cooled stock into 1 quart freezer bags. Layer the bags on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer.

Classic Risotto
This recipe is also the work of Mario Batali. There are thousands of risotto recipes you could try, but why waste your time - this one is the best. Serve it with a salad for a light meal, as a smaller first course, or as a creamy bed of starchiness for a fine cut of meat. By the way, this recipe concludes our epic journey into the frugality and allure of whole-chicken cookery. I hope you enjoyed it. And if you've made any of these dishes, please post a comment!

*One recipe will yield about 4 main course portions or 6 first course portions

  • 8 cups chicken stock, heated until hot
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (something you would drink - pinot grigio works well)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or a high quality domestic equivalent, if you're a disciplined locavore)
  • optional: 1 teaspoon saffron threads (for authentic risotto milanese)
  1. If using saffron, add it to the hot stock and stir to infuse.
  2. In a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until toasted and opaque, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the wine, then add a large ladleful of the stock and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed. Continue stirring and adding the stock a ladleful at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed each time before adding more, until the rice is tender and creamy yet still a little al dente, about 20 minutes (you may have a little stock left over).
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and Parmagiano until well mixed. Divide risotto among four warmed plates, and serve with additional Parmagiano.
Photo credit: JaseMan on flickr

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