Wednesday, July 22, 2009

1 chicken = 4 meals - part two

So let's say you've just finished eating a whole grilled chicken. Basking in the glow of your satiated friends, and a couple bottles of Portuguese Alentejo red, don't forget that your work with this chicken is not yet complete. Rather than throw that gnarly-looking carcass in the garbage, wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator for use in one of the following two recipes. Even though you've removed the breasts and legs, that carcass contains a lot of small, tasty morsels of chicken that work perfectly in other dishes. The wings work particularly well for this, if you didn't eat them when the chicken was grilled.

There are certainly more than two ways to incorporate leftover chicken into another meal, but these two recipes are my favorites, are very easy to make (they use kitchen staples), and really showcase the great flavor of grilled chicken.

It requires a bit of time and patience to scrape every bit of chicken from the bones, but it's well worth the effort. Using your perfectly clean hands, pull every visible piece of meat off of the carcass and wing bones. As you pick it clean, make sure you do not include any cartilage, bone fragments, or other tough bits, as they are quite offensive in the mouth. Reserve the stripped carcass and any loose bones. Meal #4 in this series is a risotto made with homemade chicken stock, so unless you're going to use them immediately, put the bones in a freezer bag and save for a rainy day.

Meal #2: Chicken Salad Sandwiches
The individual amounts of each ingredient varies widely, depending on how much chicken you have. Fortunately, it's easy to make these according to your tastes, so combine ingredients incrementally, to make sure it has the right flavors and consistency.


  • leftover grilled chicken, chopped into small pieces
  • high quality mayonnaise (if you don't make your own, try Mrs. Clarks, from Iowa)
  • minced onion or scallions
  • Dijon-style mustard
  • fresh herbs (basil, thyme, parsley, etc.)
  • anything else you like (walnuts, anchovies, olives, capers, cornichons, etc.)
  • salt and pepper
  • lettuce leaves
  • bread slices
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix lightly to combine. Be careful not to add too much mayo and mustard too soon, as it will overpower the chicken. The result should be lightly dressed, yet stick together in a spoon.

Meal #3: Green Salad with Chicken
This is a great all purpose salad recipe, that can serve as the basis for many composed dinner salads, including the reknowned salade nicoise.

  • leftover chicken, chopped into small pieces
  • fresh field greens or lettuces
  • parmesan shavings (use a vegetable peeler)
  • walnuts
  • olive oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  1. Make the vinegrette dressing. The exact proportion of vinegar to oil varies according to the type of vinegar used, and your own palate, but a general rule is 2 parts vinegar to 1 part oil. Smash the garlic clove with your hand or a chef's knife and place in a small cup/bowl. Add a small amount of red wine vinegar and set aside for 15-30 minutes. Then add 1 teaspoon mustard and whisk vigorously. Then slowly drizzle olive oil into vinegar (while whisking quickly) until desired consistence/taste is achieved. Set aside. (Note: you may need to increase the amounts if you're planning to server this salad to more than just a few people).
  2. Dress the salad. Tear greens into small pieces and place into a large salad bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the greens and toss with salad tongs. Taste some of salad to determine how much more dressing you'll need. An overdressed salad can be soggy and overly acidic, so it helps to add the dressing in two rounds.
  3. Pile the dressed greens on plates, and top with chicken, nuts, and parmesan shavings. Grind some pepper and sea salt over the finished salad. Serve with some big hunks of crusty bread for a filling weeknight meal or leisurely weekend lunch.
These recipes are a gateway to stress-free, simple meals that hardly require a recipe or a lot of time. Make them once and you can throw this blog post away forever (but forward it to a friend first). These meals emphasize my approach to cooking for a busy family (mine) - repurposing the leftovers from previous meals by simply adding a few quality ingredients found in most kitchens. The trick is to buy the best ingredients you can afford, as such simple meals will not hide the blandness of industrial chicken or junky vinegar.

Photo credit: protohiro on flickr

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