How I cooked: a whole chicken (and got four meals out of it).

This week, I am starting a new, informal series on this blog to sometimes share with you how I actually, in real time, use my market goodies in a given week. To start, I’ll share how I cooked a lovely, whole chicken. 

It was a really busy week for my husband and me, so I utilized my slow cooker. If you’re strapped for time, this can be a good way to make simple, wholesome food attainable on a weekday. To start, I placed the whole chicken in the slow cooker, and added 1.5 c. of water. I set the cooker to low and let it go for about 8 hours. To test the chicken for doneness, take a small, sharp knife, and pierce one of the chicken thighs. If the juice runs clear, the chicken is cooked. 

Meal number one: I removed the chicken from the slow cooker (big forks like these are handy!) and removed the meat from the frame. After several hours in the slow cooker, the meat will be very tender and falling off the bone, so this step should be easy. I served some of the chicken with veggie fritters for dinner. I stored the leftover chicken in the fridge.

There were plenty of meat juices still in the slow cooker, which makes a great start for chicken stock. I added the chicken frame back to the slow cooker, tossed in a couple of quartered onions (leave the skins on for added flavor!), a couple of teaspoons of peppercorn and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (this helps to pull the nutrients out of the bones). I covered the frame with water and set the cooker to low again, leaving it overnight. 

The following morning, I strained the finished chicken broth into a large, glass container, reserving the chicken frame. In the container, while the broth was hot from the slow cooker, I tossed in some coarsely chopped ginger (two thumb-size pieces) and 4-5 chopped garlic cloves, as well as a sliced piece of lemongrass. (Use slices of lemon peel if you can’t find fresh lemongrass.) I left the broth on the counter to cool down while I got ready for work, then stuck it in the fridge. I put the reserved chicken frame back into the slow cooker, added a smoked ham hock, another onion and more water to cover, then let it cook on low while I was at work.

Meal number two: When I returned home from work,  I poured the broth (including the garlic, ginger and lemon grass) into a stock pot. I added in some soy sauce to taste, and while the broth came to a simmer, I roughly chopped some cabbage. I tasted the broth and adjusted the seasonings, deciding to add in some hot sauce to liven it up, then I stirred in some of the leftover chicken from meal number one. After five minutes, I stirred in the cabbage and cooked it until the leaves were slightly wilted and then ribs of the cabbage were tender crisp. I served this with some steamed brown rice and some shredded carrots (you can use the rough side of a box grater or the shredding blade of a food processor) and dressed with a few splashes of rice wine vinegar and some sesame oil. There were plenty of leftovers after my husband and I had eaten all that we wanted, so I stirred the extra rice into the remaining soup and froze it for an easy weekend meal. 

After meal number two, I strained the second batch of broth into a few glass canning jars, and reserved the ham hock. When the broth had cooled I put it in the refrigerator. 

Meal number three: When I got home the following day, I poured all but five cups of the broth that I had made (this worked out to be roughly three quarts) into a large, heavy-bottom stock pot. While I brought the broth to a simmer, I diced an onion and some garlic, and cooked those in a pan with a little bit of oil to soften. Meanwhile, I took a large bunch of greens and stemmed it. I sliced the stems thinly and added these to the onions and garlic to soften. Then I cut the leaves into wide, short ribbons. As an after thought, I decided to make some dumplings (I had just gotten home from spin class and I could tell a low-carb meal wasn’t going to do it for me). To do this, I mixed 1.5 c. of Sonrisa whole wheat flour with half a teaspoon each of baking powder and salt, then with my hands,  mixed in 3 T. of softened butter. I added equal amounts of the reserved chicken broth and buttermilk until the mixture held together and was just the littlest bit sticky–approximately the texture of biscuit dough. I turned the dough into dumplings by pinching off tablespoon-size bits of dough and rolling them between my hands. I added the dumplings to the simmering broth and cooked, covered, for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, I added some of my leftover chicken, the pork from the ham hock and the chopped greens to the skillet with the onions and cooked until the greens were just wilted. I added the contents of the skillet to the stock pot, tasted the broth and adjusted the seasonings, then served big steamy bowls of the soup as a one-dish meal. I decided the leftovers wouldn’t freeze well, so I packed the soup into four canning jars for grab and go lunches when we need them over the next week. I froze the leftover broth. 

Meal number four: There was still a decent amount of chicken left–enough for a generous meal for two, at least, so I made chicken salad with it, and we had open faced sandwiches with some butternut squash soup (courtesy of the leftovers in my freezer).

So that was this week. And while I said I got four meals out of the chicken, I actually got more, because my family of two had leftovers, meaning work lunches and a big pot of comforting chicken soup that we can enjoy this weekend. What did you do with your market groceries this week?