Thursday, February 20, 2014

Let's Talk Turkey...I Mean, Chicken

When I was a child and I heard the adults in my life say, "OK, let's talk turkey!" I knew a serious conversation was about to start. Well, today I want to take a serious look at chicken.

For my own family, I prepare organic chicken. As a former long time vegetarian, I made a deal with my husband that if we were going to be omnivores we could only consume the very best, cleanest meat possible. That means no antibiotics, vegetarian fed, grass fed, local, free roaming…you get the picture. Well, has anyone noticed the price of an organic chicken these days? Sheesh! Let me rephrase, who hasn't noticed the rising price of organic chicken, for that matter everything in the markets, recently?

The way I've been able to manage my standard and still be able to turn the lights on is really a matter of making things stretch. Simply put, the meat portion of any meal has become more of a side. When I make chicken, I can make it last for at least two meals, usually more. I’ll show you how I pull that off.

First, I only buy whole chickens. That way, I can see the whole bird and know that it didn't have any "issues" prior. Buying a cut up chicken might mean that you’re getting pieces from several birds, if you get what I mean. Then, I get it home and I wash it. I know many of you might think this is unnecessary and maybe even unhealthy, but if it was good enough for Julia Child, then it’s good enough for me. I once watched an episode on PBS where Jacques Pepin and Julia Child argued, however mildly, about this washing practice. He said no, she said yes. It makes me feel better to rinse it, but I'm always sure to clean the kitchen sink and the areas around it immediately so as to eliminate any cross contamination.

Next, I think about the week's menu. I want to provide some variety, so I plan dishes that involve chicken but come from different cultures. For example, this week, it's Chicken Tortilla Soup with Homemade Tortilla Chips, and Chicken Pot Pie. This lets me know how to season the chicken before I put it in the oven to bake. I almost always stuff it with fresh lemon, which makes it smell fresh and adds great flavor, and then I add some herbs. This week I used lemon, thyme, whole peppercorn, and garlic. I'm using most of the white meat for the soup and the rest of the bird for the pie. Both of these dishes will be heavy on the veggies and the meat will be there to add to the flavor and texture, too. I cook the whole chicken at 425° F for 15 minutes, then I reduce the heat to 350° F until the bird reaches a safe interior temperature of 165° F.

Here's an added idea for the dog owners in the readership. After I've stripped the bird of the meat, I throw it in a large pot. Next, I fill the pot with cold water and bring it to a rapid boil, then I let it simmer for an hour or two. I remove the bones from the broth to fill glass jars. I let the broth cool before I refrigerate. This is what we pour over our dog's dry food at meal time. Our vet has commented on how healthy our pooch is over and over again. I believe this is, in large part, because of the broth he regularly gets. Plus, it really improves his quality of life; he really enjoys his meals!

So, that's quite a lot of good food for one chicken, don't you think?

Recipes will follow….

No comments:

Post a Comment