Welcome to Part 3 of the Circle of Chicken, in which we take one $5 whole chicken and create the basis for 16+ miraculous meals–reducing waste (and therefore saving money), eating well, and taking the opportunity to get creative!
If you’re just joining us, make sure to check out Part 1: Perfect Roast Chicken, and Part 2: Golden Chicken Broth of Happiness. In Part 3, we explore what to do with that 2 cups or so of leftover chicken you pulled from the bones of your roast chicken.
Too many times I’ve wasted food simply by not being organized, or not having a good recipe queued up–thereby depriving myself of some awesome meals, and then feeling like a jerk because I had to throw away spoiled food. Never again! By keeping these recipes on hand (or curating a couple of recipes you love), you can take full advantage of your raw materials and enjoy some truly delicious eats.
So the first question you need to ask yourself is, how many meals do you want to make from these 2 cups of leftover chicken? I used to get excited about making huge dishes from my leftovers–stretching them to their limit, how productive!–until I realized I’d just made a hell of a lot of extra leftovers. So I have two go-to recipes: one, for when I’m just cooking for a few people, and another, for when I need to feed a crowd.
The smaller recipe is one I really love: Chicken Hash, adapted from Southern Living magazine. This is a perfect example of how great-quality ingredients can make a simple meal sublime. Making use of your chicken, some of your broth, and fresh herbs, this is fantastic comfort food. I’ve cut the original recipe in half, simply because I usually only have about 2 cups of chicken left over–if you have more, visit Southern Living for the full deal.
Chicken Hash With Rice
Makes 4 servings
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
2 cups chopped chicken
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I’ve used basil, tarragon, parsley, or a combination)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup long-grain white rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place 2 cups of chicken broth in a saucepan with the rice and stir. Bring to a boil, cover, turn the heat to low, and let simmer for 15 minutes. When done, fluff with a fork and add salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth. Increase heat to high, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in the chicken, fresh herbs, and lemon juice. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve immediately over the rice.
Note About Fresh Herbs: In the winter, I’ve taken to purchasing “Poultry” or “Pork” blends of fresh herbs at the grocery store–you’ll get a couple of sprigs of 4 to 5 different fresh herbs that way. Not only will you get a bunch of variety on the cheap, but the quantities are small enough that you can use them up before they go bad!
This next recipe is from The Pioneer Woman, one of my favorite bloggers and creator of some of my favorite things to eat. Her Creamy Chicken Spaghetti Casserole is like ’50s comfort food on a grand scale. It’s got cheese. It’s got white wine. It’s got mushrooms and olives–it’s something you can feed a crowd at home or bring to a potluck, and it’s just damn good eating.
The only changes I make are that I don’t start from a whole chicken, and I don’t cook the spaghetti in broth. I’ve done it that way and it didn’t really add much to the pasta with so much other good stuff in the mix, plus I prefer roasted chicken leftovers to boiled chicken leftovers.
Creamy Chicken Spaghetti Casserole
Make 12 servings
2 cups chopped chicken
1/2 cup butter
1 lb. white mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine (I use vermouth, which I keep on hand for cooking)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup (additional) dry white wine
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup black olives, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Extra cheese, for sprinkling
1 lb. thin spaghetti
Bring a large pot of water to boil and set your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Throw in the mushrooms, add 1/4 cup white wine, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until liquid has totally evaporated. Remove the mushrooms from the skillet. Set aside.
When your water comes to a boil, break the spaghetti into thirds (shorter pieces). Add the pieces to the boiling water and cook. Drain when al dente.
Return the large skillet to medium-low heat. Add 6 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle your flour over the butter, whisking to combine. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Pour in 2 cups broth and whisk to combine. Pour in the milk, additional 1/4 cup wine, salt and pepper to taste, and then cook and let simmer until thick. Turn off the heat, add parmesan cheese, and stir.
Add the mushrooms, chicken, and chopped olives. Stir to combine and check seasonings. Make sure you’ve added enough salt! Add the cooked spaghetti and stir.
Turn everything into a 9″ x 13″ casserole pan. Bake at 350 degrees or until golden brown and bubbly. Sprinkle with extra cheese and serve with a salad and warm, crusty bread.
So there you have it! Two very different comfort-food dishes that can be made with your 2 cups of leftover chicken and some of your delicious, homemade broth.
But the Circle of Chicken isn’t finished! You still have at least 14 cups of broth squirreled away in your freezer, like cold, frosty gold just waiting to tickle your tastebuds! Stay tuned for the Circle of Chicken Part 4: “Free” French Vegetable Soup, my favorite way to make something very tasty and use up leftover vegetables. The warm feeling of being thrifty makes it especially tantalizing, trust me.
So what do you think–is the Circle of Chicken inspiring you? Do you have any favorite go-to recipes to utilize your leftovers? Post them below!