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Gustavore: I Hate Leftovers, Part 1

Chicken five ways without anything seeming like leftovers.

Why don’t I like leftovers? I don’t know.

I’m fine with certain leftovers (like pizza, Thai, Indian). But as a rule, I’d rather not have last night’s dinner tonight. For most recipes, it is easy enough to make just the portions I need, but what to do with the inevitable leftovers from a large roast or a whole bird? My solution: I plan ahead to use the extra portions to make other dishes that don’t resemble the original dish.

Usually, the inaugural serving is the roast meat on its own plus sides. Encore servings are incorporated into a wide range of other preparations. Examples include:

  • Rice, Pasta or Grains: a cold wild rice or penne salad, a hot linguini dish, a layered pasta
  • Sandwich: hot or cold, open faced or not, pressed or not
  • Tortillas: tacos, quesadillas, burritos
  • Soup: brothy or stewy
  • Pies: pot pie, shepherd’s pie, Cornish pasty

The possibilities are endless! This week, I’m starting with roast chicken and I’ll make chicken stock, chicken stew, lemon chicken broccoli pasta, and a quick chicken “tagine” with olives and preserved lemon.

Roast (or Rotisserie) Chicken

Because this week’s flavor plan is mostly non-ethnic, the chicken is seasoned simply with a rub of olive oil and generous dusting of salt and pepper. I give the bird 30 minutes to come up to room temperature before it goes on the rotisserie. Forty five minutes later, it’s juicy on the inside and crisp on the outside. I let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before serving it with bulgur wheat and roasted carrots for Saturday dinner. (See pictures for prep notes.)

For a perfect-every-time recipe for oven roasted chicken, you can pull out your September 1997 issue of Martha Stewart Living, or click this link. I rarely stuff large flavorings (like citrus or onion) into the cavity because the result is usually underdone chicken near the bone and little positive impact on flavor.

Chicken Stock

Next morning, I strip the meat from the chicken and set it aside. I’ve saved the chicken neck and giblets and other chicken bones from previous meals. I always buy chicken breast on the bone and debone it myself, stashing the bone in a gallon zip lock I keep in the freezer for this purpose.

If you routinely buy boneless chicken breast, here are a couple facts that might motivate you to buy it on the bone. (1) Its a lot cheaper. Boneless sells at Your DeKalb Farmers Market for about $5 per pound and on the bone it’s $3. When you factor 25 percent of the weight is bone, the cost of the meat is $4 per pound—still 20 percent less than boneless. (2) You get the bones free! With which you can make chicken stock.

To make the stock, I first sauté the neck, giblets (not the liver) and any raw bones on medium high heat in the stock pot, browning everything very well. Next, I remove the neck, giblets and bones, turn down the heat to medium and add the vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, garlic, 6 or 8 peppercorns, salt and a couple sprigs of thyme). The vegetables are “sweated” in the covered stockpot until they brown a bit and a light glaze forms in the bottom of the pot. Neck, giblets and bones go back in along with the roast chicken carcass and water (just enough to cover everything.) After simmering for an hour or two, I strain the stock, discarding the solids. I’ll use the stock in the three remaining dishes I have planned for the week.

Chicken Stew

On Sunday’s menu: chicken stew. My chicken stew differs from my chicken soup in just three ways: the stew is thickened, has potatoes instead of noodles and has peas in it. Which might sound remarkably similar to Chicken Pot Pie. That’s in fact what I really wanted to eat, but I didn’t want the extra fat and calories from the pastry. So, I essentially made chicken pot pie filling and called it stew.

Lemon Chicken Pasta with Broccoli

For Tuesday’s dinner, a lemony pasta dish is in the works. I sauté chopped onions with lots of garlic, sprinkle with some flour and after a minute deglaze with white wine and some lemon juice. After another minute, I add chicken stock, penne pasta (cooked al dente), chopped chicken meat, capers and steamed broccoli. Toss and serve.

Quick Chicken Tagine

On Wednesday, our flavors veer toward Morocco. Because my chicken is already cooked, I adapt a recipe for a classic tagine to create a quick sauce before folding in the chicken.

  • 2 T olive oil1 onion, chopped
  • ½ preserved lemon, chopped (or half of a fresh lemon, sliced very thin)
  • 3-6 garlic cloves, sliced thick
  • salt & pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • large pinch of saffron threads ( sells saffron—you have to ask for it at the pastry counter and pay cash there)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/3 to ½ cup pinkish-brown Moroccan olives (Your DeKalb Farmers Market sometimes has these in the olive section of prepared foods counter next to the deli) or other brownish olives
  • ¼ cup or more chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup or more chopped parsley

Heat the oil and sauté onions and lemon until both start to brown. Add salt and pepper to taste and the garlic, cinnamon and saffron. Stir and cook a minute until fragrant. Add the flour. Cook one minute more. Stir in the stock, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add chicken and olives and let simmer a few minutes. Add cilantro and parsley and remove from heat.

Place half a piece of toasted nan (purchased from your favorite store) on the plate. Heap ½ cup cooked couscous on one side and 1-1/2 to 2 cups of vegetables on the other (steamed carrots, peas or green beans are great with this) and top the nan and couscous with the chicken and sauce.

Preserved Lemon versus Fresh Lemon: preserved lemon is a unique and possibly acquired taste. The fragrance and taste are somehow reminiscent of Mr. Clean, which is clear to me even though I have never tasted Mr. Clean (and don’t advise you do). This shouldn’t stop you from trying preserved lemon if you want to have a more authentic Moroccan flavor. You can get a jar of just 2 preserved lemons at Cook's Warehouse in Decatur for $7. Fresh lemon is a very nice alternative, but a completely different taste.

If that sounds like a lot of chicken in one week, it is. But if you are as adverse to leftovers as I am, you'll probably like this multi-meal idea better than throwing good meat away. Besides, if you’re feeding more than two, you won’t have enough chicken to make this many dishes, and you can always freeze the stew for a future meal.

Nicki Salcedo May 01, 2011 at 09:44 AM
I'm a big fan of the leftover chicken chicken salad (mayo, onions, red/yellow,orange peppers, relish, celery, apples or grapes). I would love to see your chicken stew recipe. Might go over well with kids, and I adore chicken pot pie.
Nonie Ravenberg May 01, 2011 at 01:23 PM
Mmm. chicken salad. I make a version with lemon, sour cream, mayo, white pepper, watercress and a pinch of cinamon on a croissant...I don't want to know the fat content of that little sammy, but it is as decadently delicious as it sounds. Chicken stew: Saute chopped onions and celery in a little butter, add diced carrots and cook until tender. Sprinkle with flour...about 1 tablespoon per pint of stock you'll be adding. Cook the veg and flour for a minute and add the stock and peas. Simmer until thickened
Nonie Ravenberg May 01, 2011 at 01:24 PM
Forgot one thing for the stew: add diced potatoes with the carrots.

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