Chicken tonight: A single bird can keep you in tasty suppers all through the week

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Some people cook a chicken and then eat the remains for four or five days afterwards. They're short of time and they don't want the hassle of cooking from scratch, but the last couple of days make for some pretty grim eating. Chicken doesn't take well to repeated heating.

Here is something better: an action plan that makes a chicken feed two people for five days. There's a little extra work here, but not much – and you won't have to endure the flavour of endless pre-cooking.

Just three warnings. One: the chicken must be a good, free-range bird. Two: it must be of a good size, at least 1.8kg (4lb). This should cost around £10. And three: play it safe by freezing the portions that you will bekeeping for longer than two days.

Try to get the butcher to joint the bird for you. It's easy enough to do if you have reasonable knife skills, but the butcher will do it faster. Ask him or her to cut off legs, breasts and wings and pack them in separate bags. And don't forget to grab the carcass.

A final word: you don't need to make this five days in a row. The items in the freezer will keep for months, if you feel like having a long poultry-break.

Day one

If your butcher hasn't jointed the bird, do this yourself. Wings come off first, with tip detached for stock-making and the middle section and mini-drumstick separated. Remove the legs next, taking care to keep their skin intact and to remove the "oyster" with them. Make a shallow incision along one side of the breastbone, and then, pointing the knife at the ribcage, cut away the meat using short, careful cuts. When one breast has separated from the carcass, cut it off and trim loose bits of skin and fat. Repeat with the other breast. Take the skin off both breasts.

Make stock

Put the carcass, wing tips and giblets (minus liver) if they came with the bird in a large saucepan. Add 1.5l of water and bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down and skim off the scum. When the liquid is clear, add a clove of garlic, half an onion, a celery stalk and small carrot (optional), a few sprigs of parsley, a bay leaf, and a couple of peppercorns. Simmer for 2 hours, strain, and transfer to a fridge-friendly container. Refrigerate once it's cooled to room temperature. This is your stock for soup on day three.

Chop one of the legs through the bone and marinate (see soy-chilli chicken). Freeze one breast and one leg.

Parmesan Breaded Chicken

The anchovies and capers are borrowed from chicken holstein, a classic bistro dish. They can be omitted and replaced with just a squeeze of lemon juice.

The skinless chicken breast
45ml plain flour
30ml finely grated Parmesan
1 large egg, beaten in a shallow bowl
Large handful fresh white breadcrumbs
2 anchovies, roughly chopped
5ml capers, finely chopped
3 or 4 sprigs of parsley, roughly chopped
Vegetable oil for frying
Lemon for serving

Put the breast on a sheet of clingfilm or greaseproof paper that's at least twice its size. Place another sheet on top and pound the chicken with a kitchen mallet or an empty wine bottle until it's around 1cm thick. Cut it in half.

Mix the flour, Parmesan, salt and freshly ground black pepper on a plate. Dredge the escalope in the flour/cheese mixture, then coat with beaten egg, then with breadcrumbs. Pat well to make the crumbs adhere. Discard any remaining flour from the plate and put the breaded escalopes on it. You can refrigerate the chicken at this point until it's needed.

Mix the anchovies, capers and parsley in a small bowl.

Have two heated plates at the ready. Pour oil into a large frying pan to a depth of around 1cm. Get it good and hot. Put in the escalopes and fry briskly, turning once to brown them on both sides. The total cooking time should be 3-5 minutes, and don't over-cook or the chicken will be dry. Divide between the plates and scatter on the anchovy mixture. Squeeze on some lemon juice and eat.

After dinner, or before if you prefer, get this dish marinating for the next day.

Soy-Chilli Chicken

This dish is excellent either with this Chinese-type marinade or one made with dry white wine, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and herbs. Marinating the chicken overnight (or all day, if you can do the preparation before leaving for work) makes the dish that much better. And do try to chop the chicken through the bone, if you have a cleaver – it's much more fun to eat that way.

1 chicken leg, chopped through the bone
1 medium onion, cut into medium-sized chunks
1 green chilli, thinly sliced
30ml soy sauce
15ml vegetable oil
2 plump cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 thick slices ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Large pinch Chinese five-spice powder (optional)
5ml sesame oil
2 spring onions, coarsely chopped

Put the chicken, onion and chillies in a large, flat dish and grind on plenty of black pepper. Toss thoroughly with all remaining ingredients except the spring onions and sesame oil. Leave to marinate, covered and refrigerated, overnight.

Day two

Preheat the oven to 200C or turn the grill on to a medium-high heat. Cook the marinated chicken, turning two or three times, until it's well browned and just cooked. This should take around 30 minutes in the oven, 10-15 under the grill. When it's done, sprinkle on the sesame oil and spring onions, and serve with rice or noodles.

A Simple Minestrone

While the chicken is roasting or grilling, prepare the ingredients for this hearty soup. There's enough here for 4-6 people, so you can keep eating it for a couple of days or freeze the leftovers. Before you heat the stock, skim the fat off the surface. Note: you can do this on day three if that suits your schedule.

2 medium carrots (around 250g in weight), cut into 2.5cm chunks
2 medium potatoes (around 250g in weight), cut into 2.5cm chunks
3 stalks celery, cut into 2.5cm sections
4 plump cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2.5ml each dried sage and dried oregano
The chicken stock from day one
250g French beans, cut into 2.5cm lengths
1 400g tin cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

To finish:

Small handful basil, coarsely chopped
Grated Parmesan to serve
30ml extra virgin olive oil

Put the carrots, potatoes, celery, garlic, herbs and stock in a large saucepan. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer till the vegetables are nearly soft. Add both beans and cook till the French beans are soft but still retaining a bit of bite (around 10 minutes more).

Day three

Reheat the soup.

Chicken wings

While the soup is heating, preheat the grill. Joint the wings and coat with 5ml vegetable oil and a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill at a high heat till they are just cooked, around 3-5 minutes per side.

To serve, stir in the basil and oil, and pass the cheese around. Wings on the side.

When you've finished dinner and the washing-up, take the remaining leg out of the freezer and defrost overnight in the fridge.

Day four

Quick Chicken Curry

This simple dish is fast enough to get dinner on the table in around 30 minutes. If you don't want to go to the trouble of adding spices individually, use best-quality curry powder.

The remaining chicken leg
10ml vegetable oil
1 large green or red pepper, de-seeded and cut into large chunks
large onion, cut into large chunks
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 thin slices of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1.25ml each of ground cumin, ground coriander, black mustard seed, and fenugreek
Chilli powder or chilli flakes to taste
5ml cornflour
30ml Greek or bio yoghurt
Fresh coriander leaves, chopped, for garnish

Joint the chicken leg and chop both thigh and drumstick through the bone into two pieces. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan and brown the chicken quickly. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add the pepper and onion to the pot, with a little more oil if necessary, and cook over a low heat till the onion starts to smell really good. Now add the garlic, ginger and spices. Continue stirring for a few minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't brown. Put in the chicken and 150ml of water or chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook, with the pot partly covered, until the chicken is just cooked (around 20 minutes). In the meantime, cook some plain rice.

Mix the cornflour with the yoghurt. When the chicken is done, stir in well and heat gently for a minute. Serve with extra yoghurt and the chopped coriander.

Day five

Take the remaining breast out of the freezer for defrosting an hour before you want to eat.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Stir-Fry

This somewhat unorthodox method doesn't require the split-second timing of Chinese stir-fries.

30ml wine or cider vinegar
5ml caster sugar
The remaining chicken breast
Vegetable oil for frying
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, halved and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
15ml soy sauce
Small handful fresh coriander, finely chopped, for garnish

Mix the vinegar and sugar in a small bowl and let the sugar dissolve while you prepare the ingredients for the stir-fry.

While the chicken is still partly frozen, slice it into fine strips, around the thickness of a £1 coin. Left on the chopping board or a plate, they will finish defrosting in just five minutes or so.

Select a large frying pan and put in oil to film the bottom of the pan generously. Get the oil very hot, then put in the vegetables with a little salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper, and stir-fry briskly till they're cooked al dente (around 5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook just long enough to get it smelling good. Turn off the heat and scrape the pan contents into a serving bowl.

Add a little more oil to the pan and get it very hot. Put in the chicken and stir-fry just long enough to make it lose its "raw" colour. Put the vegetables back in and stir-fry for a minute or two more. Add the vinegar and soy sauce, stir-fry till the liquid is well reduced, then dump back into your serving bowl. Sprinkle on the coriander, toss, and serve with rice or noodles if you wish.

Some of these recipes are based on recipes in Richard Ehrlich's 'The Green Kitchen' and '80 Recipes for Your Halogen Oven' (both published by Kyle Cathie, at £12.99)

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