Occasionally, whole, sustainably-raised, local chickens go on sale at our independent market for $.99 per pound. At that price, cheaper than their conventionally raised counterparts, I stock up and fill the chest freezer. When it’s time to cook them, I s-t-r-e-t-c-h the meat so they last until the next great sale. Generally, I get 4 meals out of each 4-5 pound bird. Here’s how I do it.
1. Cut the chicken into quarters and remove skin and visible fat. Cook it in the pressure cooker with an onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, and enough water to cover by at least an inch.
2. Shred or cut the cooked meat off the bone. I keep the bones and return them to the pot, but stock will be Wednesday’s post!
3. Package shredded/diced meat into 1 1/2 cup portions, and freeze the portions to be used later in the week. Generally I can get at least 4 meal sized portions out of one chicken, plus about 6 cups of stock. If you’re using this method, it’s just as easy to do two chickens at once (if your pressure cooker is big enough) and you’ll have enough chicken for 8 meals, plus about 12 cups of stock.
4. Choose 4 meals that call for cooked chicken, including one soup.
Coconut curry chicken with peas and potatoes
Barbecue shredded chicken sandwiches
Chicken and bean burritos
Chicken with pasta and sauce
Chicken soup, stew, or chili
Creamed chicken with cornbread stuffing
Chicken pot pie
Chicken salad sandwiches (stretch with hard cooked eggs)
Waldorf Salad, or any salad calling for cooked chicken
There are lots of possibilities, and the basic method allows for a lot of flexibility. The important thing in stretching meat is to make it a supporting player, not the main dish. Most soup, stew, chili, pastas, or casserole recipes are great places to use a little less meat but still have a filling and flavorful meal.
This week’s chicken-heavy menu, still working out of the pantry and freezer:
Monday: Lentil tacos, orange slices
Tuesday: Barbecue shredded chicken sandwiches, cole slaw, pickles
Wednesday: Chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole
Thursday: Huevos Rancheros, refried beans, carrot coins
Friday: Baked beans, corn bread, greens
Saturday: Creamed chicken over cornbread dressing, peas and carrots
Sunday: Chicken tortilla soup with lots of veggies