Chicken this way turns into many meals
Helen Gurley Brown made her fortune with “Sex and the Single Girl” but my book will be, “Rotisserie Chicken and the Single Girl.”
Is there a food product more popular with small or time-stressed households? I’m hard-pressed to think of one (other than takeout, of course). What could be easier? Stop at market. Pick up hot, cooked chicken. Take home. Eat. (And, who among us has not done that while standing at the kitchen counter?)
In the land of fast food, you could do a lot worse, nutritionally speaking.
“If you’re not going to spend the time to cook something at home, the rotisserie chicken is a good choice if you compare it to other types of takeout, like pizza,” Nicole Clark, clinical dietician at Cape Cod Hospital, said.
And a rotisserie chicken can be eaten straight or used for all kinds of quick recipes.
But it’s not all good news. Chickens, especially those cooked in-store, are often injected with flavorings or saline solutions to keep them juicy. Sodium amounts vary by brand so it’s good to shop around and read the labels. For example, a 3-ounce serving of Shaw’s “Rosemary Garlic” whole roasted chicken has about 170 mg of sodium, according to the nutrition label. Meanwhile, a “Classic Brined” rotisserie chicken at Whole Foods has 560 mg in the same size serving, according to the label. That’s almost 25 percent of the daily sodium intake recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and it’s more than a third recommended for low-sodium diets. And a 3-ounce serving is barely the size of the palm of your hand.
You can make a rotisserie chicken healthier by removing the skin, Clark said. You can also roast a chicken yourself.
It’s an easy thing to do on a day off and it will give you meals for the rest of the week. A roast chicken takes minutes to prep and then you shove it in the oven for about 90 minutes. All you need is a roasting pan and a meat thermometer. And you can flavor it how you like: herbs, lemon, garlic, whatever.
“I do it when I’m running around doing my laundry or chores,” said Clark, who is married with a toddler. “Then, an hour and a half later when [I’m] done, I have a couple of meals for the week. … When you’re planning meals in advance, that dissuades you from eating takeout.
Oddly, it might cost more to roast it yourself. I found cooked rotisserie chickens on sale for $6.99 while whole small chickens were starting at close to $8 recently. But whether you buy it cooked or DIY, you can produce all kinds of meals from one bird. Here’s a sample of what I got when I asked for ideas from friends and relations on Facebook:
- Quesadillas (think, grilled cheese and chicken sandwich made with tortillas. Add avocado, peppers, whatever you like.)
- Chicken Caesar salad – and all its various variations.
- Chicken wonton soup: frozen wontons, mushrooms and baby bok choy in chicken stock.
- Chicken salad in all its variations, including this one (you can adjust the amounts to suit your table): Boil a package of store-bought pesto tortellini and mix in a large bowl with two teaspoons mayonnaise (low-fat works fine), three or four tablespoons of pesto (store-bought is fine) and cubed chicken. Add some grape tomatoes halved; a half cup of toasted pine nuts or walnuts; and a half cup of Parmesan cheese. Mix gently and serve warm, room temperature or cold as salad.
- Pho (Vietnamese soup): Simmer chicken with chicken stock and spices such as anise, cardamom and ginger. At the last minute, toss in wide rice noodles and some fresh veggies like onion, sprouts, cilantro and fresh basil. Have some siracha and hoisin sauce on the side.Top of FormBottom of Form
- Pizza: Try it with onions, sharp cheddar and barbecue sauce instead of tomato sauce.
- Throw the carcass in the freezer and when you have a couple of them, put them in the slow cooker with some celery, carrot and onion to make stock.
And here are two recipes – one for roast chicken and the other for using leftovers in pot pie. Clark recommends solo cooks make the pie with commercial pie crust and freezing it in small pie tins.
This is the go-to roast chicken recipe in my family. It’s foolproof. If you don’t like fennel, substitute celery or just go with carrots and onions. I often put in extra vegetables since it seems there are never enough. If you don’t have fresh thyme, you can sprinkle some dried thyme over the vegetables and a bit inside the bird. Make sure you allow time for the chicken to rest 20 minutes before carving. Clark recommends testing with a meat thermometer at the thickest part of the breast to make sure it’s at least 165 degrees F before serving.
INA GARTEN’S PERFECT ROAST CHICKEN
- 1 roasting chicken, 5 to 6 pounds
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
- 1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
- 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
- Olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry.
Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper.
Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.
Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.
CHICKEN POT PIE
This is adapted from the cookbook, “Mommy Made (*And Daddy Too)” by Martha and David Kimmel (with Suzanne Goldenson) and is courtesy of my niece, Sarah, who says it’s a hit with her kids. You’re on your own whether to use homemade or store-bought pie crust. You can also vary the vegetables.
- 2 cups cooked chicken or turkey, cut into bite-size pieces
- ¼ green peas (fresh or thawed)
- 2 cups chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- ½ small onion, diced
- 1 medium Idaho potato, peeled and diced
- ¼ cup corn (fresh or thawed)
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 Tablespoons unbleached flour
- 2 Tablespoons milk, half-and-half, or cream
- Pie crust for one 9-inch pie or 4 small ones
Put the turkey in a mixing bowl and set aside. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan and add the diced vegetables. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 or 6 minutes or until vegetables are tender but retain some crunch. Add any frozen vegetables last so they don’t get mushy. Remove vegetables from the stock and mix them in the bowl with the turkey. Save the stock.
To make the sauce: Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the broth and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and add the milk. Pour over the chicken and vegetables.
Pour into one 9-inch or 4 small pie tins and cover with a vented pie crust. At this point, you can freeze the pies, or bake them for 35 minutes at 375 or so until the crust is brown, and the insides are bubbly. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Frozen pies will take a few minutes longer to cook. You can cover the crusts with tin foil for the first 10 or so minutes to prevent over-browning.
Susan Moeller is an award-winning former newspaper editor and writer who has covered health, aging and the environment, among other issues. She has three grown children, one granddaughter and one rescued dog. She is active in several Cape community organizations, plays in a handbell choir and loves travel, bluegrass, British detective novels and listening to a good story.