Monday, February 17, 2014

Chicken Legs and Leftover Chicken

Kroger has boneless (and, I assume) skinless chicken breasts for $1.89 a pound and boneless (and, again, I assume skinless) thighs for $1.99 a pound. Bar S franks and bologna are 10 for $10.00, or $1.00 each. You don’t need to buy 10 of them to get this price. Honeysuckle 93% lean ground turkey is $1.99 a pound, limit of one, and you have to have a digital coupon. Canned veggies (tomatoes and beans for sure, maybe some other kinds) are two for $1.00 or 50 cents each. Anjou pears are 99 cents a pound. It sure seems strange to have fresh apples cost more than fresh pears. Organic sweet potatoes are 99 cents a pound. These prices are good through next Wednesday, February 19.

Aldi has eight ounces of mushrooms for 99 cents, broccoli crowns for $1.49 a pound, and onions three pounds for 99 cents. These prices are good through next Tuesday, February 18.

Not a very inspiring bunch of specials. In fact, I’m going to go with Walmart’s ten-pound bags of chicken leg quarters. They’ve raised the price to $6.90 for the bag, or 69 cents a pound, but it’s still a pretty good deal.

I’ve talked before about Walmart’s bags of chicken leg quarters. I’ve given recipes for cooking the leg quarters, but unless you have a big family, you may think that ten pounds is too much to cook at one time. I tend to agree with you, but, on the other hand, I hate to have open bags of chicken in the fridge. So I usually cook up the whole bag at once, which leaves me with lots of leftover chicken. Some of it I leave on the bone, but most of it I take off of the bone and use it in recipes that call for cooked chicken. Here are a few of my favorite recipes. A ten pound bag of leg quarters is usually about ten leg quarters, and each quarter yields about a cup of cooked chicken. These recipes will work with either ROASTED CHICKEN or STEWED CHICKEN.

Incidentally, there’s nothing that says you have to cook all of the chicken the same way. You could take out enough for whatever recipe you want to use for the legs as legs, and then cook up the rest for “cooked” chicken recipes.

When you’re trying to save on the food budget, it’s important not to waste anything. This goes for the bones, too. The bones from the chicken legs can be used to make CHICKEN STOCK, or BONE BROTH. Save up all of your bones in the freezer, and when you get a bunch of them (say, three pounds or more), make a big batch of stock and use it to make soup. Freeze the rest of the stock to use in soup later. The vinegar is to leach out the calcium and other minerals from the bones. You shouldn’t taste the vinegar in the stock or in the soups you make with it.

By the way, I include bones that I’ve chewed on. I make my stock in the slow cooker and cook it at least 24 hours. I figure that if there are any germs strong enough to survive that, they’re going to get me anyway! Out of consideration for the squeamishness of others, I wouldn’t use my chicken stock in a recipe that I’m serving to guests, and, unless they’re family, I wouldn’t use the bones that other people have chewed on. I’m sure they’d be safe and all, but I’m a bit squeamish, too.

I figure that the broth is free. Yes, there’s the cost of the onion, celery and herbs, but they don’t come to much. I make my broth in a 6-quart slow cooker and I usually get about eight pints of broth. That’s less than five cents a pint.

So far you’ve got the meat to use in recipes, and you’ve used the bones to make broth, but, if you stewed the chicken, that still leaves the skin. No point in wasting that, either. (If you roasted the legs, the skin should have puffed up and gotten crispy. I hope you ate it right away, because it’s much better freshly roasted.) Use the skin to make GRIBENES, or Chicken Crisps. They’re pieces of chicken skin that you’ve baked by themselves until they’re nice and crispy. They’re my very favorite chicken dish! I always figure that they're free, since I really bought the chicken for the meat, not the skin.

DOMADA, a West African stew, calls for both cooked chicken and chicken broth. In fact, it goes even further by calling for sautéing the vegetables in chicken fat! And why not? It adds another layer of flavor, as they say on the cooking shows.

A batch of this will make about eight cups and will cost about $4.80. It’s rich and thick and filling, and really doesn’t need much more. If you do want to add something to it, you could add a salad, or maybe some sliced pears, or canned fruit.

CHICKEN AND CABBAGE LO MEIN is a sort of a take on Chicken Lo Mein, but without the noodles. The traditional recipe is noodles, chicken and some vegetables. I use lots of vegetables instead. It’s something I usually make on the spur of the moment when I haven’t gotten anything out of the freezer, because the cooked chicken thaws quickly. You can use whatever veggies you have on hand. Broccoli is a good addition, or zucchini, for example. I like carrots, cabbage and onion because I usually have them and because they tend to be among the cheapest vegetables. This will come to about $4.25 for four big servings. Some sliced fresh pears would be good for dessert.

You probably have your own recipes to use the leftover chicken. You can use recipes calling for any sort of cooked chicken or cooked turkey, even if they call for chicken or turkey breast. I frequently use it in main dish salads and in main dish soups. The chicken freezes well, and so does the broth. Just be sure that you leave “head room” if you freeze the broth or it will break the container and/or force off the lid. 

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