My dad used to be a competitive swimmer and marathon participant. He’s also the biggest penny-pincher I know. In his younger days, he was broke and really active, so he had to make his dollar stretch further and also provide enough sustenance to compete in competitive sports. Early on, I remember him describing to me how he used to buy a whole chicken and use it for several meals throughout the week. He didn’t so much as give me this recipe, but he passed on his philosophy of food and frugality through many years of excellent meals and boring lectures about fiscal responsibility. Like dads do.
Here’s how to get several meals out of a single batch of cheap ingredients.
You will need:
One whole chicken, giblets & neck included (preferably)
Citrus—whatever you have lying around. Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes. All good.
The holy trinity: salt, pepper, and garlic powder
Corn starch (or flour, if you don’t have starch)
Then you will need:
Chicken bouillon cubes
Whatever delicious crap you have lying around
Preheat oven to 350
Clean the chicken and remove the neck and giblets. Set those aside for now.
Cut and juice your citrus. Squeeze the juices into a bowl and cut the rinds into quarters—not too small though–just small enough to stuff the cavity.
Stuff the citrus rinds into the cavity of the chicken and add salt, pepper, sage, garlic powder, and a little melted butter to the citrus juice in the bowl.
I like to stuff the bird with whole garlic cloves too sometimes. These can be eaten with the meal.
Make 2 or 3 cuts in the chicken skin and separate the skin from the meat with your fingers. It’s quite satisfying. Place 2-4 pads of butter at various points under the skin so it sits between skin and flesh. Rub salt, pepper, sage, and garlic to season over the whole bird.
Brush the whole outside of the bird with the juices and other contents of the citrus bowl.
Cook the chicken, uncovered, for about an hour. Every 10-20 minutes, baste/brush the chicken all over with the citrus/butter/spices mixture. Readers of these recipes know I never time myself or measure accurately. I don’t know. Go by your instinct.
Get a shallow amount of water boiling on the stove and add the neck and giblets. Add spices, a chicken bouillon cube, and let simmer, stirring and letting the water reduce, but not enough to boil out.
When the fat and juices start to come out, remove the bits(or crush for chunky gravy) and turn off the heat. Whisk in corn starch a little at a time until the gravy is thickened and flavored to your liking. Throw in some BBQ sauce! Red wine! Vinegar! Butter! Do what feels good! But go easy because it’s a strong flavor to begin with.
Set the gravy aside.
Back to the chicken…
Increase the oven heat to 375 and cook a little more. The chicken is ready to come out when you can cut into the thigh and there’s just the faintest hint of pink. The heat will still cook it when you take it out, so sometimes I undercook just enough for it to finish up out of the oven.
NOTE: By basting it all this time with butter and citrus, you are achieving a very crispy and juicy skin. The citrus inside and pads of butter under the skin ensure the bird will be extra moist. It’s done when the skin is dark and crispy, but not burnt, and the meat is juicy and white. This will all be visible.
When the chicken is finished, remove the rinds from the cavity (saving the garlic for the meal) and cut the meat off the chicken.
Once you have all the meat off, set enough aside for chicken soup tomorrow. Save all the bones and the carcass of the chicken by wrapping it up and storing in the fridge. We’ll come back to that.
Serve the chicken with your choice of side dish and the gravy you made earlier. The chicken should be juicy and the skin should be crispy.
Pat yourself on the back!
The next day…
Fill your biggest pot with water, maybe 2/3rds of the way. Maybe a little bit more. Get out your chicken carcass and all the bones and toss them all in the pot. Boil the shit out of it.
Once you’ve boiled the shit out of it, pieces of chicken will start to come off and stay in the broth. Remove the carcass and make sure you got all the edible pieces off. Toss those in the soup.
Sometimes I leave a drumstick bone in the soup for a fun little game I call Who Gets Boned? The prize is a bone in your soup! My partner rolls his eyes a lot.
Chop up carrots, celery, onion, parsley, potato (small cubes, but sometimes I actually skip the potato), garlic, bayleaf, and sage. Throw all that shit in there and drop in more bouillon cubes, salt, and pepper, and other spices if you’re feeling frisky. I almost never chop up my garlic. My mom used to make this soup when we were kids, leaving big pieces of unchopped garlic, which I ate with gusto.
By now your soup should be kinda huge, which is what you want. Add chicken from last night and enough egg noodles to satisfy your proportion preferences. I like lots of noodles, but they will also soak up the broth overnight when you store the soup.
Cook it all! Season and add other ingredients to your liking. Green onions are good, tomatoes can work, rice, broccoli, and corn can be good. Whatever you have lying around is fair game because this is a fail-proof recipe.
Serve with crusty bread topped with butter and blue cheese. That’s my preference, at least.
So you should have a ton of soup from this one batch. When I lived alone, I would make these two meals and have food for the whole week–at least two meals a day. Like I said, the noodles soak up some of the broth overnight, so I would add a little water each time I reheated. Egg noodles don’t get soggy like other noodles, which is an added bonus when eating for the whole week.
(Bonus meal! Sometimes I take out a cup of the chicken broth before adding anything else and use this to mix with miso, fish sauce, and sesame oil for a flavorful ramen base. That gets whisked together in a low heat cast iron with some corn starch to thicken. Makes a great paste to add to ramen broth. I usually poach an egg in that one. Although I actually prefer ramen as a spin off to my shortrib recipe.
The philosophy behind this recipe should be applied to anything with a bone-in component: Where there’s a marrow, there’s a meal. Homemade stock can make or break a recipe. Veggies too! Save your carrot heels and broccoli stalks, onion helmets and tomato stems and apply the same principle–which is boil a lot and add spices to draw out the flavor.
Oh yeah, this should go without saying, but this is an excellent holiday meal if you use a turkey. Everything in the recipe is the same, although cook times will vary. I’ve cooked many Christmas meals with this recipe.
We’ll get to shortribs next, but the basic rule there is to add a little vinegar to the water, which will help soften the marrow and draw it out a little easier. Vinegar or some red wine you have lying around. Same difference.