Saturday, August 29, 2009

Six Meals From One Chicken

Bulk cooking and pre-cooking make life through the week much easier, since meals will only take a fraction of the time they usually require. Chicken continues to be a good value. Many recipes will use a cup of diced chicken. By preparing ahead, you can have pre-cooked chicken and broth for six meals from one chicken.

First, purchase a large roasting hen and remove it from the bag it was sold in. Make sure there are no small feathers. Remove the gizzard, heart, and liver from inside the chicken and set aside. Wash the chicken, then place the whole chicken in a large soup pot. Cover the chicken with water and put the pan on a burner on high heat. When the water begins to boil, cover the pan loosely and reduce the heat until the water just simmers. Cook the chicken until the bone pulls loose when you pull the leg, then cool. Do not add salt or seasonings. Salt will keep chicken from freezing well, and seasonings will prevent using the chicken in multiple types of recipes.

While the chicken is cooking, place the liver, gizzards, and heart into a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liver turns brown instead of dark red. Remove from heat and cool.

When the chicken is cool enough, remove it from the soup pot and place in a large bowl or on a platter. Remove and discard the skin. Remove the meat from the bones and tear or cut into bitesized pieces, putting these into a medium sized bowl. Once the meat is removed from the bones, place the bones back into the soup pot and boil for another 30 minutes. Add more water, if needed.

While the bones are boiling, cut the heart and liver into small pieces and replace in the water in which they were boiled. Remove the tough outside of the gizzard and put the inside meat into the water with the other meat. Add about a cup of the chicken pieces removed from the bones to this mixture. Cover and set aside to cool enough to freeze. This mixture will be used in cooking homemade chicken dressing casserole (recipe to be posted later). When it is cool enough, pour into a freezer container and freeze.

After the bones boil, remove them from the pot and discard them. Strain the broth into another pan to remove small bones and bits of skin. If any pieces of chicken meat are strained out, add them to the bowl of chicken pieces. Divide the chicken pieces into five equal parts. Put each part into a freezer container, and freeze.

When the broth has cooled enough, refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. After it had cooled thoroughly, remove the hardened fat from the top. Leave the gel beneath the fat. Place the broth pan on the stove and warm until the gel dissolves. Pour equal amounts into six different freezer containers. Allow to cool completely, then freeze. Be sure to mark the date on each item that goes into the freezer to make it easier to rotate items, using the oldest first.

Bulk cooking allows you to prepare, or partially prepare, meals for later. One container of chicken pieces and one container of broth can be used in many chicken casserole recipes. Recipes using this chicken will be included in the next post.

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