Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quick Chicken Poaching

People ask me all the time where I find time to cook SO much that almost everything we eat is homemade. Most of the time, it is stealing a couple minutes of time during other chores and projects to get something started that doesn't need much attention, but yields enough to make a couple meals. One of the EASIEST things to do is to poach up a chicken and they are always on sale for less than $1/pound if you are a stocker.

1 whole chicken (about 4-5 pounds)
1 small onion
Salt and pepper

** You can use anything fresh that you have or any combo: a handful of parsley, sprig of sage leaves, thyme, rosemary OR a teaspoon of their dried counterparts. Pictured was 1 sage sprig and 1 rosemary.

If your chicken is thawed, remove any gizzard bags from the cavity. Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, remove as much of the skin from the bird as possible and discard. Its ok to leave a little, but you don't want your stock (aka poaching liquid) greasy. Optional: Use a large cleaver to cut the bird in half through the middle of the breast (making a right and left half) to help chicken cook faster and easier to separate.

If your chicken is frozen, fill your kitchen sink with very hot tap water and thaw for about 15-20 minutes. Once it has softened enough to move its parts, remove the gizzard bag and trim off the skin as directed above. You probably won't be able to cut it in half, but its not a big deal. You can also skip the thawing step by prepping all of your chickens when you get home from the store. Just remove the wrapping and rinse well, remove the bag and place the chicken into a gallon freezer bag. If you use the organs, wrap the bag in wax paper and throw it into the freezer bag.

     Place the chicken into a large stock pot with the onion (quartered), herbs, and salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover the chicken by a couple inches and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for about 2 hours.

Carefully remove the chicken from the liquids into a strainer and set the strainer over the stockpot to drain the juices for a few minutes. Then remove the chicken to a cutting board and remove the easily accessible meat, screening for small bones. You can use this meat for chicken salad, sandwiches, tacos, wraps, salads, soups and TONS of casseroles like Mexican Lasagna.
Discard any leftover skin, and return the bones and undesirable pieces of meat to the stock pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer another hour on medium heat. Strain through a colander lined with paper towels and refrigerate stock so that any remaining fat will solidify on the top.

If you want to really stretch it out, sort through the remaining bones and remove meat to make some quick chicken soup. Rinse pot and add back chicken, chopped onion, sliced carrots and celery and some of the broth once the fat has been removed. Cook until vegetables are softened and turn off from heat. Add a handful of tiny pasta for soup like orzo, rings, ABC's, etc and let stand for about 20 minutes so the pasta cooks, but doesn't bloat.

It takes a few hours, but only minutes of that is actually spent cooking and the rest its taking care of itself.

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