Monday, June 9, 2008

Three-Way Chicken

This is the first of a series post I have planned, all tied together to yield three separate dishes. I stumbled upon this method while I was trying to make chicken soup; I figured there was great potential if I could design ONE starting method for three dishes. So in no specific order this method will lead to chicken noodle soup, chicken and dumplings, or chicken pot pie. The goal here is to make life easier for people in the kitchen. If you can adapt the singular method, you will also have the skills to make the other dishes. Cool, huh?

The first part is making a stock. I use chicken stock in a lot of my dishes, and while the boxed stuff is convenient and albeit somewhat tasty, homemade stock works as both the cooking vessel and a flavor enhancer. Plus it is pretty easy to set up and walk away from for a while. The first step in this is to assemble and prep your ingredients. For soup and chicken pot pie, I tend to shred my chicken, and for chicken and dumplings I can leave it in pieces or shred it depending on my mood. So prep your chicken accordingly, but I recommend at least quartering your chicken for an easier fit in the pot and easier removal later.

This recipe calls for chicken stock or chicken bullion, which is an oddity to most. But starting with a little bit of flavor base will add a lot to your stock, as I have found most good chicken stocks are made this way. I would probably skip this step if just making homemade chicken stock and not using the meat (if you simmer the stock long enough you really end up not wanting to use the meat). So this will offset the shorter cooking time. If you would rather start with another batch of your homemade stock, all the better. Also, I cannot stress the importance of a decent stock pot. I have one I got at TJ Max that was a steal, so it's not like you have to go drop 100 bucks. But make sure it has a heavy bottom so nothing burns, holds at least 6-8 quarts, and is pretty sturdy. Now that we are set with pots and chicken, we need to get this party started.

Three Way Chicken Step 1- Stock

1 chicken, livers and giblets removed, quartered or chopped into 8 pieces
1 onion, ends removed, quartered
1 carrot, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped in half
1 T olive oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4 stalks fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken stock or 1 cube chicken bullion

Wash the chicken and vegetables. Tie the herbs up with string or put them in a tea ball (if using, the only one that is a must right now is the bay leaf). Heat the oil in the bottom of a stock pot over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and place skin down in pot, browning slightly on both sides, about 7 minutes. Add vegetables and stir, scraping up any bits that might have stuck. Add the herbs and stock or bullion. Add enough water to cover the chicken by about 2 inches (probably about 2 quarts, but it might be more). Bring to a boil and reduce heat so the stock is simmering. Cook for about an hour to an hour and a half, or until the chicken is starting to fall off the bone. If the water level decreases to below the chicken, add a bit more to bring the level back up. When finished, remove chicken and set aside to cool. Drain stock into a clean pot and skim off fat. Stock and chicken can be made ahead of time and keep for about 5 days (chicken is the limiting factor here) in the fridge.

That is step one, the same method for all dishes. If you want to add a bit more color and well rounded flavor, add about 2 T of tomato paste. Next time, soups on!


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