You know how to cook a chicken, right?
Well then just look at the photos this week, the northern afternoon light does stream through my kitchen blinds in a most fetching way I confess.
If you would like to add to your knowledge of how to obtain 3 dishes from a simple single chicken, read on.
All cultures have chicken soup. And the basic reason is that from bathing your chicken in simmering water with local and customary aromatics you can a) cook the meat b) extract the goodness in liquid form and c) make a single beast go a long, long way.
Here’s Audrey, as we’ll call her. She’s just come out of her aromatic bath leaving behind the gorgeous and wholesome liquor or stock. Shame Audrey didn’t have the grace to shut her legs. I have hidden her unsightly cavern behind a passionfruit leaf to protect the sensibilities of my readers.
She’s had a bath in 3 litres of hot water with carrots, celery tops, half an onion, a shake of season-all generic spices you can get at the supermarket and perhaps this is what loosened her up in the pelvic region – chinese rice wine. There has to be some ingredient to give savoury depth of flavour, to pull it all together and make it Broth. Or Stock. Make it savoury.
When Audrey had cooled somewhat I pulled her apart. Eased her limbs from her body and the flesh from her limbs like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. I took the opportunity to discard her nubbly bits and her tendons, her skin and her gristle and came up with chunks and shreds of her sweet meat. Place to one side.
The first way:
Audrey’s breasts I chopped. Not too fine. They formed the prize in a versatile blend of sauteed spring onions, mushrooms and bacon (saute in bacon fat if you have it), along with sweetcorn kernels, dried herbs and more of the same generic spice blend. Sprinkle in Audrey’s chunks and half a can of condensed mushroom soup. Now cut a heaped dessert spoon of cornflour with a cup of her bath water and blend till smooth and add to the pan. Bring to a simmer and hey presto: – the filling to chicken and mushroom pies for son #’s lunch box. Form and freeze.
The meat in the sandwich:
Because I don’t want anyone to find Audrey’s remains directly, she’s all going in the freezer. Parts of her will end up like this: Jewelled domes of frozen chicken and mushroom soup. It’s very easy: In a large pan put the other half of the condensed soup, some more of the cornflour/stock mix, a can of creamed sweetcorn, some finely sliced mushrooms, milk and of course the glistening shreds of thigh and wing and throat which Audrey yielded. When all this goodness is simmering throw in a handful of uncooked rice, put a lid on it and simmer for 12 minutes. Again, pour in to many bowls for that large surface area action, portion and freeze. 8 supper-sized soup portions for son#1.
Her bath water I strained and poured in to as many large bowls as I could fit on my bench-top in order for maximum surface evaporation – I want to get this stuff cooled down an what would be Audrey’s ring around the bath tub flotsam away from the broth so I can package what I won’t use today in to boxes to freeze. Chicken Stock: basis and booster of so many dishes. I even cook fussy son#2’s maggi noodles in it so that some of the Audrey-y goodness is absorbed in to those squiggly cheap flour strands he loves so much.
And speaking of boxes, in my inbox I found a request from a reader (aka a mate I had emotionally black-mailed to read Crackling) for Paella, or rather something easy to use up her chorizo and chicken knocking around in her fridge. You want me to put on a Mantilla and click the castanettes as well?
I worked at an event for a Spanish family doing the canapes while in the back room were 4 generations of Spanish women sitting tightly around a 1.8m diameter paella pan, its contents unctuous and savoury in the extreme. No one out side the family, especially no one in Catering was getting near that baby and the secrets it held. They were, however very happy for us to carry it and it’s moltenly scorching and slopping contents up 2 flights of stairs to the poolside for service. The women had spent days on it and now doubt spent litres of sweat while smuggling in goodness knows what cavities the requisite authentic ingredients on their last long-haul flight from the mother-land. So now that we know there is no such thing as an easy paella, we can know that there is an easy and tasty way to use up chicken and chorizo and chicken stock and put on an Antonio Banderas dvd and be close.
To serve 6 or 4 with leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch My mate will need
1 large sliced chorizo
about 300g or 6 thighs, two breasts chicken – if not already cooked then break in to joints and put in a roasting dish with salt and pepper and olive oil and cover with foil. Roast in 180 degree oven for 35 minutes, keep the juices and set aside
liberal quantity of olive oil
1 finely diced onion
1 clove crushed garlic
250g rice (any type but basmati)
can of tomatoes drained, juice reserved
a glass of any kind of wine
about 600ml chicken stock
paprika to taste
thyme, dried or frexh
150g or two handfuls of frozen peas
100g some kind of capsicum – bottled or roasted but not raw and NOT unpeeled. So if you can bear to roast it and peel it do.
stoned olives of any type
salt and pepper
In a large pan heat 20 mls of olive oil and sweat the onion. When transparent add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Now for the aromatics and the fruit: Add paprika and stir through, let it sizzle. Then the chorizo. Allow the slices to char a little and to release their lardy goodness.
Then the strained tomatoes, mixing them in and breaking them down a little with a spoon. This will intensify the flavour and sweetness of the dish. Now the wine, let it, yes, sizzle.
Now for the rice, but first please add the tomato juice to the stock and bring to a simmer – any liquid for rice cooked this way must be hot. Take the unwashed rice and add to the pan, stirring well to coat with. Add the hot liquid and stir well. Reduce the heat.
Now get the rice cooking while stirring often to prevent stickage ( no body likes to wash off burned rice. No one, I tell you). After 5 minutes of cooking add the cooked chicken and attendant juices.
After another 5 minutes, or when the rice is 3/4 cooked add the capsicum and olives, thyme and salt and pepper. Puth the lid on the pan and turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes. Throw in the peas and stir. Replace lid. Wonder how much farther Melanie Griffiths will go to keep Antonio and then check the seasoning and serve.