This is something I do regularly, it’s a crowd pleaser and one of the easiest ways to feed a family on a budget. If you take one good chicken it makes three great dinners and it ticks all the boxes; it’s cost effective with no waste and there’ll be happy tummies all round.
Try to get the best quality chicken you can. I never buy chicken in a supermarket these days, I just don’t trust them. I buy them from a local farm and always make sure I’ve got one in the freezer. It’s good to see where the chickens came from, how they’ve been cared for, and I prefer to buy from the farm direct.
How One Good Chicken Makes Three Great Dinners
A large chicken like this needs a slow cook to make sure it’s tender. You can cook it two ways, but you want to keep it moist, either roasted in the oven in the traditional style or slowly poached in a large casserole pot with a lid or slow cooker.
To Roast The Chicken
- Hopefully the chicken comes with it’s giblets, so make sure you save them to make a tasty stock later.
- If you’re roasting the chicken, take a large roasting pan, and roughly chop an onion and a few cloves of garlic and place them under the chicken to add flavour and keep it juicy.
- Season the bird well with sea salt and black pepper, drizzle with good olive oil and I squeeze some lemon juice over it too. Then place what’s left of the lemon into the cavity, along with some more garlic cloves, a couple of bay leaves and if possible a sprig or two of rosemary or thyme.
- Place the chicken (breast side up) in a hot oven (200 oC – gas mark 7) for 3o mins, to brown the skin on top.
- Then take it out, turn the bird carefully upside down (breast side under) and cover it loosely in foil. At this point reduce the heat to 160 oC – gas mark 4 and cook slowly for 2 – 3 hours, depending on the size of the chicken.
- Towards the end of the cooking time, turn the chicken back over for the last 20 minutes or so.
- You know it’s ready when the it’s coloured golden brown, and if you test with a knife, the legs start to come away from the carcass easily.
To Cook In The Pot
- The second method needs a large, lidded casserole which can be used on the hob as well, or alternatively a slow cooker.
- First slice up a large onion, 3 cloves of garlic, a handful of bacon lardons, stick of celery, a leek and soften them in oil on the hob.
- Then place the seasoned chicken on top of the onion mixture (breast side down) Allow to seal and brown for 10 mins or so.
- Then turn the chicken back over (breast side up) and add 500ml of good chicken stock and a large glass of white wine (if you don’t have any wine available you can use a small glass of vermouth or even cider instead)
- Bring the liquid to a nice hot simmer.
- You can add some extra vegetables like mushrooms, shallots or carrots depending on what you have to use up.
- Put the lid on top and place in a moderately heated oven, but then reduce the heat to 160 oC or gas mark 4
- The chicken poaches in the delicious juices and you won’t even have to make any gravy!
- After a couple of hours, bring it out to check.
- Prod it with a knife and if the chicken is starting to loosen from the bone you know you’re almost done.
- Return to the oven for the last 15 mins without the lid to help brown off the top.
- Serve what you need from the chicken for your dinner, and then allow the rest to cool naturally before covering and refrigerating.
To Make The Pie
- When you are ready to make the pie, strip there rest of the chicken from the carcass.
- Discard any fatty skin and place the stripped bones in a large covered pot ready to make the stock.
- Start the pie by frying some chopped onion and some garlic in olive oil in a large pan.
- Add some bacon lardons to boost the favour.
- Once it’s browned, add the left over chicken.
- Sprinkle over 2 tbsp of plain flour and stir gently to coat all the chicken pieces.
- Add plenty of seasoning and sliced mushrooms.
- Stir in a glass of white wine or vermouth and a little stock or gravy (there should be plenty of gravy left if you cooked it in a pot)
- Add a generous dollop of creme fraiche and blend well, then pour the pie mixture into a shallow oven-proof dish or roasting tin.
- Cover the top with ready made puff pastry, brush over with a little beaten egg wash.
- Put into a hot oven 200 oC /gas 7 until the pastry puffs and turns a lovely golden brown ( about 25 min).
Just when the bones look well and truly stripped and you think you’re done, that chicken has still got lots more to give. You can make a delicious stock which can be used as a base for soup or stirred into a risotto. Check out this post to find out why it’s so good To Boil Your Bones!
To Make The Stock For Soup
- Place the stripped carcass in a large pot along with the giblets that you saved earlier.
- Cover completely with water.
- Add: two onions chopped in half (keep the skins on) a stick of celery chopped into several pieces, a few peeled cloves of garlic, a leek (including dark, outer leaves) one large carrot roughly chopped.
- Season well with sea salt, add half a tsp of whole peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves.
- If you have any fresh herbs, you can make a bouquet garni by tying them together into a little bunch. Even a handful of parsley stalks can be added.
- Bring to a slow boil and then simmer for at least 2 -3 hrs on a low heat.
- Half way through, mash down the contents of the pot with a potato masher to help the bones and vegetables release more goodness.
- Allow to cool a little, and then strain the stock from the contents of the pot with a sieve or colander. Discard the debris and allow the stock to cool at room temperature before keeping covered in the fridge till you want to use it (within 2-3 days)
- You can freeze the stock to use at a later date, but only if the chicken has not frozen before.
- A perfect way to use the stock is to make a Minestrone!