Friday, January 29, 2010

What To Do With a Chicken When Not Throwing It At the TV

(Warning:  This post contains political statements that may offend your sensibilities.  Please do not let that stop you from reading all the way through where I think it may all come together )*

I was asleep during the State of the Union speech (it was 2AM in Scotland)  or I would definitely have been watching.  My father made a point of encouraging us to watch those sorts of things. Somehow I was always there listening to his editorial comments and making many of my own while my siblings managed to escape. I am glad he instilled in me an interest in how our democracy works.  As boring and self-serving as these speeches may seem they are an integral part of how our exceptional government works.  Please understand that by “exceptional government’ I mean by design not necessarily as executed at any time in our history.

And I think the wonderful back and forth, and sometimes even angered, posts I read on facebook that were written during and after the speech are as important a part of the current process as those ridiculous television broadcast pundits.  It is actually nice to know that some people care enough to get angry. 

I grew up in a small Southern town where everyone I knew was a Democrat - even my ranting father.  After all, Republicans were the party of Lincoln and hadn’t he defeated the South in the Civil War? And then suddenly there was Ronald Reagan and the Democrats of my youth were transformed into die-hard, flag waving born-again Republicans.  Wow, that actor knew how to win over an audience.

 Never mind that his policies and those of many of subsequent Republicans generally  are harmful to the working person and put more money in the hands of the rich -where I am sorry it does not go to create more jobs but goes to buy more houses, cars and vacations for them and into the trust funds and inheritances of children who will have an immediate leg up over any of our kids - and wouldn’t you like for your friends to tell  you what  stocks to buy when they have the inside track on which ones are going up.

Reagan told us that “Gub-ment” is bad and “bid-ness” is good.  Somehow we were convinced that a government which we can vote in our out is worse than an employer that determines how and even where we live by controlling our income, health care, work hours, leisure time, vacation - in short, our lives - and over whom we exert absolutely no control ( and to whom the Supreme Court has now granted the right to control the government as well,)   Am I cynical about this -yes.  Do I believe what I just wrote - absolutely!  I firmly believe that the single worst thing that has happened and continues to happen in the US is  the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of fewer and fewer people.

In the FB posts, e-mails and even op-ed pieces that I read, it was clear that as Obama spoke people came down harder and firmer on whichever side they were on at the start of the speech.

  No one was really listening to what was said or in any way evaluating the overall impact of his proposed policies.  Everyone was either self-congratulating or just throwing tomatoes or rubber chickens at the TV (or words at the computer screen) in a symbolic gesture of disgust.

And what of that rubber chicken? Well aside from the one that is handed down in my family to mark significant birthdays (definitely worthy of a future post) according to “’Chicken in Every Pot’” is a quotation that is perhaps one of the most misassigned in American political history. Variously attributed to each of four presidents serving between 1920 and 1936, it is most often associated with Herbert Hoover. In fact, the phrase has its origins in seventeenth century France; Henry IV reputedly wished that each of his peasants would enjoy "a chicken in his pot every Sunday." Although Hoover never uttered the phrase, the Republican Party did use it in a 1928 campaign advertisement touting a period of "Republican prosperity" that had provided a ‘chicken in every pot. And a car in every backyard, to boot.’   Hmmm. Prosperity a la Herbert Hoover? Equality as touted by Henry IV?  I don’t think so. But isn’t it interesting that we are still arguing over who supplies the  chicken and how we pay for the cars - both their manufacture and their purchase in the current case.

But I ramble -
Let’s get back to that chicken - and I sincerely hope it does not turn out rubbery.  As I scrolled through the political banter I was pleased to see dear Andrea discussing the wonderful goodness of homemade chicken broth.  Mmmmm.  Can’t you just smell it on the stove now?

 And it reminded me of something I read before - probably an outgrowth of the misattributed comment and certainly a reaction to our strained economy- that every family/household should roast a large chicken every Sunday and it would feed them all through the rest of the week. With apologies to my vegetarian friends I must say that the idea intrigued me and in the current economic environment, suggesting that there be a chicken in every oven might be a really good idea.  Chicken is inexpensive relative to a lot of other things.  It is delicious, generally low in fat so healthier than much of what we eat in the west, and easy to prepare for even a novice cook.

Not to say that there aren’t lots of things that can go wrong in the process - a too fast oven can produce a dry bird (that sounds like the end of some fable), an underdone chicken can make all who eat it really sick and so forth.  But there are wonderful kosher chickens, organic chickens, free-range chickens all bred for deliciousness and healthy eating.

 I once saw Julia Child and Jacques Pepin argue over the proper technique for chicken roasting.  It basically came down to this - if you set the temperature  correctly, take the cooked bird out of the oven in time and let it set for 15 minutes before carving it really doesn’t matter if you rub a mustard garlic mash under the skin or slather it with butter, it is gonna taste good.

So, I decided to do an experiment -  Is it really possible to feed a family all week from a chicken well-roasted on Sunday? One caveat. There were only two of us eating chicken during my experiment but I started with a rather small pre-roasted bird so I feel comfortable extrapolating my results to a family of four with a large roaster - perhaps one of Perdue’s “Oven Stuffers.”

While we were living in Mexico we often purchased wonderful roasted chickens for a few dollars.  They came with tortillas, pickled onions and a choice of homemade red or green salsa.  To start my experiment I purchased one of these chickens and had the clerk cut it into four  pieces with the cleaver.

Back at the apartment, I put two of the chicken pieces in bags in the freezer. Likewise, I stored the salsa and onions for later in the week.  I deboned the  third piece of chicken and stored the meat in the refrigerator.  I sliced the meat off the fourth piece for nicer presentation and then filled a roasting pan with vegetables - potatoes, turnips, chayote, peeled garlic, carrots and onions - drizzled some olive oil over all of them and put the pan in a hot oven. In a second pan I put a lot of broccoli florets that I had tossed in olive oil, some more onions and a few more cloves of garlic on one side and on the other side  I placed a lot of cherry tomatoes and that all went on the other rack in the oven.

While the veggies roasted I put the chicken bones in a bag and tossed it in the freezer.  Didn’t want to risk encouraging the growth of bacteria that has given chicken a bad name with some people.  I tossed big salad with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and arranged the sliced chicken  on  a platter,  When the veggies were done I mounded ½  of them beside the chicken and dinner 1 was served.  David likes a little good homemade mayo or Hellmann’s on the side.
The broccoli, tomatoes and remaining veggies were stored in separate containers in the frig.

Monday/Dinner 2 - Using the tortillas that came with the chicken ( you would probably hav eto buy yours - I recommend corn tortillas) I moistened them in a little hot oil (you can use water but it is not as good) wrapped some of the deboned chicken , black beans, roasted onions, some green chiles and cheese in each and placed them in a baking dish.  I poured the salsa over everything and sprinkled some more cheese on top and baked until it was bubbly and brown.  I served the enchiladas with rice (cook twice as much rice as you need and store the extra in the frig for later) and sour cream and sprinkled sliced olives and jalapenos on top.  There was a big salad too.

Tuesday/Dinner 3 -  I thawed one of the chicken pieces from the freezer and deboned it, putting the bones back in the frig (can’t refreeze!)  I mixed the chicken with the leftover roasted veggies from Sunday and made a gravy  ( easy - sauté  sliced onions in butter until translucent, sprinkle with herbs de Provence and flour and cook until the roux starts to brown, pour in some canned vegetable or chicken stock and cook until gravy forms) Stir the chicken and veg into the gravy and add a small can of green peas, well drained. Line a deep dish pie plate with crust (purchased or homemade) and fill with chicken veggie mixture.  Top with second crust and bake until browned and bubbly.  Serve with salad. Good with a little HP sauce on the side.

Wednesday/Dinner 4 - Take the last piece of chicken and the bones out of the freezer and allow to thaw in the refrigerator.  Debone the chicken, and put ½  of the meat back in the frig. Cook your favorite pasta, drain and reserve some cooking liquid.  Put some olive oil in a large skillet, stir in the roasted broccoli, onions, garlic and tomatoes, sprinkle liberally with Italian herbs, stir in the chicken and cook until heated through. (If you prefer a creamy sauce  - remove from heat and stir in some butter, cream and a pinch of nutmeg)  Toss the sauce with the pasta and add a little cooking liquid if needed to moisten.  Serve with garlic bread and salad.

Thursday/ Dinner 5 - Make the chicken stock!  Put all the bones (hope you saved any skin too), several stalks of celery, some carrots, a few onions and a bouquet garni in a large soup pot.  Cover with water and cook until a wonderful rich broth results. Add some butter to enrich if you want. Strain and reserve any bits of chicken and the veggies.  Discard bones and cartilage.  Put half the broth back in the pot and store the other half in the frig.  Slice up the vegetables and add them to the broth.  In a skillet, cook whatever vegetables you  like for soup in some butter until tender.  Add everything with chicken and leftover rice to the  pot.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Enrich with butter if needed.  Serve with crispy bread and salad.

Friday/Dinner 6 - Now it starts to get a little tricky.  You’ve got some broth and a little chicken left.  Make a creamy mushroom soup using the broth (recipes are everywhere) or a really good French Onion Soup and serve it with chicken nachos - warm  tortilla chips (homemade preferably), chicken, refried beans, olives, jalapenos, cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and anything else you like.

Saturday/Dinner 7 -  I didn’t make our chicken last a whole week but if I had thought about it I could have done something like grilled pimento cheese with Friday night’s soup and made a huge pile of nachos** with a salad on Saturday.  Maybe next time.

** dear Andrea “has decided that making chicken broth is the most fulfilling task a non-child-having-person can do.”
In addition, she made “a mole sauce, added some chicken, put it on top of some homemade corn tortilla chips and topped with cheese! (She)called them Enchilada Nachos. They were pretty much awesome!”
“I don't know how to make a "real" mole I guess.” She says. “That's just what I call it. I start with a little oil in a pot, add some flour (a running roux) pour in a can of tomato sauce stir then add cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder and coco to taste. Oh and a bit of salt to bring it together. It's simple, takes about 15 minutes (of course the longer you let it simmer the better) and yummy!”
Sounds like a real mole to Ciel and with a lot less work than the day long project I undertook while in San Miguel.

* This post is dedicated to Papa Rose who must be throwing rubber chickens down at any of  his progeny who trash his beloved Democrats and who loved a good roasted chicken -  usually after he had rung the chicken's neck himself.


  1. It has alwasy been my belief that the worst thing that has happened to the US tax system was the reduction of the top tax rate from 95% to 35%. If every dollar earned over... let's say $ 1 million was taxed at 95%, the US would be a much better place. The 95% top rate that the US enjoyed in the 1950's was a very good thing.

  2. Runny roux...not running roux. Man I really can't type!