Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Chicken in Every Pot: Chicken 4 Ways with a recipe for Fried Rice

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch, join us, doubt or believe (not sure which side I'm on some days) as our family of 6 eats on $6/day.

1. Roast Chicken

2. Fried Rice

3. Chicken Soup (or fish stew with chicken broth)

4. Ranch Chicken Pizza

Around about the Great Depression--a time when the banks failed along with people's fortunes and farms, a time of uncertainty, joblessness, and hunger, a time which was sandwiched between 2 world wars, President Herbert Hoover promised the American people a chicken in every pot--a promise that he was largely criticized for not fulfilling. I know this from the musical "Annie"--'not only don't we have the chicken; we ain't got the pot' (the stage version, not the movie version), but my mom (who probably learned this historical tidbit in history class) reminded me of it in a recent phone conversation.

It got me thinking. Really thinking. Until a little over a year ago, I had never purchased or roasted or slow cooked a full chicken in my life. Nor had I seen my mother do so. I did not even know how. The only reason I even decided to give it a whirl was that I decided I wanted to buy humanely raised meats. Which are more expensive. But if I bought a whole fryer (which were much cheaper per pound) and learned to use the whole thing and make a broth I could make up for the extra money we would be spending. Which has proved to be quite true. It's opened my eyes to many things--like how awesome and fairly easy roasting a chicken can be. But it's also made me see that in my and my mother's generation there has been an interesting cultural shift. When I asked my mom why she'd never roasted a chicken, she said that when you roast a chicken you end up with all the fatty parts. In my family and I think in many/most families in that low-fat craze of the '80s and '90s, there was a push--maybe we should call it a shove--from the health industry and perhaps the food industry. People were told/taught/brainwashed to eat the lower fat white meats. Additionally, it was much easier to buy a boneless, skinless breast, or any chicken cut into parts. Or so we were told/taught/brainwashed. Which of course has paved the way for those freakishly breasted chickens and all that sort of thing that I will leave Michael Pollen and others to tell you all about. But at least we have our national health. Oh wait, we don't.

So maybe we should re-examine the humble roast chicken and all the freaking awesome foods that can be made therefrom.

1. First we're going to start with The Best Roast Chicken I Have Ever Made or Had. It's from smittenkitchen, and it, like Mary Poppins, is practically perfect in every way. It's also a breeze to make. Except that you have to think in advance. Which I admit can be a challenge. I didn't quite think of it enough in advance so instead of doing the salt rub for 1-3 days, I brined my frozen bird overnight with 1/4 C salt and 1/4 C sugar and then rinsed it and then dried it and then did the salt rub for about 4 hours before I cooked it Sunday afternoon. I cannot stress how perfectly amazing it, its drippings, and its broth has been. Perfection.

The next day we had leftovers plain and simple. After that I pulled off as much chicken as possible, which was still quite a lot (probably about 1 1/2 C) and put that in the fridge. From the bones, skin, and whatever bits I missed, I made a stock. Go here for instructions on how to do so. It takes 30-60 minutes, but is mostly just the stuff simmering. You'll be actually doing something for about 5-10 minutes.

2. From that stock I made the fish stew you met earlier this week. You could have omitted the fish and used 1/2 C of the saved chicken bits instead to make a chicken soup.

3. Ranch Chicken Pizza. We plan to make this on Monday using abot 1/2 -1 C shredded chicken that remains. It is super yum.

4. Fried Rice. We made this yesterday. Using leftover shredded chicken, it is cheap eatery at its best. If you've got some leftover rice and vegetables, it's also one of the fastest meals you can make. We had a bit of leftover rice and no vegetables. It still took less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

Chicken Fried Rice
Serves 4-6
Prep time: 10 minutes (vegetable chopping)
Cook time: 30 minutes (the rice must cook and then you need to add it to the veggie stuff and fry it)
Cost: $1.30
(chicken: .25, rice: .25, vegetables: .30, soy sauce/spices: .25, oil: .05, eggs: .20)

1-2 C dry rice (2-4 C cooked rice)--we used half brown (leftovers) and half white (which I cooked)
1/2 C shredded chicken
1 C chopped vegetables (we used broccoli from the stalk and 2 large carrots, but peas, asparagus, leeks, onions, celery, spinach, bok choy, and lots of other vegetables will work too)
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder, or 1 clove
1/4 C soy sauce
1 Tbsp plum sauce or oyster sauce (plum for sweeter, oyster for savory)
2-4 Tbsp oil
2 eggs

Note: If your chicken isn't cooked, cube a piece of it and cook it in 1 Tbsp oil, a dash of ginger, dash pepper, dash garlic powder, dash onion powder.

Heat oil in large skillet or wok. Add ginger, onion powder, and garlic and cook about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add vegetables with about 1 Tbsp soy sauce. Cook to desired tenderness.

Remove vegetables and set aside. Fry 2 eggs in a bit of oil with some soy sauce. Remove eggs and set aside.

Heat remaining oil in skillet. Add rice and fry for 3-4 minutes, tossing it around in the oil and letting it sizzle. Add remaining soy sauce (start with 1 Tbsp and add the other 1-2 Tbsp if you feel you need them). Add plum or oyster sauce. Throw in chicken, vegetables, and eggs and mix in. If you need more soy sauce or other seasonings, add them. Serve nice and warm.


And the next time you're trying to eat really cheap and your husband says he needs more meat, get yourself a humanely treated chicken and roast that lovely up. Just don't forget to use it all.

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