Chicken for Dinnerby Sidney Carlisle
A bit of planning is required, but with a little time on a Saturday morning, you can prepare enough chicken for at least a couple of meals. Start by purchasing a package of four chicken breasts with ribs. (If you have a big stock pot, cook 8 at a time.) Although boneless skinless breasts will cook in less time, bone-in breasts will yield a larger quantity of tastier chicken, and the broth will have a better flavor, too.
Rinse the chicken, place in the stock pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and skim off any foam or particles. Lower the heat to a simmer. Add half an onion cut in chunks and a rib of sliced celery. A carrot is nice, if you have one. Add a little salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered until the chicken is tender when pierced with a fork, about 1-1/2 hours.
Let the meat cool until it can be handled. Remove from the bone in bite-sized pieces. There will be about one cup of meat per chicken breast. Wrap the meat from each breast separately, so that you end up with one cup portions. That way you'll always know how much chicken you have on hand and can defrost what's needed.
Strain the broth and discard the vegetables. The fat can be removed with a gravy separator, or if one isn't available, place the broth in the refrigerator. The fat will congeal on the surface and can be removed and discarded. Freeze the broth for future use.
So now that the freezer is stocked with cooked chicken, what's next? Here are three tried and true chicken recipes. All may be prepared with items that can be kept on the pantry shelf or in the refrigerator. The first recipe is cooked in a crock-pot, and the other two go together quickly for an evening meal. If the chicken is frozen, zap it in the microwave or defrost for a couple of minutes until it's partially thawed.
Crock-Pot Chicken 'n Tortillas is an adaptation of King Ranch Chicken, an old Texas recipe that tastes like spicy chicken enchiladas. This is an easy recipe and with the addition of a fruit or green salad makes a nice dinner any time of year. The Chicken and Okra Gumbo is also quick and easy, and hot cornbread or crusty French bread will complete the meal. The last recipe is a favorite at my house, and I've probably prepared it at least 50 times. I'll bet you won't have any leftovers.
Crock-Pot Chicken 'N Tortillas
To assemble, layer half the tortilla pieces in the crock-pot. Add half the chicken and half the onion. Add salt and pepper. Spoon half the Rotel mixture on top of the chicken. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Repeat the layers, ending with cheese on top. Cover the crock-pot and cook on Low 6 to 8 hours, or about 3 hours on High. Yields four servings.
Chicken and Okra Gumbo
[See also David Bulla's full article on Gumbo: The Basics.]
Poppy Seed Chicken
Sidney Carlisle lives on a ranch in Meridian, Texas.
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