How I stretch one organic chook to make 15 meals

Some people watch Game of Thrones. Some play Ultimate Frisbee. Me, I get pleasure from finding novel ways to stretch a chicken further.

Roast Chook, ready to cook
Roast Chook, ready to cook

For a whole bunch of reasons (that I outline in my book I Quit Sugar For Life), one should always try to invest in an organic chicken. You can read more on this here. These things can be expensive…but not if you take full advantage of its goodness. The greatest nutritional and economic bang for your organic buck comes from eating the meat as well as the carcass, boiled up as a stock. The bones, skin and giblets contain the life-giving minerals and electrolytes that make chicken broth so good for the soul.

I cook the whole chook, often slowly, to extract as much nutrition as possible. This works out to be very economical for you, especially if you stretch a $20 organic chook to 15 meals…

Oh, the fun you can have with a Choose-your-own-adventure challenge! To play along, it entails starting with one (bulk-cooking) dish, then dragging out the various leftovers, scraps and by-products from there.

1. Start a roast chook (recipe below). Serves four.

2. Take the leftovers to make a roast dinner gratin for the next day. Serves one.

3. Freeze the remaining portion and use it to make chicken pops at a later date. Makes four snacks.

4. The carcass from the roast is used to make Leftover Chicken Stock. Makes six serves.

5. Some of the stock is used to make Sweet Fennel and Beetroot Leaf Soup.

6. Some of the stock is used to make Vietnamese Chicken Curry.

7. Drink a cup of the stock on it’s own, for an energy kick.

8. And any leftovers, which I keep in an ice-cube tray, use to make your next Crispy Roast Chicken.

There you have it. That’s a stack of connected meals – 15 serves – from the one chook! If you’d like to give this challenge a try, here’s the recipe for your first meal:

Crispy Roast Chook with Sweet Potato Casserole

Serves four.

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (keep the cut ends)
  • 1 whole head garlic, cut into quarters
  • 1 whole chicken, at room temperature
  • few sprigs of thyme or oregano
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock, vermouth or dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Toss onion and garlic (cut side down) in a roasting pan. Grab a sharp pair of kitchen scissors and cut the chicken in half down either side of the backbone (the chunkier, bonier “spine”, not the smoother breast bone) and snap/cut the wings at the end joint and remove.  Also cut off any chunky bits of fat.

Put the spine, wingettes and excess fat in a big stockpot with the onion end cuts and set aside. (You’ll use these later to make stock.)

Pat down the chicken, inside and out, with paper towel to ensure it’s dry.

Now, this is the fun bit: using your fingers and working from the chicken’s bum end, pull the skin from the breast and slide your fingers all the way up. Poke half the butter and some of the herbs up under the skin.

Rub the chicken on both sides with lemon juice, and rub down with salt and pepper and herbs. Splay the chook over the onion, placing the squeezed lemon halves underneath and sprinkle little chunks of the remaining butter over the top. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes.

At 15 and 30 minutes, baste with the juices from the pan. The chook will be ready when you poke a drumstick with a skewer and the juices run clear, not pink.

Remove the chook to a serving dish, along with the garlic and lemon, cover and leave in the still-warm oven. Place the pan over heat and deglaze with the stock/wine/vermouth and bring to a boil, scraping the onions and fatty bits. Add a little more liquid if you like and reduce.  You can strain the sauce (I prefer not to), and serve with the chicken, sweet potato casserole and some steamed greens.

Here’s the Sweet Potato Casserole recipe if you’re making this as your side dish.

Do you look for ways to stretch out your meals? Feel free to add your ideas below!


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