Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting the Most Bang for Your Organic Buck.

Organic Meat is not cheap. At more than $10 or $15 for a small (whole) chicken, you're looking at some fairly high prices compared with regular ol' factory farmed chicken. But, as you may know, organic chicken tends to be better for the environment because it uses less antibiotics (although, with modern "organic" and "free range" farming methods, it may simply mean fewer antibiotics going into the soil and waterways and not much else - for more information, read "the Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan). Local meat likely has a smaller carbon footprint, but may have a higher price tag. The cost being what it is, it's helpful to stretch the chicken into several meals. There's a show on the Food Network that focuses on making multiple meals using the same few ingredients which may be helpful for this.

I want to recommend what we usually do, which is to roast the chicken and then the next night make something with the... uh... leftovers.

To roast the chicken, just rinse the chicken (make sure to remove the bag of gizzards, etc, from the inside, if there is one), dry it, stick it in a roasting pan. What I do is cut up some root veggies like carrots, potatoes, parsnips, beets, onions, toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper, put the veggies as a bed in the bottom of a pan and put the chicken on top. Then you just want to rub some olive oil on the chicken and I like to sprinkle it with some spice mix - Emeril's Essence is good, Old Bay seasoning works, or sprinkle on whatever you like, even lemon pepper would probably be tasty. Then you just put it in the oven at 375 for 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. You'll know it's done if you can wiggle the leg and it sorta comes apart pretty easily. Carve it up and enjoy!

Ok, so when you're done with dinner, put what's left of the chicken, covered, in the fridge (or freezer if you can't get to this for a few days) and the next day you put it in a big pot, cover it with water and simmer it for several hours to make broth (or as many as 24 for a fuller, more nutrient-dense broth). I like to add celery salt because I'm not a big fan of celery itself, but if you have celery on hand, throw that in too, along with some carrots and some onions. I like to chop them in large chunks, because I expect to strain them out when I get the chicken out. If you want your broth to be yellow (and look like broth from the supermarket) add a bit of turmeric, though if you use a yellow onion and just leave the onion skins on, it colors the broth nicely and doesn't leave a flavor to it . If you're not adding celery salt, you probably want to add salt to taste, also add pepper. How much of these really depends on how much broth you're making, obviously. If you're making a lot, you'll want to add more salt, pepper, and spices. Just taste it and see if you like it, if not, you can try adding more... just go slow so you don't end up overdoing it.

Now you'll want to strain this broth and get the chicken bones, etc, out. I do this by putting my strainer in another large pot and then pouring it all into the big pot, thereby straining out big chunks. You can now use this broth for whatever you might want. I usually do soup. If you spend some time and pick the rest of the meat off of the chicken, you can usually get a fair amount for the soup. I also usually chop up any left over meat from the night before and toss that in the soup. Then I add carrots (you can use the same ones from before or new ones... or just wait and only put the carrots in after), egg noodles, and thyme. I let the soup simmer until the noodles are soft, then I toss in some other veggies, usually peas, corn, or green beans... use whatever you like or have on hand.

So, there you go. Two meals from one chicken, twice the bang for your buck. If you make a lot of broth, you can freeze some and use it for something else, too!

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