Okay, maybe not an army… But I have figured out a way to get a ridiculous number of meals for the family (of five) from TWO CHICKENS. You can buy 2 chickens from Sam’s Club or Costco very reasonably — or of course buy organic or free range at significantly more. Honestly we usually do the two-chicken bag at Sam’s.
With two chickens, I can make dinner 3 nights in a row and also have several lunches for myself throughout the week. Here’s what I do.
For the first night, Chicken! Wash the chickens and make sure all the giblets are cleaned out. Some people like to use the neck, etc. if you have them but ugh, they just gross me out. Then cook the chickens for dinner in whatever way your family enjoys — or however much time you have! You can…
- Boil. Not a lot of time required (1-1.5 hours usually), but not quite as tasty. I just throw the chickens into my huge stock pot, cover with water, toss in some chunks of onion, celery, and garlic, and cook until the chickens are done.
- Crockpot. Put the onions and celery in the bottom and lay the chickens on top (one chicken in each crockpot. Yes, I have more than one. Doesn’t everyone?). Mix up your favorite seasoning (paprika, sage or thyme, garlic, salt, celery salt) and rub into the skin. Do not add water. Cook on high 4-5 hours and it will literally fall apart.
- Roast. Stuff the chickens with onions, celery, apple and/or lemon. Melt a little butter and mix with either fresh or dried herbs. Rub into the skin. Roast at 400 for 1- 1 1/2 hours. I believe the original recipe called for 450F but it makes me nervous because the chickens really splatter and smoke in the oven. This is the tastiest (in my opinion) but takes more babysitting. It makes a rich, dark, delicious broth.
That Man and the monsters devour the dark meat. I save at least two breasts from one chicken for later.
Preparation for the next day: Throw all the scraps and bones (yes, even the ones people ate on, if it doesn’t gross you out — they’ll cook for a long long time!) into a crockpot. If you did the crockpot method above, you’ve already got one dirty one! If you boiled the chickens, save all that delicious broth. You can strain it and use it right away. You can even throw the veggies into the crockpot too (if you stuffed the cavity with apples or lemons I typically toss them in the garbage). Splash a little good apple cider vinegar over the bones (to help draw out the minerals) and fill the crockpot with water. Set it on low and forget about it. You can easily cook this until dinner the next night (yes, 24 hours is okay).
The second dinner: Chicken and Noodles. Strain the incredibly rich and strong broth. Since it’s been cooking so long, it’s very strong. You can usually get 3-4 quarts of double-strength broth out of the chickens. Cool 2 of them in the fridge (leave headroom) and then pop them in the freezer for Thanksgiving noodles! Use the other quart or so of broth to make dinner.
I make noodles from scratch (usually 4 cups of flour, 4 eggs, 4 tsp salt, and 8 T milk or water). I dice an onion, lots of carrots and celery, and a couple of potatoes. Saute the onions in a little butter or olive oil, add in the rest of the veggies, the chicken broth, a quart or two of water (or more if your broth is strong enough), and simmer until the veggies are tender. Use the reserved chicken breast from yesterday (I only eat white meat), shred, and add to the pot. Throw in the homemade noodles, being liberal with the flour (it acts as a thickener). The monsters love to put a scoop of mashed potatoes in the bottom of their bowl and then top with this delicious soup.
Since we definitely eat this soup for the homemade noodles, we usually end up with lots of veggies and chicken in the bottom of the pan and very little noodles in the leftovers. No problem. That’s where the next night’s dinner comes into play.
The third dinner: Chicken and Dumplings. I make dumplings using Pioneer baking mix. Yes I could make them from scratch, but the family really likes them this way and they do come out nice and fluffy. I heat up the leftover chicken soup from the previous night until the broth is boiling. If needed, I might add more veggies and chicken, but there’s usually plenty left over from the previous night. (A few precious noodles are a bonus!) If I have any leftover mashed potatoes, I throw them into the pot to help thicken and stretch the soup. Then I drop the dumplings into the soup, cover, and let them steam for 10 mins or so.
Leftovers. Yes, even after eating these two poor chickens for three nights, we usually have a ton of leftovers. I can eat it for lunch at least a couple of days if not all week.
Bonus: I usually still have 1-2 qts of broth in the freezer too!
If you need to stretch the chicken meat, you can add dark (if your family will eat it — I personally won’t). I also keep cooked shredded chicken breast in the freezer, so if I need a little more meat, I can break a hunk off and toss it in.
At the first hint of the sniffles, two chickens are at the top of my list. After eating homemade broth all week, we’re usually well over any hint of a cold!