Welcome back and Happy New Year. I’ve had a long break from writing over the holidays but it’s time to do a little work. After all the indulgence in rich food over the holidays, I was feeling a bit… well, bloated is the only word.
I do like to indulge myself at the best of times but at Christmas there can be a bit of overload when it comes to food and drink. By the time the new year came around I was ready for what my older relatives would call ‘plain food.’ And what better plain food is there than chicken?
I love chicken, it is possibly the most versatile of all the food animals raised by humans. The meat itself is delicious when properly prepared, but it will also happily be a carrier for whatever flavours you care to add to it. Free range is obviously best if you can pay the extra little bit. Aside from animal welfare issues, it genuinely tastes better. But we won’t judge if you are on a tight budget.
Having been given a rather nice dutch oven by a friend for Christmas I decided I needed to give it a test run. I also had a half bottle of prosecco left over by a neglectful friend from our New Year’s Eve celebrations. Chicken and a white wine/prosecco something or other it was to be. I looked at buying chicken pieces for a stew type of thing but a whole medium chicken was on sale for just a few pennies more so I went for that.
Dutch oven chicken four ways
I seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika, bunged half a lemon into the cavity and chucked whatever veg I had lying around after christmas into my new dutch oven. In my case, chopped potatoes, carrots, onion, some whole garlic cloves and celery. The chicken rested on top of the bed of vegetables and the prosecco was poured over the whole lot. Into a medium hot oven (180℃) it went for an hour, after which it was smelling delicious but still looking a bit pale. I jiggled the chicken a bit to get the internal chicken juices to mingle with what was turning into a vegetable soup at the bottom of the pan, and put it back in the oven uncovered this time. After a further 45 minutes the chicken was looking golden brown with a lovely crisp skin. I took the chicken out and tested that the juices ran clear. They did, it was cooked to perfection, beautifully tender and moist with no trace of dryness about it.
I let the chicken rest a while. Onto the hob the dutch oven went with the thin veg and prosecco soupy stew still in there. It tasted ok but not really special, so I added more seasoning in the form of oregano and more salt and pepper and reduced the sauce down a little further. That did the trick. I carved myself off a few slices of breast and tore a leg off for my plate and added the vegetables and a little of the soupy sauce.
Delicious, relatively plain, and very easy.
I would definitely recommend you pick up a dutch oven or some kind of large hob-to-oven-to-hob-to-table pot if you have the resources. You can get a decent one for about €40 and they are a versatile workhorse that will last you a lifetime.
Chicken sandwiches from yesterday’s roast are one of my favourite day time snacks so I had a couple of those before I took a good chunk of the remaining meat off the carcass and made myself a simple chicken curry using more veg I had lying around. Refer to one of my curry recipes here if you need to.
The remains of the chicken carcass went back into my new dutch oven and got covered in a couple of litres of water and simmered gently for a couple of hours on the hob to make a kind of stock. As Nigella points out, it is really pointless trying to write a recipe for stock, just simmer your carcass adding whatever veg and herbs to have to hand, you may need to skim off any unpleasant looking scum that rises to the top but in this case, there wasn’t much. After a few hours I removed the chicken carcass and let it cool a little so I could strip the meat off it.
Into the stock/broth, I put in whole peppercorns, salt, thyme, some roughly chopped onion, a couple of bay leaves and more potatoes and carrots. Back in went the chicken meat and it was simmered until all the veg were soft. Served with some crusty bread and butter, that was my third meal from my bargain bird. Very tasty, nourishing and wholesome it was too. I was positively glowing after it!
The last hurrah from this chicken was probably the easiest of all.
There was enough of my broth left over to accommodate a few handfuls of pasta. It is recommended that you cook pasta normally in water, rather than adding dry pasta to a broth as the starch it loses in cooking can make the whole thing a bit gloopy and unpleasant. So that’s what I did. I boiled up enough macaroni for myself and warmed my broth and stirred the cooked pasta in and that was meal number four.