Saturday, August 4, 2012

Winner winner

The other night I made a roast chicken for dinner; as we ate, Miss B asked about the crispy brown stuff on the side of my plate.

“That’s the skin,” I informed her, then confided, “You know what? That’s about 75% of the reason I make roast chicken – so I can eat the skin.”

She looked up at me, eyes round with surprise. “Really?”

“Yup,” I confirmed. “It’s crispy and salty and delicious. Wanna try some?”

She peered at it for a minute with interest, but then her native caution about new food won out. “Um…no thanks.”

On the inside, I had one of those Parenting Moments We Don’t Talk About – an internal response equal parts shrieking “Just try it, fer crying out loud!!!” and teasing “Well, more for me then!”. On the outside, I remained an adult, shrugged, and said, “Okay.”

Then the subject changed, so we didn’t talk about the other 25% of the reason I make roast chicken: because, in addition to being delicious, it provides the basis for at least another two meals. This particular bird has now been stripped and reincarnated as 1) chicken pot pie with a biscuit crust (also incorporating the leftover medley of carrots/celery/onions that I threw in the roasting pan under the chicken, as well as the pan juices it produced while cooking) and 2) chunky chicken salad. When down to nude bones, it went on to 3) simmer gently in a pot with water and vegetables to produce chicken stock for use in yet another dinner (soup? risotto? it all depends on what’s happening next week).

Chicken pot pie
This, along with cottage pie, is at the top of the list of things I only ever make when I have leftovers from a roast dinner. (It's not really a recipe, but rather an attractive repackaging of things you’ve already cooked.) I start by stripping as much chicken meat off the carcass as I can and chopping it into bite-sized pieces, and then look at it against the amount of vegetables I have available. Then, depending upon the number of people I’m feeding, I either subtract some chicken for another use, or boost the amount of vegetables with something easy, like frozen peas. If I have sufficient cooking liquid, or have made gravy, I add that in, and mix everything together in a good-sized bowl. If I don’t have enough liquid, I augment it by making a quick roux, dumping in whatever liquid I do have, and bolstering it with whatever stock I have around or, in a pinch, water. Once all this is mixed together and placed in a suitable baking dish, it can be topped with a sheet of frozen puff or shortcrust pastry, should you have one stashed away; or you can make a quick biscuit crust using a recipe like this one (minus the fruit and sugar). Put in a 180C/350F oven to heat through and cook the crust (about 30 minutes), and dinner is served.

PS Given the name of this post, I was compelled to Google the origins of the phrase "Winner winner, chicken dinner." The most commonly offered explanation I found was that, once upon a time, a free chicken dinner was one of the prizes offered to gamblers in Las Vegas. (I make no claims about its plausibility or accuracy.)


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