In my quest to expand my cooking skills while also reducing the amount of waste in our home, I discovered a pretty interesting way to approach cooking a whole chicken that ends up yielding three separate meals while also helping you get rid of those random leftover veggies in your fridge that you’re not sure what to do with. Here’s what I did:
Buy a whole chicken. At first I was just doing this as a culinary challenge to myself, but I realized along the way buying a whole bird makes a whole lot of sense. First, it’s less “convenient”, so the meat is much, much cheaper per pound. I think I paid $4 for the chicken I bought, as opposed to paying nearly double for a much smaller package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I’m allergic to math, so I don’t know what percent mark-up that is, but I imagine it must be in the realm of absurdity. The second reason buying a whole chicken is a good idea is because all those “inconvenient” bones and skin and giblets that the nice butcher gets rid of for you? Those things are incredibly useful! (As you’ll soon see…)
Meal #1: Roast Chicken and Random Vegetables
I say “random,” because the beauty of this recipe is that it can work with almost any combination of leftover vegetables that you have in your refrigerator. I made it up as I went, didn’t measure a single thing, and it came out beautifully. This is a brief summary of what I tossed in the baking pan:
- whole chicken, cleaned out and rubbed all over with butter and spices (rosemary, salt, pepper, cayenne)
- celery, carrots, onion, garlic, and kale, chopped and stuffed inside the chicken, with the excess sprinkled around the sides of the pan
- baby portobello mushrooms and potatoes, chopped and rubbed with spices, sprinkled around the sides of the pan
I set the oven on 325 degrees and baked the chicken, covered, for about 2.5 hours, basting it with its own juices every hours or so. As long as you remember to cover the chicken and coat it with enough butter, it is extremely hard to mess this up. Trust me, I’m good at messing recipes up. Did I mentioned I accidentally made 7 sweet potato pies last week??
Meal #2: Chicken and Random Vegetable Soup
After you eat your fill of the first meal, you should be left with a baking pan that looks more or less like this:
This is where those actually-extremely-convenient bones come into play. Using a bone stock recipe like the one I borrowed from my housemate Tracey, you can gather up all those leftover chicken bones and use them to make a low-sodium, calcium-rich, homemade chicken stock that will serve for the base of your soup.
Once you’ve boiled the stock for at least 45 minutes and have strained out the bones and debris, return the stock to the pot and keep boiling it, adding in any other random vegetables you want to use and all the leftover veggies from the first recipe. Boil just long enough for all the veggies to get tender, and the finished product should be delectable.
Meal #3: Chicken Salad Sammich
Hopefully you set aside all the remaining chicken that you came up with when you gathered up the chicken bones, because that’s what you’re using to make this last meal. Put all the leftover chicken in a mixing bowl and shred it with your fingers. Chicken salad seems to be one of those things that everyone makes a different way, but here’s what I put in mine:
- Miracle Whip and yellow mustard, about a 70/30 ratio
- chopped celery and green onions
- chopped almonds and halved green grapes
So there you have it–my chicken magic trick. One bird goes in, three meals come out. And the bird vanishes before your eyes! The main idea here is that you will have very little wasted food–veggies or meat–when you’re done. But if you do, just start a compost bin and you’ll be good to go. =)
Got any other waste-reducing cooking tips? Uses for food items that we often discard? Comment and let me hear them!