After a busy first week of school for Audrey, we had a pretty relaxed weekend. The weekend was bookended by one $8, whole chicken from the Valumart. Out of that one chicken I got three dinners, and 6 cups of chicken stock for future use.
Have you ever spatchcocked a chicken? All that means is using your kitchen shears to cut out the backbone of the chicken, then opening it up to cook flat on a sheet pan, or in a cast iron pan. (Essentially, butterfly chicken.) This sounds complicated, but trust me, it is easy-peasy. Here is a photo I found on the internet of a spatchcock chicken:
The GREAT benefit to spatchcocking your chicken is the whole things cooks in just 45 minutes! Add large dice potatoes to the pan half way through, and you have a great meal in one pan-- and potatoes oven-cooked in chicken fat are absolutely delish. I followed this Jamie Oliver recipe for cooking instructions, and Sonya (who made her very first spatchcock chicken this weekend) found this You Tube video to show you exactly how it's done. Give it a try. It takes about 3 minutes, tops.
My quick recipe is this:
After cutting open your chicken, lay it flat on a sheet pan (as above).
Set your oven to 425F.
Rub your chicken all over with olive oil, salt and pepper (make sure you get under the chicken, too). Quarter an onion and throw it in the pan.
Large dice (1") a few potatoes and sweet potatoes, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and have them at the ready.
Put your chicken in the oven for about 25 minutes, then add the potatoes. Cook for about 20 minutes more, stirring the potatoes every 5 minutes, or so. Chicken is ready if the juices run clear when the thigh is poked with a fork.
Or, as I say, when the chicken is all crispy and golden brown, it's probably ready.
Please don't overcook your chicken. Dry chicken is yucky.
We paired the chicken and potatoes with a green salad. So homey and delicious.
For dessert there was plain yogourt with maple syrup. Two bowls...each.
Since we are not big eaters, we had half a chicken left over. On Saturday afternoon I decided to make one of my favourite recipes-- Chicken Pot Pie. My family loves this recipe. I think I gave my Dad a pie for his birthday last year. It's that good.
My recipe comes from Donna Hay. She is the Australian food goddess. Each one of her magazines is like a little artsy cookbook-- which is why I have about 20 of them. I can never remember which issue has the pot pie recipe, so I always end up flipping through all the fall/winter issues until I find the right one. In case you're wondering, this is the right one:
I think this was Winter 2007. Maybe. Anyway, there are several pot pie recipes in here, but the basic is the one I work with:
Isn't it pretty? As you will soon see, it actually looks like that! I couldn't find this recipe on her website, but I believe Donna would want you to have this most perfect of pot pie recipes, so I took a photo of it:
Click on it. Right click, and save. You'll be glad you did.
That said, I do add a few things to The Basic because it's, well, basic.
For one thing, I add veggies. Usually small dice carrots and celery, which I cook at the beginning with the onions...although I didn't have any celery yesterday. I'm not a big fan of peas, so I don't put those in, but you certainly could. If you're using dried thyme (like me), use 1 1/2 tspns. Don't skip the thyme, though. It's the familiar flavour one associates with chicken pot pie.
I also add a teaspoon of grainy or dijon mustard to the chicken mixture.
note: With lots of added veggies, this recipe makes enough filling for one big honkin' pie, or two regular pies. They freeze really well, so I always try to make one and freeze one. Nothing like baking up a homemade pie from your freezer on a cold night when all you want to do is sit on the couch and watch re-runs of Everybody Loves Raymond.
Finally, I used a pre-made pie crust (gasp!) by Tenderflake, and then added puff pastry on top. You want the puff pastry-- that gives it the puffed, golden look-- and it's also very easy to work with.
I cut all of the chicken off the bone and put the bones in the tupperware container with the backbone I cut out yesterday. (Holding on to the ingredients for Sunday Chicken.) Then I followed Donna's recipe for the filling:
It's about the creamy sauce. So. Good.
After my puff pastry defrosted, I set to work rolling it out while the pie shell par-baked in the oven:
(That's my grandma's rolling pin.)
Then I assembled the pie and gave it an egg wash.
Before it went in the oven:
and half an hour later when it came out:
Again, a green salad, and we had dinner... Saturday AND Sunday, to be honest.
We interrupt this blog post for a cute baby alert:
I recently read somewhere that any chicken stock you make at home-- however meager the ingredients-- is better than the most expensive stock you can buy in a store. Even if all you have is the bones from four chicken breast from last night's dinner, it's a great stock in the making. In this case I had a whole chicken carcass, so Sunday was chicken stock day.
I have great memories of my Dad cooking up a big cauldron of chicken soup in the winter. The smell still takes me back. My grandmother makes an amazing chicken soup, too. If I had to choose, though, I'd pick my Dad's. It's more robust and flavourful. He'd often buy chicken and turkey necks from the butcher and add them into the stockpot. When it was time to take the bones and veggies out, we'd fight over who got to eat the meat off the chicken necks. My Protestant Anglo-Saxon mother was mortified to see her three little girls gleefully sucking on chicken vertebra. The noisier the slurping the better, too.
Anyhoo, yesterday my chicken stock went something like this:
Place the chicken bones in the pot.
Add a halved onion and a few carrots. (If I had them, I would've added garlic and celery, too.)
Add about a dozen peppercorns, and a bay leaf or two.
Pour enough water in the pot to cover all the ingredients.
Bring to a simmer (NOT a rolling boil), and let it go for about 2 hours. After the first 30 minutes skim off the bubbly scum that accumulates on the surface.
Drain, cool, put in the fridge. The next day skim off the solidified fat, then it's ready to use or freeze. (I freeze mine in 2 cup increments in ziploc bags so they take up less space in the freezer.)
Did you know that chicken fat is called "Schmaltz" in Yiddish? (I love google.)
Did you know that Schmaltz is perfect for making Matzo balls?
Can you guess what Tuesday Chicken is going to be?
If you have read this far...I am amazed and slightly shocked. I should now tell you that it's my day for introduction on the Pebbles blog! See my interview and layout there!