You may be surprised to know that despite my schmoopy missives about how much I love our birds, we do actually raise some for meat. (Is it weird that I love them almost as much roasted as I love them alive?)
The majority of what we eat is raised specifically for meat and is butchered at about 8 – 10 weeks. As part of our flock management, we also cull out some other chickens (except the hens, I just can’t do it) that are older. These guys are pretty much good for stewing and not much else. But oh, the things you can do with a whole bird…. it’s the gift that just keeps giving.
Note: this post doesn’t even get into the chicken livers, gizzards, and hearts that we set aside from the birds, but I have a pate recipe that will knock your ever-lovin’ socks off. And I don’t even get into giblet gravy, that’s sort of a no-brainer.
This is easy — just put your bird(s) in a crockpot on low overnight or in a dutch oven. I used two birds, one of which I believed to be Romeo who was definitely on the tough side. I didn’t even season them since I knew I was planning lots of mixed uses later. (Also, Romeo’s meat looked super dark and I wanted to get the unadulterated flavor and see what I was working with. Also, lazy.)
Once they’re done, let them cool. Then just go through the carcass and pick out all of the meat. You can separate it by dark and white, but I didn’t. I’m the low-fuss type when it comes to this. Save ALL of the connective tissue, fat, bones, and strange-looking gross unidentifiables.
Take a hand mixer to the meat to really shred it up if you want. I can’t emphasize enough to you how lazy I am in the kitchen, so I skipped this step.
I put the shredded meat in a ziploc and the carcass/broth/stuff in another and keep them in the fridge until I’m ready to use them. At this point I’ve done enough work in the kitchen and probably need a glass of wine (for heart health, obviously). A rose’ goes great with this task.
Keeping shredded chicken in your fridge will change your life. Man, it’s so easy to have on hand:
- Throw some garlic, pesto, parmesan and chicken on a pita and stick it under the broiler for a pizza
- Put it in a wrap with some bacon ranch dressing, vegetables, and it’s a great wrap
- Throw a little on your salad when you make one
- Easy-peasy stir-fry with veggies
- Take some of that broth you had left over, some veggies, and make chicken soup
- Make chicken salad unlike any you’ve had before
I opted for Chicken Posole, Thai Chicken enchiladas, and Chicken Tamale Pie.
- 2 cans fire-roasted diced green chiles
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 large onion
- 2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) white hominy
- 1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano*, divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons ground red New Mexico chiles*
- Garnishes: sliced avocado, lime wedges, cilantro sprigs, and sour cream
- Cut onion in chunks and pulse in food processor with garlic until chopped; set aside. Drain hominy; set aside.
- Heat oil in 5 - 6 qt. pan over high heat. Turn down to medium and add 1 tsp oregano. The oregano will become very fragrant -- sprinkle shredded chicken with salt and toss with the oregano/oil until the chicken is heated through.
- With a slotted spoon, transfer meat to a plate.
- Set heat to medium-high. Add onion mixture and remaining 1 tsp. oregano to pan and sauté until onion is softened, 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, microwave broth until steaming, about 3 minutes. Add ground chiles to pan and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds.
- Add broth, hominy, and chicken to pan. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer to blend flavors, 10 minutes.
- Stir diced chiles into posole and cook 1 minute. Ladle into bowls; top with garnishes.
- *Find Mexican oregano at well-stocked grocery stores, along with ground red New Mexico chiles.
The other recipe I love is Thai Chicken Enchiladas. It’s a bit of a stretch to call them “enchiladas” as they can be a bit soupy and best eaten with a spoon. Maybe more of an enchilada pie? There are times when I just crave this dish.
- 8 flour tortillas
- 1 1/2 cup shredded chicken
- 1 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped/shredded carrots
- 1/2 cup chopped/shredded cabbage
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 4 green onions, sliced
- 1/3 cup chopped + crushed peanuts + more for garnish
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro + more for garnish
- 2 1/2 cups light coconut milk
- 1/3 cup + 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add canola oil. Throw in onions, cabbage, carrots, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring to mix. Let cool until vegetables are soft, about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in chicken, green onions, peanuts, cilantro, remaining salt and pepper, tossing to coat, and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Add in 3/4 cup coconut milk and 1/3 cup sweet chili sauce, mixing thoroughly to combine. Turn off heat.
- Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Whisk together remaining coconut milk and sweet chili sauce. Pour about 1/2 a cup or so on the bottom of the dish. Slightly warm tortillas if desired to make them more pliable, then place a few spoonfuls of the chicken mixture in each, rolling up tightly and placing in the dish. Cover with remaining coconut milk and chili sauce mix. I usually take a spoon and cover every inch of the tortilla with the sauce, just to make sure it’s coated.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and top with additional peanuts and cilantro. Since sauce is not as thick as traditional enchilada sauce, when you remove them from the oven, spoon sauce from the bottom of the dish all over the tortillas. Additionally this can be done halfway through cooking too.
Jeff and I had some polenta left over from a previous dinner, so I used that for my tamale pie instead of masa de maiz. Seemed like a good enough substitution.
- 1 18 oz roll polenta
- 1.5 c shredded chicken
- 1 can green enchilada sauce
- sliced olives
- avocado or guacamole
- Preheat oven to 350f.
- Slice polenta into discs and place in bottom of 9 x 13 pan.
- Spread shredded chicken over the top of the polenta discs.
- Pour the green enchilada sauce over the top.
- I added a can of diced green chiles because I pretty much add them to everything. Then, I topped it with olive slices and cheese. So, yeah, this is a completely bastardized version of a perfectly good dish (tamales).
- Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
And lastly, bone broth:
I had to look up “bone broth” to make sure it wasn’t some new hipster term for… you know… stock. or broth. or the bouillion our parents used to buy in little cubes.
Turns out bone broth is a little different, and with my upcoming knee surgery I decided to make some.
- Broth — water simmered with vegetables and meat. Some bone. Used as a soup base. Stays liquid when chilled. Takes around 45 minutes to 2 hours to make.
- Stock — water simmered with vegetables and bones, with some meat. Simmered for 4 – 6 hours. Gelatinous when cooled.
- Bone Broth — kind of a hybrid. Simmered for often over 24 hours. Uses primarily bones. Clear liquid when chilled.
I opted to make bone broth because it really extracts the minerals that support the immune system, as well as collagen and is supposed to promote joint health.
Here’s what I did:
I picked out all of the bones from the carcass and laid them on a sheet pan and roasted them for 30 minutes at 350f.
Then I put the bones and all the other “stuff” from the ziploc bag in a pot, covered it with water, and added 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. I let that sit for 30 minutes.
Making sure you have enough water to cover the “stuff”, bring the pot to a vigorous boil.
Then turn it down to a simmer, and keep it there for about 5 hours. Periodically skim the foam and impurities off the top. Apparently you’ll have a lot less of this with pasture-fed, free-range critters. I will say that I was a bit surprised at how “clean” it was compared to other times I’ve made stock or broth.
After 5 hours, I added 2 quartered onions, 3 carrots cut in half, rosemary leaves, and 2 stalks of celery. I put it all in the crock pot on low, and left it overnight (about 12 hours).
I strained it all through a cheesecloth and set the pot in an ice bath for 1 hour. You’ve never seen anything so beautiful. It was liquid gold. I measured it out into ziplocs, 1 cup each. It wasn’t very salty and I didn’t add much salt because I prefer to manage my seasonings in the recipe I’m making. I do add salt to it when I heat it up for drinking.
The bones were nearly crumbly, like chalk when done. It’s tempting to grind up the veggies and bones to give to the dogs, but I’d hate for them to get a sliver. So, with heavy heart, I did throw that away.
Still, getting 12 servings of delicious food and 16 cups of healing bone broth from 2 chickens is possibly one of the most rewarding aspects of our little farm-to-table operation.