If I had to count how many single portion meals I can get from one fresh chicken, I would have to say at least ten – yes, you read that correctly: ten! That’s ten individual meals from one regular sized chicken. I’m not Merlin the Magician, I’m just a mere mortal woman who insists on getting value for money & doesn’t like waste.
We’ve all done it – shopping tired, hungry, after work or at the last minute, so you buy pre-prepared chicken portions to cook for dinner. Not only is it ridiculously more expensive (think of the wine you could buy!), but learning to do it yourself is a great skill to have & it’s very satisfying knowing that you’ve got meals in the freezer for when you can’t be bothered to cook.
This is how I bone & fillet a chicken – I’m self-taught, it’s just me in the kitchen at home & this is the way I do it. If you’re squeamish, please skip the next couple of paragraphs (I understand).
Before I begin, I usually give my husband a beer & hustle him off into the lounge (because he doesn’t like to watch, bless him). Then I get to work!
Firstly, I pop the legs out of their sockets, then slide my boning knife between the socket & joint, removing the legs from the body – I use scissors to cut the skin between them & the body, because it’s easier. Once that’s done, I carefully peel the skin back from the chicken crown (leaving it attached to the carcass) & feel where the breastbone is – this runs across the top of the chicken. Carefully, I slide the knife as closely to the bone as I can, using firm strokes to cut the meat away from the breastbone & rib cage. Once done on both sides, the bones should be pretty much clean & all that’s left is a thin membrane with the ribs intact. A few minutes later, I have a plate of prepped chicken portions & a carcass to make a fuss-free stock.
Making stock is really easy – I make mine in the oven, not on the stove (because who has the time). I stuff the carcass with a handful of fresh herbs (usually a couple of sprigs of Rosemary, half a dozen Sage leaves & a bunch of Thyme), along with some leafy stems of celery & a couple of carrot sticks, pulling the skin back over the top of the chicken to hold it all in. Then it’s chucked in a roasting tray with some chopped, chunky veg & two or three of pints of cold water, a drizzle of olive oil & a good sprinkling of sea salt & black pepper. I’ll whack it in the oven for a couple of hours with foil on top & once ready, it will cool on a wire rack before everything is tipped into a colander over a large pan to drain. That’s the stock done! It can keep in the fridge for a couple of days or you can freeze it.
That fragrant, golden stock will make a generous risotto for four people (or a risotto for two & risotto balls for more than two people the day after). The legs make a great pollo alla cacciatore for two or can simply be roasted in the oven with some lemon & Thyme. Then there are the very versatile chicken breasts – these are almost double the size of the ones you get in those pre-prepared packs! Usually, I can make four kievs per chicken (coating them in homemade breadcrumbs of course), or use each breast to make a meal for two people – pie, curry, sweet & sour, whatever I like! Plus, if someone is feeling a bit under the weather, I make a couple of bowlfuls of homemade soup using the vegetables that roasted with the carcass & a little diluted stock (which is why I always wash the veg before roasting). It’s a great “pick me up”, especially when you have a few slices of warm, buttered bread to dunk in it too.
Let’s not forget the meat on the underside of the carcass & the wings – I strip this tender, lean chicken for our beautiful cat, who does a great Dyson impression & vacuums it from her plate!
If I can make more than ten meals from one chicken, anyone can – all it takes is a bit of practise & imagination, all for the princely sum of one lovely, whole chicken. Where else can you get ten decent sized servings for about a fiver?
So show the chicken some respect: use the whole bird, fill your family & save yourself some money too. A x