Confession time, I have a few skeletons in my closet. More accurately, I have a few skeletons in my freezer - chicken skeletons that is, and some beef and pork parts too!
With the market on its roller coaster ride and the economy still attempting to recover from the recession that allegedly has already ended some of you may be struggling to stretch a dollar. I have a good friend in Nigeria that neeeds my help in return for millions of dollars, so I do not have such worries.... But, since I care about you, my dear reader, I thought I would write about some of the ways I have found to save a few pennies, and cook healthier and tastier for my family.
A prime example is what I do with a whole chicken. This week they are on sale at a local store for 67cents a pound, meaning a 5 pound chicken is less than $3.50. For that price I get a main course plus rendered chicken fat, chicken stock and the giblets. All of those "freebies" when saved up over the course of several chickens more than doubles the value of the price I originally paid for the chicken.
The first thing I do when preparing a whole chicken is to remove the visible fat, then the livers and other giblets. Then:
- The chicken itself can be used in a variety of ways such as basic roasted or grilled, or try Lemon Chicken or Chicken Fricassee.
- The fat can be rendered to make something called "schmaltz", which can be added to anything from gravies to soups and sauces to pan fried potatoes - anything that could use an extra boost to the chicken flavor. And you can't make Chopped Liver and Eggs without it. Usually I save the chunks of fat up in a freezer bag and render it all at once. There are a few methods I found online for making it, but the simplest is to put the fat in a sauce pan, melt it, strain it and put it in the fridge or freezer to use later.
- What can be simpler than making your own chicken broth? Throw bones (chicken, beef, pork, fish, turkey, or chopped veggies) into a pot throw in some roughly chopped garlic, onion and or celery along with any spices (bay leaves, thyme) as desired and cover with water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 3-4 hours or longer for stronger flavor. I freeze mine in ice cube trays then store in freezer bags for later use. Don't forget to skim off the fat and add it to your rendered fat container. A few of our recipes using chicken stock: Posole, Pumpkin Soup, Sopa de Pollo Borracho, Tortilla Soup, Beans 101, Jambalaya, and Red Beans and Rice.
- The livers I save up in a freezer bag until I have enough to make Chopper Liver and Eggs. The rest of the giblets I use to make Giblet Gravy.
- When I don't have enough giblets for Giblet Gravy, I use the broth to make a simple chicken gravy using the Kingsford/Argo method. If I don't have pan drippings I just use some of the rendered chicken fat for the fat. My Great Great Aunt Olga was in charge of gravy at the family Thanksgiving and she always had a small jar (4-6 ounce size such as from olives, mushrooms, pimentos or baby food) in which she had the cornstarch and water ready to go. Once the turkey drippings were ready, a few shakes of the jar and the "slurry" of thickener was ready to be added. I never remember any lumps in her gravy.
The above ideas are not limited to chicken. You can save the bones and fat from any poultry, beef, pork or fish. Even if you get a precooked rotisserie chicken, or chicken wings/ drumettes, the bones can be saved and turned into stock. And, I cannot even imagine throwing away a ham bone until it has been used to make some beans.
So, that $3.50 chicken also yielded at least a quart of broth ($2) some gravy ($1) plus the giblets and schmaltz. Not a bad deal at all.
Until next time, happy eating.
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