I'm a menu planner, and I try to buy all my groceries during the weekend. If you're like me, Sunday night your fridge is probably filled to the brim... and a few things might get lost in the shuffle. Ever find yourself pitching something you forgot you bought? Spending too much money on the week's meals? If you need a simple way to make sure that everyone gets fed all week long with interesting, delicious, unique recipes, all by purchasing just one chicken, you're in luck. These quick and easy chicken recipes all start with the same bird.
When you're choosing the chicken for these quick and easy chicken recipes, be sure to select a free-range organic chicken. Free-range chickens are not only more sustainable and humane, but they have far more flavor than their factory-produced counterparts. If you can get a farm-raised chicken, you might even be able to get a large one, which will help if you're feeding more than two people with these recipes.
5 Quick and Easy Chicken Recipes
Day 1 - Roast Chicken with Roasted Vegetables
The first day, go for classic: roast the chicken with a generous portion of root vegetables at the bottom of the roasting pan. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes... the sky's the limit. Be sure to be generous with the vegetables, as you'll be saving some for later in the week. You could try a flavored recipe like our roasted chicken with lemon and rosemary, but because the leftovers will be used in other recipes all week, it might be a better idea to pick a more neutrally flavored original recipe, like this stuffed organic roasted chicken or Julia Child's classic roast chicken.
To make sure that you keep enough of both chicken and vegetables for later recipes, serve plated portions -- between 3 and 5 ounces of protein per person (about the size of a deck of cards) and a cup or so of roasted vegetables. Not only is it prettier, but you'll eat less and feel fuller more quickly this way.
After dinner: Remove all of the leftover chicken meat from the chicken, separating the white from the dark. Place it into separate containers. Then, place the chicken carcass into a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 2-4 hours, until you have a nice stock. Strain the stock and shock it cold in an ice bath (your sink is a good place to cool such a large quantity). Then refrigerate it.
Day 2 - Chicken Salad
This is the ideal meal for that day in the week where you can never get dinner on the table on time. It's the day you usually go to the gym, the day when your kids have soccer or the day when you try to meet a girlfriend for a drink before coming home. Whatever the reason, use what's left of the white meat for a tasty chicken salad. Here are some of our favorites:
- 3 Chicken Salad Recipes without Mayonnaise
- Chicken Salad with Cranberries, Almonds and Blue Cheese
- Chicken, Strawberry and Fennel Salad
- Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans
Day 3 - Vegetable Shepherd's Pie
Getting a little sick of chicken? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it's nice to have something a little bit different in the midst of all that chicken, and that's where those roasted vegetables are going to come into play.
All you have to do is cook up a pot of organic roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and sauté some greens (spinach, chard, kale, collards...) with a touch of bacon, cut into matchsticks. Cook the bacon in a skillet, and once it's crispy and has rendered its fat, add the greens and cook them until they're wilted and most of their moisture has cooked off. Add the leftover roasted vegetables, just to heat them through. Spread the whole mixture in a baking dish and top with the potatoes. Bake for 20 minutes, and dinner is served!
Day 4 - Chicken Ragu with Pasta
Most meat sauces require a long simmering time and some sort of red meat, but this version is quick -- thanks to the leftover dark meat you still have in the fridge! -- and just as tasty.
In order to make this chicken ragu with already cooked chicken, skip step 4 and step 6. Simmer the sauce prepared in step 5 on its own for 30 minutes before adding the chicken to the pot, just to heat it through -- because it's cooked through, you don't want to risk overcooking it and drying it out.
Serve this sauce with fresh pasta -- you can start cooking it once you've added the chicken to the pan, and everything will be ready at the same time!
Day 5 - Risi e Bisi
You're all out of chicken, right? Wrong! You've still got that savory roasted chicken stock, which will make the perfect base for an Italian classic, risi e bisi. This dish is slightly similar to risotto, though it's a bit more homestyle and not nearly as rich.
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Image: Steven de Polo