Chicken for a Week (Part One)
Monday night's takeout lives on and on
It should be clear to anybody reading this that I love to cook, and I try to do it every day. But I can’t. Even the most enthusiastic home cooks hit some kind of wall during the week — work, fatigue, too many dishes in the sink — and are forced to order takeout. This is no big punishment, and I like takeout as much as the next person. But the one meal most frequently ordered in my household has not only to do with taste (and it is unfailingly delicious), but with its incredible ability to generate a whole new suite of meals once you’re ready to start cooking again. Such is the power of rotisserie chicken.
Rotisserie chickens are cheap, readily available for a last-minute dinner, and usually quite good. You can eat them straight with some honey mustard or ketchup (my preferences), or you can shred them and nestle the meat into a soft flour tortilla or on top of a salad. You can even find them in the supermarket, although I’d recommend a dedicated rotisserie spot for the best quality (my personal chicken supplier is Chirping Chicken on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, if you’re in the area).
However you choose to eat a rotisserie chicken, just don’t throw away the leftovers. They can power a week’s worth of eating long after you’re done with takeout. This week and next I’ll be publishing a handful of recipes for utilizing your leftover rotisserie chicken, many of which start with the amazing chicken stock below.
(Makes approx. 1.5 quarts)
Leftover rotisserie chicken, including skin and bones
Optional: an additional pack of chicken backs or gizzards, if you want to really up your stock game
1 Spanish onion
1 head of garlic, cut crosswise
1 celery stalk, washed
1 large carrot, washed
3-4 bay leaves
Handful of black peppercorns
1-2 tablespoons of soy sauce
Small bunch of parsley or other soft herbs (cilantro, scallion, dill)
Sprig of rosemary or thyme
Prepare a heavy dutch oven or large pot with at least 3.5 quarts of room.
Trim the bottom end of the onion but keep the skin on, and cut in half. (Onion skins contribute a great deal of color and flavor to stock.) Snap the celery stalk and carrot in half or thirds.
Add the vegetables, onion, garlic, chicken, herbs, bay leaves, and peppercorns to the pot. Cover with water.
Add a pinch of salt and the soy sauce. You don’t want to over-salt the stock (it should only be very faintly salty), as you want to control the sodium level of whatever you end up using it for.
Bring to a strong boil and then turn it down only slightly; you want it to be consistently boiling throughout.
Let this boil for at least an hour and up to four hours. Every so often, add more water to keep the stock from reducing down too much. You may need to add a bit more salt as you add more water, but only if it tastes too flavorless. Skim any excess scum or fat should it arise.
Once you’re ready to drain, place a strainer over a large bowl and line it with paper towels. (You could also use cheesecloth, but I find paper towels to be just as sufficient and less fussy.) Drain the stock into the bowl and let cool. Refrigerate for up to two weeks, or freeze for a couple of months. (You can also save the boiled vegetables for a soup or for making meatballs, or something to that effect.)
If you want, you can add numerous other ingredients to this stock — dried mushrooms, kombu, leeks, bonito flakes, a parm rind, fish sauce, etc.
Tortellini in Brodo, Weeknight Version
1 quart chicken stock (ideally cooked with a Parmigiano rind)
Buitoni brand cheese tortellini (normally I would go for handmade tortellini, but this is strictly a weeknight recipe)
Extra virgin olive oil
Cracked black peppercorns
Bring chicken stock to a boil in a dutch oven; reduce to low heat.
In a separate saucepan, bring water to a boil. Once boiling, add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the tortellini and cook for 6 minutes.
After 6 minutes, add the tortellini to the broth and bring it to a boil once again, stirring throughout. Add salt to taste.
Plate and add cracked black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and grated Parmigiano.