I have an almost moral objection to buying a packet of chicken breasts at the supermarket. There are two reasons for this.
The first is highly embarrassing. I have inherited a flavour preference for meat on the bone – I like to pick at jointy bits, chew at the leg and savagely eat what Americans call dark meat. Think of fillet steak which may boast a velvet smooth texture but just doesn’t pack a flavour punch as much as an oozy rump or rib-eye. Breast versus a nibble on the rib of a roasted chicken? No contest.
The second, and the most important is simply to do with cost and waste. I flatly refuse to buy two chicken breasts for £4 when a whole chicken, which already has two breasts thrown in, costs the same. And what joyous meat you can get from a whole bird - being clever about using your chicken means that you’d never have to buy individual pieces again. I sometimes wonder what happens to the rest of the chicken - does the carcass get used to make a warm homely stock? I doubt it. And stock costs an extra £2.50, by the way, if you were to buy it.
So I propose that you can make three meals for two people with one 1.5kg chicken. I’m not the biggest fan of the freezer, it's a place to store peas and vodka, but in this case - as a way to avoid eating chicken every day whilst still using the whole bird - I salute it. It’s just about being resourceful and knowing how to joint (for first timers I recommend Shaun Hill's jointing demonstration in The Cook’s Book - lots of pictures).
Once I have my chicken I start by taking off the breasts off the bone and slicing them into thin strips for a stir fry. I tend to freeze the strips immediately so I can use them for a supper the next week, taking them out to defrost in the morning on the day I want to cook them before I go to work.
Then, I take off the legs and thighs. These will be used for something like a Nigel Slater-type Chicken Supper (recipe below).
Finally you are left with a carcass – which is just begging to be used for stock and can be the base of a whole meal. I generally use the golden liquid for things like Chinese meatball soup called Lion’s Heads (will post that recipe up soon), or an onion gravy for sausages.
I urge everyone to reward themselves with what a whole bird yields, not just for roast chickens but for your everyday meals.
Chicken with Ginger Wine
(My version of A really good simple chicken supper from Real Food)
Rich, buttery and warming. Absolutely deelish.
2 chicken thighs and 2 chicken legs
Big big knob of butter
Three glugs of olive oil
A small glass of ginger wine (or dry white wine if you don’t have ginger wine)
4 large garlic cloves chopped in half
Handful of chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Rub the chicken pieces with salt and pepper whilst warming the butter and olive oil in a lidded cast iron casserole dish over a medium heat. When the butter is foaming, lay the chicken pieces skin side down. Brown well for about 10 – 15 minutes– the skin should look gorgeously crispy and golden-brown before turning over. Let the chicken cook gently in the butter (about 35 minutes) until the chicken is just cooked.
Remove the chicken, and tip out most of the oil from the dish. Return the dish to a high heat, and add the ginger wine. Bring to the boil whilst stirring vigorously so that all the chickeny goodness at the bottom of the pan is mixed in the sauce. Return the chicken to the pan, add the garlic and simmer with the lid on for 10 more minutes.
Add chopped parsley, and generous squeeze of lemon and serve with crushed new potatoes mixed with fruity olive oil and a sprinkling of chives and sea salt.