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Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 12:00 am

One chicken, two people, three meals

A whole fresh chicken can make three yummy meals for two people.


“That One Chicken, Two People, Three Meals was the most useful, most outstanding class you taught,” Springfield orthodontist Dick McDaniels told me recently. It wasn’t the first time he’s said that. Certainly it was my most popular class, one I repeated many times.

But my timing of the first session was disastrous. The concept was simple: make one entrée using breasts, a second with the leg/thighs; the third utilized the carcass for soup. I’d planned to demonstrate boning a chicken, then guide students to do it themselves. What I hadn’t realized was that I’d also have to teach basic cutting into pieces. It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t know how. But of the approximately 150 people who took that class, only one 80-year-old had ever cut up a whole chicken.

There are economical, ethical and aesthetic reasons for cutting and using whole chickens. They cost less. Ancient peoples thanked and honored the sentient beings they killed for food; making maximum use of them continues that tradition. The most flavorful chicken parts are leg/thighs. Yes, they have a few more calories, but also more nutrients. Food professionals know American obsession with white meat chicken is advertising hype.

I can’t demonstrate cutting up and boning chicken in this column, but there are numerous Internet videos demonstrating both basic cutting and deboning techniques.

Chicken breasts with fresh sage, lemon and pine nuts
• 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
• 2 T. lemon juice
• 4 T. olive oil, divided
• 14 fresh sage leaves
• 2 T. minced shallots, preferred, or onion
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 2 T. butter
• 1/2 c. white wine or dry vermouth
• 1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
• Couscous, prepared according to package directions

Put chicken breasts, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sage and shallots in a seal-able plastic bag. Press out as much air as possible, turn to coat breasts completely and marinate for at least 30 minutes. (If marinating longer than 1 hour, refrigerate.) Remove breasts from marinade, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Reserve the marinade and the sage leaves separately.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the breasts and cook until evenly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Turn them and tuck the sage leaves around them. Continue sautéing until the chicken is just cooked through, 5-10 minutes more; remove the sage leaves if they begin turning dark brown. Remove chicken, cover loosely with foil and keep warm.

Discard excess fat from the skillet. Heat over moderately high heat and add wine and reserved marinade. Deglaze the pan, incorporating the browned bits on the bottom. Reduce to a light-brown glaze.

Serve chicken breasts over couscous. Pour the pan juices over the chicken, and top with the reserved sage leaves and pine nuts.

Chicken braised with balsamic vinegar and cremini mushrooms
• 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, optional
• 4 oz. diced bacon, either slab or thick cut
• 2 chicken legs and thighs, skinned and boned
• Flour for dredging
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• 6 minced garlic cloves, or to taste
• 1 T. olive oil
• 1 1/2 c. chicken stock or broth
• 1/2 c. fruity red wine, such as Beaujolais
• 4 T. balsamic vinegar – best quality not necessary
• 3/4 c. drained and chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
• 1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, aka baby bellas, or shitake, sliced or quartered
• Chopped fresh parsley, preferably flat-leaf

If using the dried porcini, bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the porcini, remove from the heat, and let stand for 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened. Swish them in the liquid to remove any grit, drain and then coarsely chop them and set them aside. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer or coffee filter and reserve.

Sauté bacon in a heavy skillet or pot over moderate heat until crisp. Remove from skillet and drain on a paper towel, leaving the drippings.

Cut the boned chicken into large pieces. Season the flour with salt and pepper and dredge the pieces in it. To reduce mess, put the flour into a medium paper bag, season it, add the chicken pieces, fold the bag’s top over and shake until all the chicken pieces are coated. Tap each piece against the bag’s inside to remove excess flour.

Sauté the chicken pieces in the reserved bacon drippings and the olive oil until golden and crisp. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Pour off the fat, leaving only a thin film. Reserve the drippings. Sauté the minced garlic in the skillet over low heat until softened, about 1 minute. Add the stock or broth, wine and vinegar and bring to a boil. Stir in the tomatoes and add the chicken, making sure the pieces are at least partially submerged in the liquid. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Heat reserved drippings (if drippings are black, use fresh olive oil) in another skillet over high heat. Add the cremini and sauté, stirring constantly. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until done. You will hear them squeak. After the chicken has cooked for 20 minutes, add the reserved bacon, chopped porcini if using and cremini. Heat through. Check and adjust. Serve over polenta or mashed potatoes, or toss with pasta; sprinkle with the parsley.

Chicken soup with spaetzle
For the stock:

• 1 chicken carcass, whole or in pieces, plus any pieces of skin and the wings if not using for another purpose
• Chicken neck, gizzard and heart. Do not use the liver
• 1 stalk celery
• 1 carrot
• 1 small onion, unpeeled and quartered
• Small handful of parsley stems
• 2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and smashed with the side of a knife
• 1 bay leaf, optional
• 1 tsp. thyme leaves (do not use ground), or 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, optional
• 1 tsp. whole peppercorns

To finish the soup:
• 1/2 c. diced celery
• 1/2 c. diced carrot
• 1/2 c. finely diced leek or onion
• Spaetzle – recipe follows
• Reserved meat from the chicken carcass
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• 1/4 c. chopped parsley, preferably flat leaf

Place all the ingredients for the stock in a large pot and add cold water to about 1 inch above the ingredients. You should use at least 10-12 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer, spooning off any grey matter that floats to the top. Cover the pot and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the meat on the bones is cooked through. Remove the carcass from the broth and cool until it can be handled. Remove all the bits of meat from the bones, cutting any large pieces into bite-sized chunks. Set aside. You should have at least 1 cup of meat. Return the bones to the pot and continue to cook for at least 2 hours, and up to a day. Remove the bones and pour the stock through a strainer. Let stand a few minutes and remove any fat that floats to the top. This is easiest to do if the stock is refrigerated after coming to room temperature; the fat will have solidified. If making soup right away, remove the fat with a spoon or blot with paper towels.

Bring stock to a simmer in a large pot. Add vegetables and cook just until tender. Tip the bowl of spaetzle dough over the pot, and as it starts to spill over the sides, use a knife or spatula to cut off ribbons of dough as they drop into the pot. If the dough sticks to the knife, put it into the simmering liquid to help release the dough. Cook until the spaetzle have all risen to the top. Add chicken and heat through. Add salt and pepper and correct seasoning. Add parsley before serving.

2/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 egg
3 T. hot water
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix all together to form a loose dough. Add a little more water if necessary. The dough should be fairly fluid.

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.

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