Friday, January 25, 2013

Chicken quarters... what do I do with them? (Recipes inside)

Chicken quarters... what do I do with them? (A 4 serving recipe)

Earlier this week I got chicken quarters (drumstick and thighs connected, with skin) at the grocery store. They were on sale for $1/lb, which saved me money over buying a whole chicken ($1.59/lb). I picked up a pack of 5 (though I initially thought it was only 4, but I guess that is irrelevant) and figured I'd bake them. Who doesn't love crispy chicken skin, right? Inspired by a cabbage recipe in Joy for Cooking, I made my own cabbage casserole, baked chicken and biscuits. This was prompted by my desire to use some leftover cabbage (70 cents/lb). As I mentioned in my first post, I do not like to toss fresh veggies because I didn't plan out my meals. It is too wasteful! So I planned ahead.

Step 1: Plan my dinners. Fresh veggies? Use early in the week, and make sure you use them all. Buy only what you will consume.

Step 2: Prep what I can, and prep efficiently. I used 1/4 of my cabbage one night in a curry. So I shredded 1/2 of it (cut into wedges, then cut lengthwise so you get thin strips) and tossed it in a small (9x13) casserole dish to be used the next day.

Step 3: Cook!

After a long day of classes, it was nice to come home to a meal almost ready to go into the oven. The rest of the recipe is as follows:

- Add a cup of canned chicken broth to the cabbage, then placed two chicken quarters on top of it
- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, and then herbs of your choice (I used oregano and thyme)
- Cover in aluminum foil and pop it into the oven for 20 minutes.
- During this time I made 3/4 lb of bacon :) I diced it up and cooked on medium heat until done, then removed it with a slotted spatula to some paper towels on a plate. (use turkey bacon if you'd like, for a leaner option). This part is important: save the grease! It can be used later.
- After 20 minutes, I took the foil off the chicken and baked for another 30 minutes, until the juices ran clear from the chicken.
- If you have skin on your chicken, it will be kind of gummy/slimy. I hate that texture, so I broiled on high for a few minutes to crisp up the skin.

Stop here if you'd like to be extra healthy, and skip down to Step 4: Serve! If you want to continue with some more... flavorful options... continue reading at your own risk :)

Grab some sour cream (low fat or nonfat works well, I used low fat at 40 cal per 2 tbsp). With a spatula spread about a cup of it on the cabbage (enough for a thin layer). Remember that bacon? Of course you do. It's delicious. You may have nibbled on some while you waited for your chicken to finish. You may have not. We won't judge you either way :) Toss that on top of the sour cream.

You may think I stopped here. It's already an amazing dinner, but I kept on chugging. In an attempt to cook without waste, I saved my bacon grease because I wanted biscuits. Light, fluffy, flaky biscuits. Mmmmm. I made biscuits per the recipe in Joy, but substituted bacon grease for shortening. The important part here is to make sure the grease is solid and not liquid. So I popped it into a ramekin and threw it in the freezer. After pacing, peeking in the freezer and painstakingly waiting for the grease to solidify, I made my biscuits. I'll be honest, they weren't quite as fluffy as I would have liked, but I'm not a master of dough yet. They did have the right texture at least, and were very tasty.

Step 4: Serve!

My cooking adventure took about an hour and a half, where most of the time was waiting for things to bake. I use that time to do dishes, clean the counters, etc. It really works out well that way. Now my chicken is down, the cabbage looks awesome and I have my highly sought for biscuits. Now one thing I learned about portion sizes: mine are way too big. How do I decrease them? Here are some helpful tips:

1. Figure out the portion of meat you should eat. I split one quarter in half, drumstick and thigh. I had the thigh and Dan ate the drumstick. A perfect serving of meat.
2. Try to do the math and add up the calories for your meal before you serve it. That way you know what size serving you want.
3. Use smaller plates. I have some salad plates (8" I believe) which are significantly smaller than my dinner plates (12"). That helps when you really want to chow down, and try to overload your plate. You can't in such a small space!

The casserole was 736 calories (via MyFitnessPal). The chicken was 300 calories per quarter and the biscuits were 55 calories each (including the grease calories).

Total per serving (4): 334 calories, plus 55 for a biscuit.

Woah woah woah!!! Only a 334 calorie meal, and it had bacon... and sour cream? How did this even happen? Portion size and veggies! Cabbage is super tasty, and is low in calories. Chicken had some fat, but when you limit what you eat you can splurge a little with the additions. This left me full and satisfied, with a full portion for lunch the next day.

Now what did I do with the extra quarter of cabbage and 3 chicken quarters?? I made soup! I had extra chicken broth, so I put a cup of it in my slow cooker. Then I added a cup of lentils (I will probably dedicate a post to these and beans at some point soon), and 4 cups of water. I browned the remaining 3 chicken quarters, and put them in the slow cooker. You can season your chicken with salt, pepper and whatever herbs you like, by the way. I then sauteed a sliced onion (slice how you like) in the same skillet I browned the chicken in, then added that plus the rest of the cabbage (shredded). Cooked 4 hours on high, and it's done! Another 6 meals worth of meat, and about 4 worth of lentils and veggies. Keep in mind, you don't have to eat it all for your next few meals. Soup is easy to freeze and keeps for several months. I have some chili frozen right now :)

Thanks for reading! Look forward to a post on baking supplies and prices when you buy in bulk. I will be stocking my kitchen with all necessary ingredients to make cakes, breads and decadent treats!

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