Stretching One Chicken
Some folks don't know that a whole chicken can go into a slow cooker, but is sure can. Take a defrosted bird from your own farm or a friendly farm near you and when it is covered in olive oil, spices, herbs - place it in a slow cooker. I cook on high for an hour with just the bird, and then add 2 cups of water, a pat of butter, and veggies of the hardy winter sort. This pot has carrots, onions, parsnips and potatoes. After the veg is in, I turn it to low and let it cook until the bird literally falls apart. After that I pull out the chicken and remove the bones and leave the meat in the pot! Now you have a hearty chicken soup. Want it to be stew? Make a simple roux on the stove and add in that combination to turn it into a really wonderful, thick, dish!
Now, just ladling out soup or stew doesn't last very long. So to stretch it for company on Game Night or with a larger crowd I also have a large pan of rice or egg noodles. That base creates a filler and you ladle just one scoop of sauce, meat, and veggies over that and you have create a truly filling sit down!
After this the bones and remaining carcass are boiled for chicken stock. It is yellow and smells better than anything in a metal can, and can easily be frozen in mason jars or pressure canned, if you're nasty. Add more noodles and veggies to that broth, throw in a few flakes of chicken meat cooked off and you just created another meal for several people. After boiling; the bones go to the pigs, who adore them and their crunchy goodness!
After the company, I turn the leftover stew into pie filling. I make a simple loaf of white bread (just honey, warm water, yeast, salt and flour) and I don't even let the dough rise. I just take the dough and use it to turn it into two "pie crusts" in a deep dish pan. It's not a flaky crust at all but more like a Cornish Pasty. It's a loaf of bread baked around the pie filling and it is baked at 375 until browned and beautiful. One slice is a whole meal, and this pie could feed four people without side dishes and have them smiling through the groans of a belly tight as a drum.
I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't and at this point in my cooking/farm life it is just second nature. Flour, olive oil, yeast, root veg and birds are always around. But you don't need to be a homesteader to make a bird like this stretch. You just need to defrost one Thursday in the fridge, set it in the crockpot with all the veg and water before work on Friday morning, and come home and serve it with just the work of making a pot of rice. The carcass can boil after the dishes are done and you and your family are enjoying a movie or watching TV, and the next day you can take the veggies and meat and turn it into a simple meat pie like this!
How do you stretch your meat birds? Any suggestions?! I'm open to them!