Whether isolation is forcing you to get more familiar with your kitchen or you’re just looking for a way to stretch that dollar, you’re probably fending for yourself on the food front more often than not these days. For those looking for a way to get a little more out of the time you spend cooking, we humbly offer the Quarantine Cookbook – a 3-part series focused on basic, pantry-friendly recipes that offer great flavors and variety without overwhelming the reluctant chef.
For our first trick – 3 meals from one chicken! To kick these off, get yourself a chicken and then read on.
Meal 1 – Roast Chicken
Season the bird with simple ingredients – salt, pepper, lemon, oregano or rosemary for aromatics. Roast in a dutch oven, slow cooker, cast iron pan, or whichever pan you have on hand. Quarter some potatoes, onions, carrots, and/or other hardy vegetables for a pan cook kind of deal. Check out Allrecipes’ primer for tips on hitting that magic temperature (165° F) without drying out the meat. Cook up a simple side like rice, and make double if you want chicken fried rice tomorrow night.
After dinner, pick the meat off the bones and store in an airtight container in the fridge for tomorrow. Wrap the carcass up and stick that in the fridge, too – it will make great ramen broth!
Meal 2 – So Many Options!!
Thanks to its simple seasoning, that meat you stored in the fridge last night is one of the most versatile ingredients around. Here are five delicious dinners to make with it:
Tacos – Saute onions and bell peppers with oregano for fajita veggies and dust off the black beans in the back of the pantry. Warm the chicken in the veggie pan with a healthy dust of cumin and whatever salt / pepper combo you like. Rice + splash of lemon juice + salt + cilantro (fresh or dried) – that’s how Chipotle do. Wrap it all up or eat it platter style – whatever works best for you. Bonus: If you don’t have sour cream, you can substitute an acidic cheese (like farmers cheese), creme fraiche, or – if you’re feeling really ambitious – make your own! A little bit of cream, lemon juice, and time (not thyme…or maybe. Try it!).
Chicken alfredo – Super easy if you happen to have a jar of alfredo sauce on hand, but still pretty easy if you don’t. A little cream, butter, garlic, and salt in a saucepan until thick is a solid substitute. Sauce not thickening? Try making a slurry! Lil’ bit of water and cornstarch added to the sauce and it will thicken much quicker! Once the sauce is sorted, drop the pulled chicken in to warm through and toss with whatever pasta you have on hand.
Chicken marinara – Even easier! Pasta + jar of red sauce (gravy for some of you) + pulled chicken. Boom. Use those mason jar herbs sitting in your kitchen window. Stack some basil leaves for a chiffonade if you’re feeling fancy or tear them up for a more rustica look.
BBQ chicken sandwich – Open up that jar of Stubbs and get to mixin’. Heat through and load up on your bread of choice. If you’ve got the goods, add some provolone or my personal fave, coleslaw. Easy peasy.
Chicken fried rice – Plan ahead for this one. Use the extra rice from Meal 1, a scrambled egg, veggies (use fresh, frozen, or canned, but make sure they’re dry before they hit the pan) and raid that seasoning cabinet for garlic powder, soy sauce, and sesame oil if you’ve got it. Hit a very hot pan with a neutral cooking oil and stir fry away. Gotta use the pre-cooked rice, though. Freshly cooked rice doesn’t hold up – we don’t know why other than science. If you want to make it instagramable, pack it into a bowl and turn it out onto a plate for that perfect restaurant rice dome.
Meal 3 – Ramen
Time for that carcass: dig it out of the fridge and toss it in your deepest pot. Cover with water, set the heat to low, cover the pot, and let time do its thang. Taste the broth as it’s cooking to add salt and other seasonings.
Ok, now for the ramen, or whatever noodles you have. No one will care about the noodles when they taste that bomb broth – and if they do give them the look. Ok, back to the ramen. Cook up them noodles however the package suggests.
Un-freezerburn the bag of vegetable medley you for some reason keep bringing with you from apartment to apartment. Heat up the chicken in the broth so the juices can dance their way into the meat. Throw in any extra bits and pieces you think would be tasty. I’m talking boiled egg, scallions, ginger, whatever you got. This is your time to experiment!! Don’t be nervous – Gordon Ramsey isn’t there to call you an idiot sandwich.
SUBSTITUTE BROTH: Use veggie scraps from previous meals to make a broth. Same rules apply.
Good luck in that kitchen, and stay tuned for our next cookbook installment, when we’ll tackle breakfast!