Making the most of your free-range chicken
Yes, that free-range organic chicken costs more than its sad, factory-raised sister. Make it go further. Buy the larger roasters, which are usually less per pound than the fryers. Thaw if purchased frozen. Clean and rinse well, and put in a large stock pot. Add chopped celery ribs and leaves, and a chopped onion and carrot or two, and a few mashed cloves of garlic. If you have fresh herbs, toss in a few (I use parsley, thyme and a bay leaf, tie them together with kitchen string, then tie the other end to the pot handle for easy removal). Throw in a dozen or so peppercorns. Add enough cold water to cover the chicken, put on the heat. Just before it begins to boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer until done, usually @ 1 hour for a 4-5 pound bird. Check the temperature periodically, and turn off the heat when it reaches 175º . DO NOT overcook. Let it sit for at least an hour before removing the chicken. Strain the liquid and reserve for making soup or gravy, braising greens, cooking beans, or cooking grains. To serve right away, make gravy* with the broth and add just enough of the meat for your meal. Chill the rest and enjoy chicken sandwiches, make chicken salad, and/or reheat in gravy for dinner.
The last bird we prepared this way gave us (two people): 3 dinner servings, two lunch of sandwiches, and two lunches of chicken salad, plus two cups of stock for gravy and 6 more for stock for later use.
*for maximum chicken flavor, use the fat from the broth to make the gravy. To minimize cholesterol, skim off the fat and use olive oil. For two cups of gravy, warm 4 tbs. fat or olive oil in a saucepan. Add 4 tbs. flour and cook on medium heat for at least 3 minutes until desired color is reached. Add 2 cups hot broth, wisking to avoid clumping. Allow to come to the boil and simmer for at least 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper.