When the food budget is down to scratch and inflation has come to roost, it's time for some good pot cluck. "Cluck," at our house, is a fond nickname for chicken.
What else but the democratic chicken blends so well with other ingredients in such a splendid variety of dishes? The plucky "cluck" can be fried, souffled, broiled, barbecued, fricaseed, baked, put in salads, omlettes and soups and stews.
While other meat prices soar upward, chicken, while not the bargain it once was, still is priced at under a dollar a pound. Whole chicken can be had for about 79 cents a pound.
Pound for pound, chicken has little competition in the economy arena. Chicken is always a good "freezer buy" when it is on sale; the birds can be frozen whole, or cut into parts and frozen in meal-size packages. Some cooks freeze breast and leg portions separately, and put the backs in bags to use in soups, stews and broths. When buying a number of chickens for the freezer, all the giblets can be packaged together in meal-size portions. Most cooks find it handy, however, to freeze some chickens whole, cut some up and freeze the parts, and to cook some of the boney portions right away to make broth, and then freeze the broth in one or two-cup portions. Chicken broth can also be frozen in ice-cube trays. When the cubes are frozen, transfer them to a bag, and it's easy to take out a cube or two or enriching a sauce or gravy, for cooking vegetables or poaching chicken breasts. Pre-cooked chicken can be frozen with little, if any, loss of quality. Succulent, juicy chicken can be put into casseroles and frozen.
Many a hostess relies on the "cluck" in this way when planning a large party or buffet. A chicken casserole made at leisure and in advance needs only to be reheated at party time.
With little fuss and feathers, here are some pot cluck recipes to try. LEMON HERB CHICKEN (4 servings) Easy and good, warm or cold 2 pounds chicken pieces, breasts or legs 2 lemons 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning 2 teaspoons rosemary 2 teaspoons basil
Place chicken, skin side down, in a greased baking dish. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the pieces. Mix seasonings and sprinkle one-half over chicken. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Turn chicken and sprinkle with juice from other lemon and remaining seasonings. Bake, uncovered, 20 minutes or until brown. CHICKEN HASH (Serves 8 to 10) 2 tablespoons chicken fat or butter 1 1/2 cups chopped onions 1/2 cup green pepper 2 tablespoons flour 2 to 3 cups chicken stock 3 cups diced cooked chicken 1 cup diced raw potatoes 3 ribs celery, sliced Salt and Pepper to taste
Melt fat in dutch oven. Saute onion and green pepper until tender. Add flour. Cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes. Slowly stir in stock. Add other ingredients, lower heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Season to taste. Traditionally served with hot grits. CURRY-CHUTNEY CHICKEN (Serves 4-6) 1 roasting chicken, 5 pounds Salt 1 medium onion, quartered 1 stalk celery with leaves Soy sauce (good quality) 1/2 cup chutney, chopped fine 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger 1 teaspoon curry powder, or to taste
Salt inside of chicken. Put onion and celery in cavity. Truss. Brush all over with soy sauce. Roast in small roasting pan about 25 minutes at 400 degrees on one side. Turn and roast 25 minutes on other side. Turn breast up and roast 15 minutes. Remove from pan and pour off all fat and juices into small bowl. Return chicken to pan, breast up. In saucepan, heat chutney, ginger and curry powder to boiling. (Thin with a little water if necessary.) Spoon over chicken and roast 20 minutes more. Meanwhile, remove all fat from juices in small bowl, and use juices to baste chicken during this time. Place chicken on warm platter. Deglaze pan with a little water. Add juices from bowl, and reduce if necessary and use as sauce. CHICKEN PILAU (10 servings) 1 cup long-grain rice 1 large hen, cooked 1 large onion, chopped 1/4 pound butter 2 (16-ounce) cans tomatoes, drained and chopped 2 cups chicken stock Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
Cook rice. Cook hen and cut into large pieces. Saute onion in butter until tender. Add tomatoes and cook 10 minutes. Add stock, cooked rice and chicken. Season to taste. BOAT CHICKEN (4 servings)
To be cooked in a covered frying pan. 1 frying chicken, cut in pieces Flour, salt and pepper Shortening or cooking oil 1 package dry onion soup mix 3/4 cup water 1 package (3 1/2 to 4 ounces) slivered almonds 1/2 cup sherry
Shake chicken pieces in bag with flour, salt and pepper. Brown in oil until golden on all sides. Dilute soup mixture with water and add to chicken. uCover and cook slowly 30 minutes. Turn pieces, sprinkle almonds on top, add sherry and cover. Cook until very tender. On another burner, cook rice, and serve together. CHICKEN-ENDIVE PICK-UPS 2 small heads Belgian endive 1 1/2 cups of your favorite chicken salad Sweet gherkins or sliced stuffed olives for garnish.
Separate and wash endive leaves, and pat dry. Fill each leaf generously (but not to overflowing) with chicken salad. Garnish with overlapping slices of olive or gherkin. Arrange on serving plate. Serve as appetizer with drinks. STONED CHICKEN (Appetizer) 1 whole chicken breast 1 small sliced onion 2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 cup dry white wine
Combine chicken, onion and ginger in a saucepan. Add water to cover and the salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until the chicken is tender but firm. Remove chicken meat from bones and cut in large cubes. Place the meat in a bowl, along with wine. Cover and refrigerate several hours -- the longer the better. Drain, and serve the chicken on decorative picks. HAM-STUFFED THIGHS (4 to 6 servings) 8 chicken thighs, boned 8 slices cooked ham, each about 1 by 2 inches 1 egg, lightly beaten Fine, dry bread crumbs Melted butter
With the skin side down, pound the thighs flat. Center a slice of ham on each and secure by folding edges over and fastening each with bamboo skewer or toothpicks. Dip in egg, roll in crumbs and place in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with melted butter, cover and bake about 1 hour at 325 degrees adding a little water or melted butter if needed to prevent sticking. Remove the skewer before serving. BROILED BARBECUED WINGS (4 servings) 16 chicken wings 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1/4 cup cider vinegar 3/4 cup catsup 1/2 cup molasses 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Prepare the broiler. Fold the tip of each wing under to form a triangle. Arrange the wings on the broiler pan. Combine remaining ingredients and brush liberally on the chicken wings. Broil 6 inches from the heat source 30 to 40 minutes, turning frequently and basting until the sauce is used up. CHICKEN IN A POT (6 servings) 1 stewing chicken, 3 pounds, disjointed 1 (1 pound) can whole tomatoes 1 cup minced onion 1/2 cup finely chopped celery 2 teaspoons salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme 1 bay leaf 1 (11 ounce) can whole kernal corn, drained 1 (11 ounce) can lima beans, drained 1 (11 ounce) can small, whole potatoes, drained 1 (11 ounce) can peas and carrots, drained
In a large, deep pot combine the chicken, undrained tomatoes, onion, celery, salt, pepper and herbs. Add water just to cover and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours, or until the chicken is fork tender.Cool the chicken in the broth, then remove the meat from the bones and cut the meat in bite sizes. Return the meat to the pot, first discarding the bay leaf. Add the vegetables and heat, covered. Serve in wide soup bowls with hot French bread.