WHEN BONED chicken breasts are selling for upwards of $3 a pound and drumsticks and wings (minus the tips, I grant you) are well over $1 -- and when plump young chickens of impeccable heritage sell whole for a mere 70 cents a pound -- my friends, the time has come to get out a knife and learn to dissect a chicken. In other words, the sum of the parts is worth more than the whole. Lots more. Let me show you.
I cook for five appetites (two adults and two teen-agers), and I never buy just one chicken. I buy three. In buying three chickens at once and cutting them into parts, I accomplish two important goals: I increase the value of the meat by almost 100 percent, and I have a better product to work with. Instead of a solitary chicken, I have white meat (even boned white meat), dark meat, variety meat and soup makings. The possibilities for using it are endless.
For those who have doubts about cutting up a chicken, it's a simple process explained in most standard cookbooks. (Look in the index under "chicken, cut up.") All that is needed is a good knife, a cutting board, and patience until the knack is acquired. It takes me about 15 minutes to cut up three chickens. When I have finished, I have six (of each) wings, legs, thighs and breast halves, and three (of each) backs, necks, livers, gizzards and hearts. Nothing is thrown away.
Listed below are my suggestions for using the meat and stock but, remember, chicken is so versatile a meat that limitless lists like this one could be made. Here I have tried to avoid recipes that require expensive, exotic or packaged ingredients because one of the basic purposes of the plan is to save money.
I have not avoided recipes that require boning the breasts or thighs because this is another simple process easily mastered and one that every thrifty cook ought to learn. Again, consult a standard cookbook.
1. Place the livers in a container in the freezer to remain until there are 15 to 18 or enough for a meal. Liver itself is a versatile meat. It can be used for main dishes or in the preparation of appetizers like pate or aspic. bIt may also be used to enrich dressing or gravy.
2. Make stock (recipe below). Stock is the basis of soups and many other dishes.
3. Make fried drumsticks.
4. Use the breasts to make Baked Breasts Oriental (recipe below).
5. Make Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms (recipe below).
6. Make Chameleon Soup (recipe below).
7. Use the wings to make Josie McCarthy's Chicken Wings with Spanish Rice (from "The New York Times Cookbook," recipe below).
8. When money is especially tight, use the meat from the parts cooked in the stock to create a casserole called Chicken a la Supermarket. It features lots of pasta, sauce, bread crumbs, whatever you have -- but precious little chicken. STOCK
Place chicken backs, necks, wing tips and all giblets except livers in a pot with 8 cups of cold water, 1 stalk of celery with leaves, 1 small carrot, 1 spring onon or just a small onion, 1 sprig of parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, 1/2 bay leaf (optional). Simmer 2 hours. Strain the stock and set it aside to cool until the fat rises and can be removed. The meat on the chicken parts can be removed from the bones and saved for soup or casserole.The bones and vegetables should be discarded. BAKED BREASTS ORIENTAL (4 to 6 servings) Sauce: 6 tablespoons soy sauce 4 tablespoons peanut oil (substitute other vegetable oil) 2 tablespoons sherry (substitute other dry wine) 2 tablespoons catsup 2 teaspoons sugar 2 tablespoons fresh ginger root grated (substitute ground ginger) 6 chicken breast halves 1 teaspoon dry mustard Salt to taste
Mix sauce ingredients and marinate breasts in mixture 8 hours or more, turning occasionally. Remove chicken from refrigerator 45 minutes prior to baking and allow it to set at room temperature. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake chicken 45 minutes, turning several times, until it is brown and meat is cooked through. Do not overcook or it will be dry. Broil a minute or two if necessary to brown skin and meat. Remove meat from pan. Pour off fat from pan, leaving the drippings. Add a small amount of hot water to pan, along with dry mustard. Bring to a boil, scraping to loosen crusted bits. Salt to taste. Pour over chicken and allow it to set for half an hour before serving. Serve with rice. CHICKEN THIGHS WITH MUSHROOMS (3 servings) 6 thighs 1/2 cup flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pepper 1 tablespoon dried shallots 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 1 cup fresh mushrooms (substitute canned mushrooms) Cooked spinach and lemon for garnish
Bone thighs; remove skin and any fat. Flatten and dredge the thighs in flour mixed with salt, pepper and shallots. Saute the thighs in 1/4 cup butter for 20 to 25 minutes, turning at midpoint. Remove thighs from skillet. Saute mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter in same skillet. Serve the thighs on a bed of cooked spinach. Top with mushrooms. Garnish with lemon. CHAMELEON SOUP (6 servings)
This soup assumes the identity of its last ingredient. 6 cups stock 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced 1 carrot, peeled and diced 1 medium onion, peeled and diced 1/2 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
Cook all ingredients except the peas for 1 hour at medium heat. The vegetables should be well done. Add the peas and cook 10 minutes or until the peas are done. Place the entire mixture in a food processor or blender for only a few seconds. Salt to taste. You have pea soup.
If, instead of adding peas to the soup, you had added the meat used to make the stock, some rice and pasta, and a few green vegetables, you would have chicken soup. JOSIE MCCARTHY'S CHICKEN WINGS WITH SPANISH RICE (4 to 6 servings) 2 pounds chicken wings 1/4 cup olive oil 1 cup onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, crushed 1 cup raw rice 2 teaspoons salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1 cup canned tomatoes with liquid 1 1/4 cups chicken stock 1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron 1 cup cooked green peas 2 canned pimientos, diced
Wash the chicken wings, drain them and pat dry.
Heat the oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft and lightly browned, stirring constantly. Remove the onions from the skillet and set aside. Add the chicken wings to the remaining oil in the pan and cook, uncovered, until evenly browned, turning frequently.
Place the chicken wings and the onions in a saucepan. Add the rice, salt, pepper, tomatoes and chicken stock. Dissolve the saffron in 1 tablespoon of hot water and add to the chicken. Cover the simmer 45 to 50 minutes, or until the rice and chicken are tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Add the peas and pimientos, stirring gently into the rice. Reheat and serve. Recipe from "The New York Times Cookbook."