First, plan your menus based on what you have in the freezer and pantry and then take a look at the supermarket ads and fill in your menus with sales items.
Second, make your money (and time in the kitchen) go farther by using this week’s plan for turning just two chickens into three meals for a family of four.
I usually begin the preparation of the three meals on a Sunday afternoon. Remove the leg quarters from both chickens to roast later in the week, remove the breast meat (you’ll use two breast halves for a stir-fry) and then simmer the carcasses (with wings intact) to make stock for delicious chicken and dumplings.
The remaining two breast halves will be poached in the chicken broth to shred for the chicken dumplings.
If you’ve never cut up a whole chicken, you can find videos of the process on YouTube. One important tip: Use a very sharp knife.
I’m including the Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings recipe and photo here, and the other two recipes are from the Chronicle archives. You can find the links by visiting www.chronicle.augusta.com/life/food or you can enter the following:
CASHEW CHICKEN: chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2000/02/02/liv_280885.shtml. (The recipe calls for three breast halves, but it can be prepared with two to make four servings.)
The grocery and pantry lists for this menu plan will also be posted online.
Follow these steps to prepare three meals from two chickens:
STEP 1: Remove the bag containing the chicken neck, liver and gizzards from both chickens. Reserve the neck bones for the stock and discard the remaining pieces. Rinse chickens under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
Use a sharp knife to remove the leg quarters from both chickens. Place them in container with tight-fitting lid or a large zip-top plastic bag and refrigerate until ready to prepare the Herbed Leg Quarters.
STEP 2: Bone out the breast halves. Thinly slice and reserve two breast halves to prepare Cashew Chicken and refrigerate the other two breast halves until you’re ready to prepare the Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings.
STEP 3: Place the boned chicken carcasses and the reserved neck bones into a large stock pot or Dutch oven with 1 onion, quartered, 2 carrots, cut into large pieces, 2 ribs celery, cut into large pieces, 1 bay leaf and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns. Cover with at least 10 cups of cold water (depending on the size of your pot), bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or more.
After the stock has simmered for at least 45 minutes, add two of the breast halves to the simmering liquid and poach for 20 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until ready to prepare the chicken and dumplings.
Strain the stock into a very large bowl, measure out 7 cups for the chicken and dumplings and 2 cups for the stir-fry. Freeze any remaining stock in the freezer for another use.
OLD-FASHIONED CHICKEN AND DUMPLINGS
Note: The recipe also can be prepared with store-bought, reduced-sodium chicken broth and the breast meat from 1 rotisserie chicken.
7 cups of the strained chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Meat from the chicken breasts, about 2-3 cups, shredded or cut into small pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda*
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk*
Optional: 1 10-ounce package frozen carrots and peas
Bring the strained broth to a boil. Add salt and pepper, as needed. Add the chicken and bring to a low boil.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and buttermilk in a bowl. Stir until smooth. Dollop teaspoons of the dumpling mixture into the simmering broth, stirring after 3 or 4 additions.
Continue until all dumplings are added. Stir in the carrots and peas and simmer for 20 minutes, until dumplings are done and broth becomes gravylike. Ladle into bowls and serve.
Makes 4 servings.
*Regular milk may be substituted for the buttermilk. Omit the baking soda and increase the baking powder to 2 teaspoons when making the substitution.