A mission statement

Hello, and welcome to My Kitchen and I. Every year I choose a cuisine to explore. This year, it's the year of the Snake! And I'll be continuing to cook mostly Asian foods, particularly Chinese dishes. Have I finally found the best cuisine in the world? Come explore and cook with me and let's find out. Please feel free to share your stories and comment on anything you see here, and thanks so much for visiting. Hope you enjoy the Year of the Snake in food!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Bit of magic for 69 cents a pound

Chicken reminds me of a black Magician's hat. Because a chicken, like the magic hat, can provide so many meals from one small bird. Every savvy cook knows this and has an array of recipes that take full advantage of the 69 cents per pound magic whenever it appears.

Chicken stirfry, center, spiced with sage,
lemongrass and red pepper.
My boss for example buys three such chickens and cuts off the wings for her first round of endless meals. That's 12 chicken wings which can be served with a nice salad or pan-fried potatoes for a Friday night wing deal. I love this idea and have copied it a few times.

From there we depart ways a bit ...

I like to take the breasts and debone them, then cut into 3 oz single serving size (that's about four servings of breast meat per chicken). These I freeze in vacuum-sealed single packages for stir fries or other quickies.

One of these little chicken breast packages will thaw in about 3 minutes in a tub of hot water. Slice and marinate in soy sauce for 15 minutes, then stir-fry with seasonal vegetables like the dish at right. Ready in less than 30 minutes. Now that's perfect fast food (if you ask me)!

An Italian style fricassee
The thigh and leg pieces I use up on the spot for any small fricassee of choice, like the one below, with kalamata olives and mediterranean spices.

Fricassee, by the way, is a very ancient dish! Apicius has a recipe for one in his cookbook that used leeks and dill, celery seed and pepper, which I intend to try someday. His instructions were to thicken the broth with a little rice before serving, and season the pot with a splash of raisin wine at the very last.

It's nice to know that such practical fare has stood the test of time! From ancient Rome until today.

(Now where can I find raisin wine these days? Anyone know?)

I don't throw away the chicken carcass and bones. I make a nice broth of them and pick all the cooked meat off the bones for soup. Usually, there's enough for about four servings, made of whatever is seasonal or about to expire in the refrigerator.

If you are truly ambitious about this chicken thing, you can even save the bones from the leg and thighs in the freezer once you've eaten them. They will make another nice pot of broth for ham and beans.

Including the ham and beans, what is that? Twenty or so meals? See what I mean about the magic hat? Instead of endless scarves, you get endless meals. All good meals too. And from a 69-cent per pound bird! You just can't beat that! So when chicken is on sale, I buy two magic birds. One for my freezer, and one for that week's meals.

Last week, I used the sale chicken to try out Chicken Sputnik, a fricassee-style recipe that I found in Parade Magazine at http://www.dashrecipes.com/recipes/sunday-dinner/rachel-bilson-chicken-sputnik.html. I have no real clue why it's called Chicken Sputnik! The writer never explains that! I thought it a reasonably good dish, but not all that memorable, except for the name. Sputnik is a favorite for me, but I didn't plan to post about the recipe or make it again.

However, when I took the remaining potatoes and onions left over from the dish and combined it with some chicken broth, spinach, mushrooms and cooked chicken, I found perhaps the best soup I've eaten in a long while. It was just too fantastic not to share. The broth in this soup would be great with beef and pork, too, so it's not just a chicken thing.

I have modified things in the original recipe for one person. I've also reduced the fat content of the dish a fair amount so that it is a bit healthier — but no less tasty. This dish will freeze well, if you don't decide to eat it all in the first week.

Chicken Sputnik 

Coat with seasoned flour:

2 leg and 2 thigh pieces, skinned

Brown these pieces in an iron skillet using a little olive oil pan spray. Layer this with

7 medium potatoes sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 medium onions sliced

Sprinkle generously with

1 T  or more paprika
salt and pepper to your taste

Over this pour

3/4 cup sherry or so
1 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth

Simmer in a covered skillet for two hours or until the vegetables are tender and the chicken cooked through. Alternately, bake on low in the oven if you prefer and put a pan of biscuits in with it during the last 20 or so minutes. Either way it's really good. This is about right for one week of meals, or freeze if you prefer. They'll be good for quick meals from the freezer when you don't have time to cook.

And now for the actual recipe I wanted to share ....

Chicken Sputnik soup

When you've eaten up the chicken, you should have the equivalent of about two potatoes and one onion left over, if you portioned things out correctly, with about one potato per chicken piece.

Add those remains to:

1 pot of chicken back broth, skimmed of fat
2 cups or so of chicken picked off the cooked back
1 cup or so of spinach
1 can of cooked mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste

Bring this to a nice boil for 3 or 4 minutes. Serve with some crusty French or other favorite bread.

This soup was quite a bit better than the original dish. I think you might find yourself making Chicken Sputnik just to make this soup, it's that good!  Next time I make the dish, however, I think I will use fresh spinach instead of frozen, to give this a brighter look.


  1. Maybe if you put the frozen spinach in at practically the last minute or 2 it would retain a better color? Sounds good in any case!

  2. Hi Joy! I went and checked out your blog! Nice stuff you have there.

    The spinach leaves come out of the package that dark, so I don't think it was the cooking times. It would be neat I think to do the spinach leaves at the last minute, just putting them in the hot broth at the table. I saw this recently at a Chinese gathering of sorts ... the leaves looked so fresh and nice that way, I think it would work great with this soup, too!


I love your comments!