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How To Turn One Roast Chicken into Many Meals

Chicken Tostadas with Black Beans and Cilantro-Lime Cream

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by Jeanne Kelley
from Fine Cooking #115, pp. 44-49

A big part of my winter dinner game plan is to cook a hearty roast on the weekend and then use the leftovers in new, delicious guises later in the week. But when it comes to roast chicken—a favorite in our house—there’s a hitch: My family of four can easily polish off an entire chicken in one sitting, leaving me leftover-less.

Roasting two chickens solves that problem. But rather than roasting plain whole chickens, I like to soak chicken parts in my favorite citrus marinade and then tuck wedges of lemon and orange in the roasting pan with the chicken. This gives me flavorful meat, rich, concentrated pan juices, and plenty of leftovers.

Then, the key to using up the leftover chicken is to treat the white breast meat and dark leg and thigh meat a little differently. White meat can go from moist to stringy and tough in no time, so it’s best to serve it cold or reheat it only very briefly, as I do in this Chicken Tostadas with Black Beans and Cilantro-Lime Cream recipe. Dark meat, which has more fat than white meat, can handle a bit more cooking the second time around. Try stirring it into my creamy Chicken and Mushroom Risotto recipe. Or check out 10 more ideas for quick meals using roast chicken leftovers below.

With this simple method, roasting two birds provides a head start on a delicious dinner at least three nights in a row. Now, that’s smart cooking.

Featured Recipes
Citrus-Marinated Roasted Chicken   Chicken Tostadas with Black Beans and Cilantro-Lime Cream
Citrus-Marinated Roasted Chicken  

Chicken Tostadas with Black Beans and Cilantro-Lime Cream

Chicken and Mushroom Risotto    
Chicken and Mushroom Risotto    
How to use the white meat

Leftover chicken breast and wing meat will dry out if you cook it too long, so reheat it gently or not at all. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use it:

Dijon Chicken Salad Sandwiches Dice white meat and mix with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and chopped shallot. Serve on lightly toasted rosemary-raisin bread.

Chicken Pesto Panini Layer shredded white meat with pesto and fontina on ciabatta rolls; press or toast.

Quick Thai Chicken Curry Simmer chopped carrots and red bell peppers in chicken broth, coconut milk, and Thai red curry paste. Add shredded white meat and heat through. Garnish with scallions and fresh cilantro.

Apple & Gouda Salad with Chicken Chop white meat and add it to a salad with chopped apples, cubed aged Gouda, mixed greens, chopped celery, and toasted pecans.

Stir-fried Chicken &  Bok Choy
Stir-fry sliced bok choy, minced garlic, sliced scallions, and snow peas in a mixture of canola oil and Asian sesame oil. Add shredded white meat, season with soy sauce, and heat through. Serve over steamed rice.

How to use the dark meat

Leftover meat from the chicken’s leg and thigh pieces can take a bit more cooking than white meat because it has more fat, which keeps it from becoming dry and tough. Here are some tasty ways to use it up:

Chicken hash with Goat Cheese Sauté chopped onions until soft, then add cubed waxy potatoes and a bit of chicken broth; cook until almost tender. Stir in shredded dark meat and cook until the potatoes are tender. Serve over arugula and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese.

Creamy Chicken Penne Simmer shredded or chopped dark meat and chicken broth with a touch of cream until slightly thickened. Serve over cooked penne with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and chopped fresh parsley.

Spicy Chicken Pizza with Chard Top pizza dough with sautéed chard, finely chopped red onions, shredded dark meat, crumbled Gorgonzola, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Quick Chicken Tagine Simmer shredded dark meat, chopped shallot, sliced carrots, prunes, and a big pinch each of cinnamon and turmeric in chicken broth until the vegetables are tender and the sauce is slightly thickened. Serve over couscous.

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
Simmer shredded dark meat with barbecue sauce until hot. Pile onto toasted buns and top with coleslaw.


Photos: Scott Phillips and Hector Sanchez


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  • User avater
    natagirl | 02/01/2012

    Made this tonight and it was amazing. I let it sit all day in the marinade and turned it twice.

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