I've made a goal, since starting to eat meat after 9 years (for me) and 19 (for Mike), to buy the best meat I can afford, to limit my meat consumption to no more than once or twice a week, and to waste as little meat as possible.
In that spirit, I've been buying whole chickens and jointing them myself. The two of us can get quite a few meals out of a 4 pound chicken: I set aside the wings in the freezer for when I'm making fried chicken, stow away extra fat for making schmaltz, and freeze the giblets separately for gravy (or give them to the cats). The most recent pair of hindquarters were roasted with mustard and tarragon and served with tasty roasted potatoes and some ho-hum spaghetti squash, and the breasts were browned and then poached with tequila and lime juice for tacos.
The carcass made a lovely 3 pints or so of stock, which was used to make this quick, easy, and oh-so-delicious weeknight soup. It was a nice contrast for tonight, when I will be cooking for 30. Two meat dishes, 4 main vegetarian dishes, plus appetizers, rice, and dessert. I'll try to take a photo of the carnage.
Herbed Chicken Soup
I don't even know if it's worth posting a recipe for this - chicken soup is pretty self explanatory. The keys to this particular soup are fresh herbs, parmesan cheese rind, and manfrigul: barley-like chunks of dried homemade pasta that cook up chewy and delicious. I will update later this weekend with a recipe for the pasta, but you can replace it with any small, chunky soup pasta, rice, or barley (which will take longer to cook).
Garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
Chicken or vegetable stock (preferably homemade, 3-4 cups minimum)
Bay leaf, fresh or dried
Salt & pepper to taste
3-4 inch rind of good Parmigiano cheese
Cooked chicken, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
Sprig fresh thyme
Manfrigul, another soup pasta, rice, or barley
Fresh parsley, tarragon, and/or other assorted herbs
Heat a medium pot over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Add garlic, onions, carrots and celery and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant, with onions translucent but not brown.
Add the stock, bay leaf, and season to taste with salt & pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then add the parmesan rind, chicken, and thyme and reduce heat to a simmer. If using the barley, add it to the soup immediately.
After 5-10 minutes simmering, add the pasta or rice and simmer until tender. Finely chop the remaining fresh herbs and stir into the soup just before serving.
Remove the bay leaf and garlic clove(s) before serving, and give the cheese rind to your favorite person at the table.
Serves 2 as a main course the way I made it, with about 3 1/2 C stock