This week whole chickens were reduced in the supermarket so we decided to get one for the week on a bit of a whim. I always think of a roast chicken as a challenge to find ways of using up every little bit, and roast chicken is so easy to make and so completely delicious (obviously non-meat-easters won't agree, sorry for such a meat heavy post!). I thought you might be interested to see my ideas for getting the most out of this humble roast chicken. I think this chicken cost us about £4 and weighs about 2kg. Incidentally, I can't say we always buy organic meat, but we are concerned with its welfare and we do only buy meat where the welfare and farming standards can be assured. This chicken came from a reputable supermarket (beginning with a W...) and isn't from one of the mega economy supermarket own brands, which I don't trust. As you will see, even an expensive chicken can still work out pretty cheap per portion if you use it cleverly.
I simply put my chicken on a trivet in a roasting tin. I put several cloves of garlic and one lemon, quartered, in the cavity of the bird, and rubbed a bit of oil and salt and pepper onto the skin to help it crisp up. I put it into a preheated oven at about 180 C for 1 1/2 hrs or so - I just followed the roasting instructions on the label. You can check it is cooked through by cutting between the leg and body and checking if the juices run clear.
Once cooked, I jointed up the chicken and put it in one dish, as seen in the picture above. I don't think of myself as any kind of expert on carving meat, I just cut off both the legs, the wings and the breasts, keeping them as whole as possible, and then picked off as much of the rest of the meat as possible. I also kept the garlic and lemon that had been cooked inside the chicken, and the fat and juices from the bottom of the pan. If you don't need to use it all straight away, you can always wrap up the cooked chicken and freeze it for later. I don't know why I didn't think about freezing cooked meat like this earlier, it would have been a really useful thing to do when I was single since it can be hard - and more expensive - to cook single portions.
In a separate large saucepan, I put all the bones of the chicken, along with an onion, a couple of carrots, the green tops from a couple of leeks, a few bay leaves and some peppercorns, to give me a stock pot. I also added the stalks from a bunch of parsley, since we happened to have some and it is a classic addition to chicken stock. I would normally also put in some celery but we didn't have any. Don't worry, stock ingredients aren't set in stone! I covered the stock ingredients with water and brought it to the boil. I then turned the heat down very low and let it simmer for a few hours (I didn't measure the time, I just set it going after lunch and turned it off after dinner). Strain this mixture and you have a fantastic stock to use in soups, sauces and risottos. If you don't need it straight away you can always freeze homemade stock. I am always amazed at the difference it makes to cooking when I am able to use real stock (nothing against stock cubes, I use them all the time!), it is nutritious, and it is basically made from a few vegetables and some bones you would otherwise have just thrown away.
Aside from the stock, the first thing we made with our roast chicken was hot roast chicken sandwiches with garlic mayonnaise. I knocked this up really easily, just adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a clove of garlic grated with a Microplane grater to a large dollop of shop bought mayo. Never one to waste anything if I can help it, I use the lemon and the garlic cooked inside the chicken. We used some of the breast meat from the chicken to make delicious sandwiches with a load of this super-tasty mayo and some rocket. If you have any garlic mayo left, it is great with chips, or prawns, or almost anything you can think of (ok, maybe not cake..)