Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hey-oh, chicken on a raft!

(Click the title – it’ll take you to a snippet of the song by Hard Times, one of my husband’s old groups. Hee!)

I was in something of a “oh gawd I have no idea” state when it came time to make dinner last night. I didn’t want to make a production out of it, since it was just me and the kids; I also didn’t want to make macaroni and cheese or frankly any pasta because we’d been there, done that.

So, I made creamed chicken. It’s fast, inexpensive, easy and what I consider to be darned good comfort food material. Then I cut five extra-thick slices of bread and toasted them, slathered them with entirely too much butter, cut them into “fingers,” ladled the creamed chicken over the top and grated a little Parmesan cheese over the top.

The children were skeptical. They sniffed at it and looked at me doubtfully. It smacked of something they probably didn’t like, see, and therefore they demanded names, ranks and identification numbers on the deal.

Coolly, I said, “Well, um…hey-oh, chicken on a raft!”

They ate every bite. This morning, I told them the bitter truth. What they ate last night was creamed chicken. Their breakfast this morning – eggs on toast – was actually chicken on a raft.

All of which is a digression. What I wanted to tell you is this: Dinner last night was one of those “found food” kind of things LBYMs gurus will go on (and on and on and on) about all the time. The last time I did a Big Cooking Day, I carved up whole chickens into serving pieces rather than buying pre-cut chicken – the backs, wingtips and meaty ribs went into my big stockpot and made both stock and cooked chicken meat. I put the stock in the freezer in one cup increments, and the chicken meat I dice and keep in two cup bags.

This works just as well with regular old leftover chicken, too - like if you've bought a pre-cooked whole chicken at the supermarket and then you only ate half of it? If you're not going to just eat it right out of the fridge in a timely manner, get the meat off the bones, put it into a freezer bag and freeze it. It will keep a good three months in there, and can be used for anything from a quick stir-fry to a fried-egg companion.

Now, almost a month later, I want something quick and easy for dinner. This came together in about twenty minutes, start to finish. It’s not exactly one of those nutritional powerhouses, but it’s tasty and warming…and it’s using food that otherwise might either have not been purchased (because I’d buy the chicken pre-cut and not have had the meaty bits in the first place) or wasted (because I didn’t know what to do with a chicken back, for heaven’s sake…it’s just so…ugly…)

So, how do you make it? Like this.

1/4 cup butter
1/2 medium onion, diced

1/4 cup flour

1 cup stock, warmed (not hot)
1 cup milk, warmed (not hot)

2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
1-2 cups cooked vegetables, if you want actual nutritional value desired

Melt the butter over medium heat, add the onion and sauté five to ten minutes, until softened and golden.

Add the flour and cook (you’re making roux here) another five to ten minutes, until it is golden brown. Lighter roux will have less “character,” darker roux has more. The primary goal is to eliminate the flour taste and replace it with a nuttier flavor.

Now. Using a whisk, gradually pour the stock and water into your roux. The whisk makes it much easier to create a lump-free sauce – if you see a lump, attack it with the whisk. This part still takes careful attention and constant stirring, but a whisk makes it much, much easier to get the job done.

Once the liquid has lumplessly thickened and come to a gentle boil, boil and stir for one minute. Then add your cooked chicken and vegetables, return to a boil, reduce the heat to a bare simmer and let it go for five-ten minutes while you make some toast to pour it over.

This is also really good over rice, biscuits, or mashed potatoes. I wouldn’t recommend eating it exclusively because it’s pretty high in carbs and all, but it surely is good on a cold night when you’re needing some (inexpensive) comfort.

Which has reminded me…I haz leftovers, and it is lunchtime. Woo hoo!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Steph B said...

MMMMMMmmmmmm!! I love creamed chicken! Just made some last week. My kids are also a bit wary, but they eat it. I could eat it a lot more, but in the interests of preserving what little waistline I have left, well...I don't. (Darn carbs anyway)

Gina J said...

YUM! Thanks for the idea. I do the same with chicken and broth. Hadn't thought of this dish, though!