Dear Eric: Do you have any ideas for those of us who have little energy and time left at the end of a work day to prepare a healthy, interesting meal? Maybe something different that can be cooked up in large batches on the weekend and frozen? Or maybe different ways to incorporate one element, such as a large batch of chicken or steak barbecued on the weekend, into a wide-range of meals that don’t take too long to prepare?
Dear Angela: Answering your query will fill at least two columns. I’ll offer large-batch recipes that can be frozen in my column March 13. Today I’ll offer recipes that incorporate one key, make-ahead element.
I’ve chosen leftover roast chicken to be that element and used it in a salad, pizza, pasta and curry. I suggest you roast two three-pound-or-so chickens, eat one (or some of one, depending on how many you’re feeding) for dinner, and use the leftovers to create one or more of the recipes below.
To cook the chickens, set in a roasting pan, brush each with a little olive oil or melted butter, and season with salt, pepper and any herbs or spices that appeal. Roast at 350 F for 90 to 100 minutes, basting occasionally, or until the temperature in the deepest part of the thigh registers 170 F on a meat thermometer.
Gravy is made in the roasting pan after the chickens are removed. Set the pan on the stovetop over medium-high. Combine until smooth 21Ú2 cups chicken stock and 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour in a bowl. Pour into the pan and simmer, stirring, five minutes, season with salt and pepper, and your gravy is ready.
Rest the chicken you are going to serve 10 minutes before carving. Let the other chicken cool to room temperature before removing the meat from it and refrigerating until needed. Cooked chicken should be used within three days, or be frozen for another time.
For stock, place bones in a pot with 12 cups of cold water, a chopped onion, celery rib and carrot, a few black peppercorns, pinch of thyme and a bay leaf. Simmer, uncovered, about two hours, and then strain.
Cool stock to room temperature and refrigerate up to three days or freeze. Skim any fat from the surface before using.
Quick Chicken Curry with Apples and Raisins
This is quick to make because the chicken is already cooked. Serve over steamed rice.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: About 15 minutes
Makes: 3 servings
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery rib
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp mild curry powder
1 (400 ml) can coconut milk
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cubed chicken
1 medium red apple (unpeeled), cored and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup raisins
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint or cilantro, or sliced green onion
n salt to taste
Heat oil in a 10-inch wide pot over medium-high. Add onion, celery and ginger and cook 2 minutes. Mix in curry powder and cook 1 minute more. Mix in the coconut milk, stock, lime juice and sugar. Now add the chicken, apples and raisins. Bring to a gentle simmer, adjusting the heat downward to maintain that simmer. Cook 10 minutes, or until a flavourful mixture is created.
Stir in the mint, cilantro or green onion, season with a little salt, and serve.
Chicken Caesar Salad
This main-course version of caesar salad is flavourfully adorned with bits of cooked chicken.
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: A few minutes
Makes: 4 servings
1/3 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise
1 to 2 anchovies, finely chopped, or 1 to 2 tsp anchovy paste (optional)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
n splash Tabasco sauce
n freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium head romaine lettuce, washed, chopped and dried
1 to 1 1/2 cups homemade or store-bought croutons
1 1/2 cups thickly shredded or cubed cooked chicken
2 to 3 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Combine first 11 ingredients in a salad bowl. Toss in the romaine and croutons. Divide salad among plates, top with chicken and cheese and serve.
Mac and Cheese with Chicken and Peas
A classic enhanced with chicken and green peas.
Preparation time: 20-25 minutes
Cooking time: About 40 minutes
Makes: 6 servings
2 cups macaroni
3 Tbsp butter, plus some for greasing
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups warm 2 per cent or whole milk (see note)
1/4 tsp paprika
n pinch cayenne pepper
200 grams cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
n Salt and white pepper to taste
1 cup diced cooked chicken, or to taste
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 to 3 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Boil the macaroni until just tender. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly butter an 8-x-8-inch baking dish.
Melt 3 Tbsp of butter in a pot over medium heat. Mix in the flour, cook and stir two minutes. Whisk and dribble in half a cup of milk. Cook until the mixture is quite thick, then slowly whisk in remaining milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently so it does not scorch on the bottom, cook one minute to thicken, then remove sauce from heat. Mix in paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper and three-quarters of the cheddar cheese.
When the macaroni is cooked, drain well. Mix it, chicken and peas into the sauce, and then spoon into the baking dish. Top with remaining cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes..
Note: You can pre-warm the milk in the microwave.
Tortilla Pizza with Chicken and Barbecue Sauce
This easy-to-make, thin-crust pizza uses tortillas as the crust. Expand the recipe if feeding a larger group.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes: 2 servings
2 (10-inch) white or whole-wheat tortillas
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
3/4 cup cubed or shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup cubed orange or yellow bell pepper
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 375 F. Place a tortilla on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Evenly top with half the cheese. Top with second tortilla. Spread barbecue sauce over top tortilla. Top with remaining cheese, chicken and bell pepper. Bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle pizza with green onion, and then rest for 2 minutes before cutting into wedges.
Eric’s options: Top this tortilla pizza with any vegetables that suit your taste.
Eric Akis is the author of the Everyone Can Cook series. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.
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