Saturday, 31 March 2012

More Spring Chicken: Leftovers

Following on from my last post, on coq au vin, I’m sure you’ll have been waiting all a-tremble to find out what we did with the leftovers.  No?  Oh…

Well maybe you should have been, because of course the real glory of chicken lies in the leftovers.  Lovely as a freshly roast chicken is, many would argue - and I’d be hard pressed to say they were wrong – that its flesh is even better cold the next day.  Even if you don’t subscribe wholly to that school of thought, what kind of person would you be if you weren’t even slightly disappointed should a roast chicken not yield up enough pickings from it’s carcass for a sandwich the next day?  Not my kind of person, that’s for sure.   But even if you were that kind of person then you couldn’t deny that the carcass itself, converted into a rich, brothy stock, and thence into soups, risottos and greatly enhanced sauces, prolongs the culinary life of the single bird you started with at Sunday lunchtime, say, well into the middle of the week, if not beyond.

Even leftover coq au vin (which was my starting point from my last post), which you might be tempted to simply reheat the next day, and I couldn’t blame you, is also easily adaptable into a different meal entirely – and that’s the coq (along with its vin) itself I’m referring to, not stock derived from its bones.  And yes – I do pick the bones off the plates at the end of the meal and use them for stock.  I’m not proud.  And even if you, or your guests have gnawed and sucked at those bones, I really don’t think we have to worry about that, after all the process of being turned into stock involves those bones being boiled for hours.  Probably not quite the done thing in a commercial kitchen (or strictly legal, what with health & safety going mad and all that…), but perfectly fine at home.  More than fine, I’d say, more like an obligation, on grounds of thrift, consumer ethics and crimes against flavour (and the waste thereof).

Still, between the coq au vin and the stock came the next day’s dinner, for which I stripped the remaining meat from the bones (and set those aside with the plate scrapings) then added the now boneless and shredded coq au vin to a pan with some sliced chorizo piccante and a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved and fried till just starting to soften, then added a sprinkling of green olives (you can pit them yourself or just chuck them in whole with appropriate warnings to your fellow diners – but don’t buy them ready pitted, they’re really not the same.  To the extent that I’m afraid they don’t really count as olives, not in my book).   Served as a sauce for a bowl of pasta, in this case, gnocchi, this made a very quick, thoroughly delicious and entirely different meal from the night before.

More recently, in the current spell of summery weather, I roasted a chicken.  I’ve blogged on roasting before, several times so I won’t risk boring you all re-covering old ground, but while on the broader subject of leftover chicken it would be just perverse not to mention it at all.  Or to point out that it’s not just chicken sandwiches that you can do with cold roast chicken, good though a chicken sarnie can definitely be.  First use made of the leftovers of this particular chicken was a simple, delicious and really rather attractive warm chicken and potato salad.

I just boiled a portion each of new potatoes, finely dicing and frying some smoked streaky bacon while they cooked.  Once drained and while still hot I dressed the potatoes in olive oil and the juice and zest of half a lemon, a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper.  Then I stirred through the cold chicken shredded from the roast bird’s carcass, along with a handful of capers.  Then it was simply a case of combining the warm potatoes, chicken and bacon with a simple salad of chicory and red onion, with torn fennel and celery leaves and serving it up.

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