Put that store-bought rotisserie chicken to work, so you don’t have to - The Denver Post thumbnail
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Put that store-bought rotisserie chicken to work, so you don’t have to – The Denver Post

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The holidays are just SO over. You’re done cooking for family, the five friends your teenager dragged in, your holiday fling and honestly, truly honestly, yourself. But … you also blew your January restaurant budget on holiday sales.

Just remember this rhyme: Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Even if — especially if — you’re not that East Coaster who won that New Year’s Mega Millions jackpot, and aren’t we all pausing to hate them now?

Because here’s the thing: A grocer’s rotisserie chicken is designed to do one thing: Tempt you, after you’ve filled your cart with sane, healthy, budget-conscious, labor-intensive ingredients, to throw caution to the winds and hit the easy button.

But it can also be one of the best values in the store, because it gives you moist and tender meat plus healthy broth for soups and sautes down the line. The home cook who has quart or pint jars of home-cooked chicken broth in the refrigerator or freezer is a superhero of cooking. Squash soup? Done. Chowder? Check. Cream of potato soup? Spuds, broth, cream. Roasted root vegetables. Egg drop soup? Simple.

So really, with that one purchase from your favorite grocer, you can feed six people a main dish at least twice, and a couple four times. Singles will have multiple dinners and lunches to freeze and take to work. Perhaps the best thing about rotisserie chicken recipes: They’re terribly forgiving and completely customizable. The meat is cooked by the professionals, so it’s difficult to go terribly wrong. And once you’ve tried a couple of these recipes, you’ll get the hang of improvising with whatever’s in your pantry.

Don’t toss that chicken carcass; use it to make broth. ((Thinkstock by Getty Images)

Basic Chicken Broth

Don’t scrimp on the size of the pot. Wait to add the salt and the lemon juice, vinegar or wine until the contents of the pot has reached a simmer. Makes about one quart. — Susan Clotfelter

Ingredients

1 roasted chicken carcass, most meat removed, fresh or frozen
Water to cover
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or white wine
Fresh or dried thyme (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Place the carcass in a medium to large, heavy-bottom stock pot (at least 12 quarts; you don’t want the pot more than a little bit over half full when water is added). Add water to cover; use filtered water if desired.
Over medium heat, bring water to a simmer. Add salt and lemon juice, vinegar or wine. Reduce heat until water is barely moving.
Simmer for a day or two, adding more water as needed. If your pot is big enough, you really can leave the house while it simmers for an hour or two, as long as your stove is electric and the water starts out covering the chicken. You can also use a slow-cooker or pressure cooker; follow the manufacturers’ instructions.
When you’re sick of simmering that thing, and all of the skin and shreds of meat have left the bone, stop adding water. When it looks like a really thick slurry with bones poking out, strain the mixture with a fine mesh strainer.
Discard the bones, skin and meat. (Yes, it seems wasteful, but you’re really extracted all the protein, vitamins and collagen from it by this time. Do not feed it to pets unless you’re really willing to comb every smidge of bone out of it.) Taste the broth and add salt and pepper to taste, or, if it tastes only weakly of chicken and there’s a lot of it, return to the pot and simmer to reduce the volume.
Pour the strained liquid into a clean, can-or-freeze glass jar, apply a clean two-piece lid and freeze or refrigerate.
Once the broth is chilled, the fat will settle at the top. Scrape it off — or not.

Badger Chicken ‘n’ Taties

My friend Emily loves badgers, and she also loves mashed potatoes. This was the hot-and-filling, quick-and-easy recipe that inspired this story and got us through her most recent apartment move. Serves 2 to 4. — Susan Clotfelter

Ingredients

1  4-ounce package of instant mashed potatoes, prepared according to package directions (hot water and milk will be required).
1 cup rotisserie chicken meat per person, or 1 leg and a few chunks of thigh meat
1 slice good-quality smoked Gouda cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Prepare mashed potatoes according to package instructions.
In large soup bowls, first layer warm mashed potatoes, coarsely chopped chicken meat, and finally, smoked Gouda.
Microwave just long enough on medium to warm all the ingredients and melt the Gouda.
Serve immediately with a good stout (Emily recommends Sad Panda) and a baked apple for dessert.

Classic Creamy Chicken Chowder

This soup is made thicker by the addition of dehydrated potato flakes, but you can substitute chopped, boiled potatoes. Serves 6. — Susan Clotfelter

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, diced small
4 ribs celery, including small leaves and heart if possible, diced
1 quart home-made chicken broth
1 to 2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken meat
1 1/2  cups thinly sliced carrots
1/2 cup or more half-and-half
2/3 cup dehydrated potato flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

In a medium-sized skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sweat until almost translucent, stirring regularly Add the celery and continue to heat until the leaves give off their fragrance. While the onions and celery are cooking, add the broth and meat to a medium-large soup pot and heat to a simmer.
Slice the carrots, preferably in a food processor (this is to get them thin enough to bend, which allows them to cook quickly). Add the carrots to the soup pot, along with the cooked onions and celery. Stir and allow to simmer until all the ingredients are heated through. Add the half-and- half and stir; add more if desired. Add the potato flakes.
Continue to heat, stir, and adjust for taste and consistency. Here, you can add fresh herbs, pepper, more chicken, bacon, shrimp, beans, peppers, corn – basically, treat this soup as a canvas you can paint on.
Serve with crusty bread and a good cheese.

Variation: Chicken Green Chile: Omit the carrots; add the potatoes only if desired to thicken. Add one 4-ounce can of fire-roasted green chiles. Increase the chile powder to your preferred heat level. If desired, add one finely chopped chipotle chile roasted in adobo sauce.

If you’re using white corn tortillas for enchiladas, they can be a bit fragile and break as you’re assembling them. It’s annoying, but it doesn’t matter: just hide the breakage with the enchilada sauce and shredded cheese. (Susan Clotfelter, Special to The Denver Post)

Rotisserie Chicken Enchiladas

If you’re using corn tortillas, the result will be gluten-free, but the enchiladas will be more likely to burst open across the top, especially if they are at all stale. But don’t sweat that; the breakage will be covered up by the enchilada sauce and cheese, and no one will know. Serves 6. — Susan Clotfelter

Ingredients

2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
3  12-ounce jars mild green tomatillo salsa
1 cup home made chicken broth
1  1/2  cups sour cream or full-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons powdered chili pepper or other Mexican seasoning, if desired
1 bunch cilantro (enough to provide one cup loosely packed chopped leaves), if desired
Salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 cups rotisserie chicken meat, removed from bones, skin on or off as desired
1 cup frozen or canned sweet corn
1  8-ounce jar roasted red peppers or frozen ripe bell pepper, chopped fine
12 flour or white corn tortillas, 6 inches or larger; as fresh as possible
2 cups shredded cheddar, divided

Instructions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Oil two 8-inch or 9-inch square casserole dishes. Set aside.
In a large skillet, empty the two jars of tomatillo salsa. Add the chicken broth and heat over low until steaming, not bubbling. Add the sour cream or Greek yogurt and stir until well-combined, keeping the sauce moving. Do not allow to boil. Taste; add chili powder if desired. Add half of the chopped cilantro, if desired; add salt and pepper to taste. When the taste is to your liking, reserve two cups of the sauce.
Add the chicken, corn and peppers to the remaining sauce in the skillet and heat through, tasting as you go. You may need more salsa or more sour cream or yogurt, but the chicken combination should be fairly meaty and not too wet at this point.
Assemble the enchiladas: Spoon about a quarter cup into each 6-inch tortilla, and place seam down in the first casserole. Fill the two casseroles each with a single layer of enchiladas; tear a tortilla in half if needed. Over the top of each casserole, pour a cup of the reserved sauce, then spread a cup of the shredded cheddar.
Place casseroles on middle shelf in oven. Cook for 15 minutes; increase heat to 350 and continue to cook until edges are bubbling and cheese is melted, but only brown around the edges. Serve immediately, or allow to cool. Separate into portions and seal in containers to refrigerate.

Whip up a simple peanut sauce — peanut butter, chicken broth, ginger and soy sauce or tamari — and drizzle it on chicken breast slices. Then wrap them in crispy leaf or butter lettuce, with or without grated carrots or Napa cabbage for a grab-and-go dinner or lunch. (Susan Clotfelter, Special to The Denver Post)

Nutty Sesame Chicken Sauce

This quick peanut sauce can be draped over chicken breast slices or mixed with chicken chunks and rice noodles. If you’re avoiding peanuts, use smooth almond butter. If you’re out of fresh ginger root, just grab the powdered ginger from your spice cabinet; it’s better than no ginger at all. Make note of whether your peanut butter is sweetened; if so, be wary of additional sweeteners. You want a balance between tangy, hot, sweet and salty. — Susan Clotfelter

Ingredients

1/2 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger or about 2 tablespoons powdered, or to taste
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
Salt (if needed)
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Black and white sesame seeds (optional)

Instructions

Boil chicken broth in a small saucepan.
Add tamari, rice vinegar, fish sauce and grated ginger. (If Santa didn’t bring you a microplane for grating ginger, try using a garlic press – or chop it fine, boil the broth for five minutes and strain out the ginger bits. You can also use prepared chopped ginger or powdered, but go slowly and taste as you go.)
Turn the heat down to low; when the liquid stops boiling, add the peanut butter and whisk vigorously.
Taste; adjust seasonings and add the honey if desired.
Serve on top of cooked chicken breast slices or pieces wrapped in lettuce, or tossed with rice noodles and chopped, steamed vegetables.

Simple Egg-Drop Soup

Ingredients

1 quart chicken broth
1 tablespoon tamari, or to taste
1/2  teaspoon Sriracha or Asian chili paste
2 eggs
2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped finely

Instructions

Beat the eggs well in a lidded bowl to make pouring into the hot broth easier.
Heat the broth to boiling.
Add tamari and chili paste.
Slowly pour in the eggs, stirring constantly.
Add the chopped scallion and serve.

Easy Cheesy Linguine and Chicken. (Barbara Ellis, The Denver Post)

Easy Cheesy Linguine and Chicken

During our elaborate Christmas dinner, for which we spent hours (and hours) preparing, the subject naturally turned to NOT cooking once the holidays were over. And the easiest way to do that is by utilizing a pre-cooked chicken. Here’s a so-simple recipe from Pam Sager of Denver, by way of Madison Breuer of Denver. — Barbara Ellis

Ingredients

1 16-ounce package linguine noodles
3 cups chopped rotisserie chicken
1 26-ounce jar of Ragu Chunky Tomato, Garlic & Onion Pasta Sauce
1 16-ounce jar of Ragu Roasted Garlic Parmesan Cheese Creations pasta sauce
1 cup chopped onion
½ to 1 cup chopped green pepper (optional)
1 can of diced tomatoes, drained (optional)
Crushed red pepper, to taste (I used 2 teaspoons, but add more if you like the heat)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shredded Parmesan, to garnish
Chopped fresh basil, to garnish (optional)

Directions

Saute green peppers and onions in small amount of olive oil until softened; set aside.
Boil linguine and drain; immediately place in a large pot over low heat.
Add the sauce, stir to coat and heat through.
Add the chicken, crushed red pepper, onions and green pepper (and can of diced tomatoes, if desired).
Add salt and pepper, toss all.
Serve with shredded Parmesan and chopped fresh basil on top.

Italian Chicken Orzo Soup. “Barbara Ellis, The Denver Post)

Italian Chicken Orzo Soup

There are many recipes for Italian Chicken Orzo Soup out there, but this one is the favorite of Ben Emanuelson and Nancy Buchanan of Denver — and so easy using rotisserie chicken. Says Buchanan: “It’s one of those soups that becomes thicker over time, since the orzo soaks up a lot of the liquid. Add more chicken broth when reheating to make it more soupy.” — Barbara Ellis

Ingredients

1 pound Italian sweet sausage (ground or removed from casings)
3 cups rotisserie chicken, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can Italian-style diced tomatoes
½ cup chopped fresh parsley or 2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried basil
32-ounce box chicken broth
1 cup dried orzo pasta
4 cups fresh baby spinach
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Brown sausage in large pot over medium heat.
Add can of tomatoes, onion, garlic, carrots and celery.
Stir in parsley, basil and chicken broth.
Add 2½ to 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes.
Stir in orzo, spinach and chicken, and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes more or until pasta is al dente.
Season with salt and pepper.

Rotisserie chicken buying and storing tips

Read ingredients. Some stores’ chickens are more highly seasoned with things some of your eaters might be avoiding, such as garlic or gluten.
Give them the sniff check. Choose the chicken whose skin is nicely brown, but not burned.
Get that sucker home quickly; it’s cooked meat and you want to refrigerate it as soon as possible.
If you can smell it in your car, your dog (and maybe your cat) can smell it miles away, let alone on your counter. So don’t leave that chicken in paw’s reach.
A still-warm chicken is easier to get all of the meat off; a chilled one is tidier to deconstruct. So if you don’t mind messy hands that smear everything they touch, and you want as much meat off the bones as possible, then by all means, rush home and pull the chicken apart while it’s still warm. If you can’t do that, chill it. I found that my fear the chicken would dry out in my refrigerator if it sat for a day or two was completely baseless. However, if you opt for the messy strategy, keep a roll of paper towels handy.
That doesn’t mean that when you come home starving, you can’t pull those tasty legs off and devour them with a little salt and a quick green salad. Just refrigerate the rest (and see tip No. 4 above).
The clamshell plastic case or plastic bag that your chicken comes in will have gelatinous goo in the bottom if you refrigerate your chicken (and yummy, runny juices if you don’t). That stuff is liquid gold. For the love of all that’s holy, don’t pitch it. Using warm water, rinse it into the stockpot where you’re throwing the bones, or jar and freeze it for when you do boil the bones.
No time to boil the carcass? Put it in a resealable bag and freeze it for when you DO have time. Just make sure to pitch the drumstick bones and wings in there, too, and label that bag – once frozen, it won’t be recognizable as future soup broth.
Discount clubs offer the biggest rotisserie chickens, but groceries offer organic or unseasoned ones, and some offer multiple sizes of chickens. Biggest isn’t always best.
Don’t forget that you absolutely can roast your own bird, or invest in a mini-rotisserie yourself.  Once you’ve got a roasted chicken, proceed like everyone else who got theirs the easy way.

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