|Brine. The best friend of a girl and her chicken.|
I had some potatoes in the pantry about to start sprouting and a half bag of shredded cheddar cheese in the dairy drawer, so potatoes au gratin were born.
I really love these kinds of recipes because they're versatile. Instead of a chicken, you could do a turkey breast or a game bird. Just know that birds with bones and skin are always going to be more flavorful and interesting than boneless, skinless breasts. Instead of broccoflower, you can do broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, etc.... You can use any kind of cheese in the gratin that is lurking in your cheese drawer needing to be used up. Parmesan, gouda, or swiss are great in gratin as well. Or, you can use sweet potatoes and omit the cheese if you want. (Add garlic, herbs, and chicken stock instead.) When my family makes this for the holidays, we pile on the butter in each layer and use cream. This, however, is not practical for everyday eating, so I use small sprinkles of cheese and lowfat milk for a more healthful version. I love the crust this makes on and around the potatoes. Make this in your favorite cast-iron skillet for extra crust.
You may have to peek in and cover your chicken breast with foil when it begins to brown to keep it from blackening (I was busy and threw foil over mine before it was really ready. Sad, sad loss of extra-crunchy skin.) You want your breast temp to be at 160 degrees when you take it out. Let it rest for at least ten minutes before slicing.
|My husband's potato-heavy plate. I think he added another slice of chicken and a leg after I snapped this shot.|
NOTE: Don't throw out that chicken carcass! It will make a good amount of chicken broth that you can freeze or can, and good chicken broth is expensive at the store (as well as having tons of sodium and other chemicals). This is free! The next day, put your chicken carcass in about a gallon or so of filtered water. Bring it to a low simmer and let it simmer gently for about four hours. Don't add salt (it will cook down and get too salty). Don't bring to a rolling boil (that makes for cloudy stock). You can add aromatics (celery, carrots, etc...) if you like, but lazy girl broth of chicken and water works fine too. When it's done, run it through a fine strainer and cool to room temp. Skim off as much fat as you can (if you have the time and fridge space, you can refrigerate it overnight so all the fat rises to the top and solidifies, and then you can really remove a lot of it), and either head for the pressure canner for shelf-stable stock or ladle it into ziplock baggies for the freezer. If you freeze it, make sure you label the bags before filling and lay them flat for freezing so they're more manageable. I've also started keeping an index card on the freezer door with a list of what I've got frozen in there. It helps me to plan meals and use up what's there, not make excess, and to keep a tally of what I need more of. You can throw used-up cards in a drawer to take out next year and see what your family ate a lot of and what you would up throwing out a year later so you know what to make (or not make) in the future.
|My one little chicken carcass made five quarts of broth.|
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 6 peppercorns
- 4 juniper berries, chopped
- 8 cups water
- 2 T. oil
- 1/2 t. smoked salt
- 1/4 t. nutmeg
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- Red pepper flakes to taste (I like spicy, so I used one teaspoon)
- 1 t. thyme
Combine 2 T. of oil with a 1/2 t. of smoked salt, some nutmeg, black pepper, and a bit of thyme. Toss the broccoflower in the herb mixture. I put it in foil to keep it separate from the chicken and roasted both at 375 for about an hour. Check the broccoflower every twenty minutes or so, stirring periodically. You want it to brown but not go to mush.