Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Waste not, want not with a hotpot

There is nothing surer but I’ll be roasting a chicken at some point during the week ahead.

For the cost of a medium bird (less than a fiver), we’ll get at least two dinners plus a round of lunches and likely enough, there will be left-overs still, which always permits a bout of experimentation.

Then there’s the carcass which, if I’m at meself, I can use to knock up a pot of stock.

I don’t do this as often as I’d like but whenever I do, I’m bowled over by the resulting subtle broth. Sure, it wouldn’t make sense NOT to have a chicken every week.

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A tip I previously picked up from Nigella regarding stock, is to freeze carcasses and use two per stock pot. This, I can confirm, works a treat and the eventual stock is much richer and full bodied than a stock made from a single bird.

That which I have also discovered from trial and semi-error, is that the dismantlement of a recently roasted chicken is made all the handier if you do it just as the bird has cooled. Once it hits the fridge and sits over night and everything congeals and sets, it becomes all the harder to disassemble – though not impossible.

I don’t know about you, gentle reader but what I do find impossible, is knocking down a chicken without eating a lot of the tender, dark meat – especially the oysters.

I am often reminded of that character from the French film, ‘Amelie’, Dominique, who roasts himself a chicken every night but always makes a point of eating the oysters first. I can relate to this.

Ordinarily – unless you’re roasting a chicken differently to me – the oysters, two circular pieces of dark meat situated either side of a chicken’s backbone, are protected from the harshest part of the roasting process as they’re underneath the bird. That means (in my mind’s eye at least), that they’re bathed in all the juices flowing downwards from everything else.

Apart from the crispy, seasoned skin when the chicken comes straight out of the oven, the oysters are arguably my favourite part. Hoked out with the cunning use of a keen thumb (via a good poke), an oyster dusted with a little seasoning is probably the closest thing to poultry magic as you’re going to get (apart from the skin).

Thus far I have resisted in telling the little humans of the house about oysters; they already eat all the chicken skin on me; but neither are they overly fond of the dark meat. This will change, I know, so I’ll make the most of it while I still can.

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More often than not, left-over chicken (minus the oysters – I always eat those), I use as topping for tostadas or in enchiladas or toasties or as a protein filler for a curry but sometimes, a bit more of an effort goes a long way.

This chicken hotpot, which was recently awarded a paltry three outta ten from the youngest member of the house (before she proceeded to devour the lot), is a great way to deal with chicken left-overs, if you’re looking for something new.

It’s only a little labour intensive but the resulting hot-pot of shredded chicken in a luxurious buttery sauce with sweet vegetables and earthy mushrooms and topped with moreish, seasoned potatoes, will make you come back for more again and again.

And, as nothing is set in stone, if you don’t want mushrooms, peas and sweetcorn therein, you could always try broccoli or carrots or asparagus or broadbeans – or a combination of all four.

INGREDIENTS
tbsp of butter
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp of plain flour
450ml of fresh stock that you cunningly made with two carcasses a la Nigella’s idea
as much leftover chicken as you have left (I used two handfuls’ worth)
seasoning
1 punnet of chestnut mushrooms, brushed clean and quartered
1 handful of frozen sweetcorn
1 handful of frozen peas
3 spuds, peeled and sliced into rounds
olive oil

THE PLAN
Start by getting your roux on the go. Add the butter to a sauce pan and melt. Add the onions, stir around and then turn the heat down low, stick a lid on and let it fry gently for about ten minutes while you get everything else sorted.

Blast the peas and sweetcorn in the expensive milk warmer (otherwise known as the microwave) and set aside.

Peel and slice the spuds and set aside and brush and quarter the mushrooms. Never wash mushrooms. They’ll only absorb the water and the flavour is thus diluted.

When the onions in the pan are soft, turn up the heat a little and then add the flour and stir to made the roux. Cook out the flour for a minute or two then add half the stock, which you have also cunningly heated in the milkwarmer. At this point you may also like to pre-heat the oven to 180˚C.

Whisk or stir until the lumps are gone and it’s thick and smooth and then add the remaining stock. Whisk through again and then turn down to a simmer. Let it bubble away for a few minutes, stirring from time to time in a caring, benevolent manner and then butter a casserole dish.

You want it to be good and thick.

When the roux is thick and doesn’t taste of flour, ie, the flour has been cooked out, taste and adjust the seasoning. If you’re made the stock yourself, it’ll likely take a good pinch of salt. If you’re using a stock cube or whatever, it may not need any salt.

Dump all the chicken, mushrooms and peas and sweetcorn into the sauce, stir around to combine and then pour the whole lot into the casserole dish.

Move the chucks around so that they’re evenly spaced and then lay on the slices of potato. Brush with a little olive oil or butter and sprinkle with a touch of yet more seasoning and retire the whole shebang to the oven for at least half an hour or until the potatoes on top are golden and tender.

Divide into bowls and devour immediately.

Incidentally, if you haven’t seen it, Amelie is a wonderful film.

Apart from the crispy, seasoned skin when the chicken comes straight out of the oven, the oysters are arguably my favourite part. Hoked out with the cunning use of a keen thumb (via a good poke), an oyster dusted with a little seasoning is probably the closest thing to poultry magic as you’re going to get…

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