Now that you’ve heard all about my favorite way to roast a chicken, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss how I use it throughout the week. I am sure some families can eat a chicken at one meal, or at least over the course of a day or two, but I live alone. A 4-5 lb bird is a lot for one person. And while definitely possible in a jam, it would get soooooooo boring to just eat leftover plain meat every day.
First, here is a little (completely unnecessary) background on my life. By “normal person” standards, I work weird hours. I was a math professor for a four years and it was literally making me ill. I was sick all the time, and was extremely depressed. I won’t go into the messy details, but with some help from a wonderful therapist, I made the seemingly difficult decision to abandon my tenure-track career, in the name of self-preservation. I say “seemingly difficult” because once I accepted it was an option, it was clearly the only possible decision I could make, and I’ve never regretted it for a second.
So for over a year and a half, I have been working as a tutor. I do make less money, but I also work fewer hours, feel like I’m actually making a difference and helping people, am appreciated, and I no longer feel like my job is killing me. But it’s certainly not a 9-5 gig… kids typically don’t need tutoring while they are in school, you know? I typically work all day Sunday, and then afternoons and evenings during the week.
At least four nights a week, I don’t get home from work until after dark — often not until around 9:30. I’ve had to make major adjustments to how I plan my meals, and have become an expert at repurposing leftovers into new and exciting things. Like the chicken. Remember? This post is about chicken. I swear.
Annnnnnyway, I figured I would start compiling a list of ways to repurpose leftover chicken. I’ll probably add to this over time, and link to recipes and/or add photos if I ever decide to blog about them individually. I’ll divide them up by meal time, but I in no way adhere to those rules in my life. I’ll happily make a frittata for dinner and eat soup for breakfast!
Frittatas are one of my favorite ways to use up leftovers! I even make a Thanksgiving frittata every year with some combination of vegetable side dishes, gluten free stuffing, and turkey mixed in.Preheat the oven to 400. Grab your trusty cast iron skillet, heat it over medium, and saute some veggies (I tend to stick with the odds and ends in the fridge: half an onion, bell pepper, a few kale leaves, some mushrooms… whatever you have). If you have any leftover cooked vegetables in the fridge — roasted asparagus, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts… — chop them smaller if necessary and toss them into the skillet and season as needed. You can even add leftover pasta if you have any! Shred some leftover chicken (any other meat works here too) and add it to the mix. Lastly I give 5ish eggs and some salt and pepper a quick spin with the immersion blender and pour it over all the goodies in the skillet. Sometimes I top with a little goat cheese (the only dairy I seem to be able to handle). Then stick it in the oven for about 20 minutes — once you’ve made a few, you will totally be able to smell when it’s done. Yummy!
My process here is pretty similar to the frittata… throw a bunch of leftovers and vegetables into a skillet until they’re cooked, and put an egg (or two or five) on it. Sometimes I cook it like a scramble — just whisk a couple eggs together, and stir it around until it cooks. Other times I fry them on the side and serve them on top. One of the most exciting additions to my egg repertoire in the last couple years, however, is the discovery of the baked egg. Cook up the veggies, season appropriately, stir in the chicken or other meat if desired, neatly break a few eggs on top, and bake at 400 for about 8 minutes. They won’t even look cooked, because the oven makes the whites all creamy while the yolks remain runny. It’s the best. You’re welcome.
- Chicken salad
I have already mentioned chicken salad. I love it. It’s probably the only reason I even have mayo in my fridge, and I don’t use a ton. I prefer a mixture of mayo and whole grain mustard (I’ve already mentioned Lusty Monk Original Sin, and while they are absolutely welcome to offer me free mustard in exchange for my praise, I actually do it out of sincere love for the product). Besides that and the shredded chicken (and salt and pepper), the only ingredient I am never without is finely diced celery. The rest depend on what I have and what I’m craving, but I usually opt for some combination of fresh fruit (finely chopped apples, halved grapes), dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, chopped dates), and nuts (chopped walnuts or pecans, slivered almonds). I think I need to do this for lunch today, because my mouth is watering thinking about it.Sometimes I eat it as a sandwich (like on my homemade focaccia, or a couple slices of Udi’s if I’m out of homemade), as a topping for a simple mixed green salad, or I’ll just eat it alone or with crackers if I’m desperate.
- Salad with chicken
This is different from “chicken salad”. Sometimes I just toss together a vinaigrette or a mock-caesar dressing, chop some veggies, and toss it with some shredded chicken. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
- Buffalo Chicken Sandwich
I’ll confess this isn’t something I really tend to eat, but I’ve made it for other people and they always love it. If you have chicken and you have barbecue sauce, it’s pretty simple to mix them together and make a sandwich.
- Chicken and Rice Soup
I actually try to always have some shredded chicken in the freezer so that I can make this whenever I feel myself getting sick. As you may know, storebought gluten-free chicken soup options are somewhat undesirable and immensely overpriced. Fortunately, a truly delicious gluten-free chicken and rice soup is super simple and incredibly inexpensive to make at home!This recipe is also a way to use up leftover rice (or quinoa, or millet, or something else if you have it). I always start with a mirepoix (sauteed onion, carrot, and celery). Once the veggies are getting soft, I’ll add some minced garlic. Sometimes I add kale or spinach, or sweet potato, or whatever else I have on hand that sounds good. Add some homemade chicken stock (4-6 cups, typically). Bring that up to a light boil, stir in a couple cups of shredded chicken, and let it simmer until the veggies are reaching a good consistency. Then stir in some leftover brown rice or whatever grain you want to use, simmer for a couple more minutes, and season with lots of salt, pepper, maybe some fresh thyme… just go with your gut. I just eyeball the whole process, and it’s delicious every time.
- White Chili
I often use ground chicken or turkey in my white chili recipe, but for a change of pace a few cups of shredded chicken will do the trick! This one is more of a real recipe, so stay tuned… I’ll document the experience the next time I make it 🙂
- Chicken Curry
I love curry of all kinds, and I absolutely make it “the right way” fairly often… but sometimes you have a fridge full of already cooked chicken and a hankering for some spiced goodness! Chop and saute a bunch of vegetables, mix in your favorite curry paste/spice blend/sauce and coconut milk, possibly some fish sauce or tamari, and when everything is almost cooked through, stir in some shredded or chopped chicken and let it warm up and absorb the flavors. Serve over rice. Oh shoot! You forgot to cook rice? Then serve it with rice noodles — they cook up way faster, and who doesn’t love noodles with a creamy sauce on them?
- Fried Rice
This is another of my “clean the fridge” meals. Do you have leftover rice and don’t want soup? Then chop whatever vegetables you think might work in fried rice — I’ve gotten pretty weird with it (celery? really?), and it’s always tasty. Warm up a skillet with some coconut oil or your favorite oil, toss in the veggies, after a few minutes toss in some shredded chicken and leftover rice, and when it’s all good and mixed stir in a mix of tamari and water with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. The cold dried out rice will soak up the flavor and plump back up! When the liquid is absorbed, I make a well in the middle and scramble a couple eggs, and mix them into the whole mixture once they’re cooked. Delicious.
- Pasta pasta pasta
If you have pasta on hand and some vegetables or herbs, you can easily toss together a quick meal with the leftover chicken! It’s great with some fresh pesto, or just some oil and fresh lemon juice. Have fun with it!
- Be Creative!
I love to just take inventory of what’s in the fridge and decide how to piece it together into something delicious. I have a few great resources (like The Flavor Bible) that I turn to when I’m a little stumped and want some inspiration, but there are so many ways to combine leftover rice or pasta, chicken (or other meats), vegetables, and whatever else is in your pantry and fridge in new and exciting ways! Oh, and don’t forget spaghetti squash!
Edited Feb 7 2016 because I absent-mindedly forgot to categorize and tag the post. Silly me…