Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Getting The Most From Your Meat Purchase

Aside from my vegetarian daughter, we are a meat and potatoes family. I have four hungry guys in this house who don’t consider it a complete meal unless there is some kind of animal on their plate. They will tolerate my non-meat creations but to them, it’s more of a snack than an actual meal. But being a carnivore can get expensive. A large portion of my budget goes directly towards meat so I’ve learned a few tricks to get the most out of my purchase.

We tend to stay away from them because it seems like more work, but the cheapest cuts of meats are usually the ones that require less handling by the butcher and have the bone and skin still attached. A family size pack of bone-in skin-on chicken pieces is usually around $1 a pound versus boneless skinless chicken breasts at around $2.50 per pound or more. Buying bone-in cuts of meat can not only save you money by yielding more than one meal but with the added bone and skin it can add flavor and nutrition that would otherwise be removed. And if time is at a premium like most busy people today, you can take your one package of meat and with a minimal active prep time create the first three meals of your week in a short amount of time, ready to be completed on a busy week night.

Here is what we do with a value pack size of chicken leg quarters when we get home from the grocery store.

1. Separate the thigh from the drumstick by bending at the joint until it dislocates and then cutting apart at the separated joint.

2. Put the drumsticks in a large freezer bag and pour marinade over the top. Let marinate for up to 24 hours. You now have the main course of one meal ready to go.

3. Put the thighs in a crock pot. . Add a quartered onion, chopped fresh garlic, a few stalks of celery and fill the rest of the space with water. You can add spices for a richer broth. I usually add 1 teaspoon salt, some pepper, basil, thyme, paprika or sage. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or until meat falls off the bone. Strain the broth from the meat and chill. Scrape off the fat that rises and solidifies on top and then freeze or store in the fridge for a few days. The meat can be cooled and separated from the bones and skin. Store this in freezer bags for future use. It should be between 1 and 2 cups of usable meat.

With these easy tips you will be able to put three economical week night dinners on the table and please the meat eaters in your family as well.

Marinade for Drumsticks
(The Bryant House)

¼ cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons grainy mustard
4cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 lime, juiced
½ lemon, juiced
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
Ground black pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients and pour over chicken pieces. Let marinate 2-24 hours. Then grill or bake.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

• 1 cup diced onion
• ½ cup diced green pepper
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken
• 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
• 3 tablespoons butter
• ½ cup flour
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• 2 ½ cups chicken broth
• 1 cup sour cream
• 1 ½ cups Monterey jack cheese
• 12 (8 inch) flour tortillas

In a large saucepan cook onion and green pepper in the 2 tablespoons of butter until tender. Combine onion mixture in a bowl with chopped chicken and green chili peppers. Set aside. For sauce, in the same pan melt 3 tablespoons butter. Stir in flour, coriander and salt. Stir in chicken broth all at once. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Stir 1/2 cup of the sauce into the chicken mixture. Fill each tortilla with about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture. Roll up and arrange in a 13x19x2 baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered in a 350 oven about 25 minutes or until bubbly. Can be made ahead of time and frozen. Place a large sheet of heavy duty foil in your baking dish with enough foil over the end to fold up and over the frozen casserole. Make the casserole up until you are ready to bake it. Freeze it solid. Remove frozen casserole from your dish and encase in the excess foil for storage. This frees up the dish for other meals. When you wish to heat it, remove foil from the still frozen casserole, and place back into the dish that you froze it in initially to thaw; bake as directed.

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup (our favorite)
(Adapted from the back of the Reames Homestyle Egg Noodles Package)

½ to 1 cup of cooked chicken meat
6 cups of homemade chicken stock
1 package Reames Homestyle Egg Noodles
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup flour
Salt to taste
Bring broth to a boil with the bay leaf. Add noodles and simmer for 20 minutes stirring often. Add parsley, thyme, pepper, onions, celery, and carrots. Simmer for 10 minutes or until done. Meanwhile melt butter in a skillet. Add flour and cook for 1 -2 minutes. Add cream to the noodle mixture. Bring back to a simmer. Add flour mixture and cook until thickened. About 2 minutes. Discard bay leaf, add chicken and salt to taste.


Anonymous said...

Do you also render and store the chicken fat? I've been doing that this past year and using it in place of other cooking fat for chicken dishes and other things that would also use chicken broth or can take the very mild chicken flavour. It would make your lovely butter last longer...

BerryMorins Bits & Tips said...

Chicken is a fantastic buy in our area of Las Vegas. Many times we can purchase it for under a dollar a pound.