Before we started raising our own heritage breed chicken on fresh air, local non-GMO grains, lots of sunshine, and green pasture, it would take 2-3 birds to feed our crew.
Now though? Now we can stretch one bird into 5 or more meals. No skimping. No joking.
Here’s how we do it:
- Meal 1: Roast Chicken
We process all of our birds right here on the farm. Every day is a good day for these birds and they live the best chicken life. And after processing hundreds and hundreds of birds and training many many family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, students, and like-minded folks of all ages (even the youngest kids have a job), we’ve honed the process to be as quiet, efficient, and honorable as possible. We package every bird whole – it’s simple, efficient, and is the most versatile. Any kind of meal is possible with a whole bird.
Because of that, in our family, we most often eat chicken as a whole roast chicken. No one complains because it’s amazing and delicious and so simple to put together.
Rub the chicken all over inside and out with salt (I probably use about 1-2 tablespoons). Cut an onion and lemon in half and stuff into the cavity. Add fresh (or dried) rosemary and sage if you’ve got them. Roast at 350* until the temperature in the thigh registers 165* (usually right around an hour).
Serve with, well, anything: fresh or frozen vegetables, a robust green salad, roast or mashed potatoes.
- Meal 2: Chicken Tacos
There’s something about a homegrown pasture-raised chicken. A little goes a long way and even though we’ve got a crew of 5 growing kids, we still have leftovers. These almost always get turned into chicken tacos. Because tacos.
Chop 2 cups leftover chicken. Combine in a saucepan with 1/2 pint salsa verde. Warm. Serve over toasted tortillas with all your favorite toppings. Ours include a cilantro cabbage slaw, cojita or other cheese, avocado, diced red onion and more salsa verde.
- Meal 3: Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Even after feeding our crew two whole meals, there’s still more chicken to go around. The last 1-2 cups of leftover meat gets chopped and tossed into soup (in my opinion, soup is the best way to stretch a small amount of meat into a robust meal to feed a crew our size). One of our favorite soups is Chicken Pot Pie Soup – all the warm thick comforting goodness of chicken pot pie without the time of adding a pie crust. My kids love it so much that it’s become a regular birthday dinner request.
I’ll use chicken stock I’ve preserved from a previous roast chicken, plus vegetables from our garden, and milk and butter from our cows. It’s hearty and filling and perfect comfort food for chilly days.
- Meals 4-8: Bone broth/stock
Now that all the meat has been repurposed into other meals, we’re left with the carcass and bones. I add these to a large stockpot with whatever vegetable scraps I have on hand. I always include celery, carrot, onion, garlic, and 6-8 peppercorns. I also like to add parsley, rosemary, or sage. I let this simmer on the stove for 12-24 hours. Not boiling, mind you – it’s best to not let it boil. Keep it low and let it simmer for a long long time to extract all the goodness from those pasture-enriched bones.
In my stockpot, one chicken carcass will make 7-8 quarts of stock. I’ll make a pot of soup right away with the fresh stock – often something like Broccoli Cheddar Soup or Chicken Noodle Soup or Vegetable Bean Soup. We also like to heat the broth and drink it with scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast.
The remaining 4-6 quarts I will process in the pressure canner to make them shelf stable and add to the pantry. We’ll use it for soups, stews, cooking rice, sauces and much much more for weeks to come.
So there you have it. One chicken and more than 5 whole, nutrient-dense, filling and delicious meals to feed your family and nourish your bodies.
My daughter asked this week if we were rich. “We sure are,” I told her. “We have everything we need and all the delicious food we could ever want.” In my book, that’s true wealth.
If you’d like to try your hand at stretching one pasture-raised chicken to feed your family for nearly a week, you can reserve an October-harvested bird here or call/text/stop by the farm and pick one up this week.
People who love to eat are always the best people.Julia Child