Alison Tam’s new novelette “Beauty, Glory, Thrift” has just been published by our friends The Booksmugglers and to celebrate, she’s at Book Bites, with a recipe for Chicken You Can Eat Forever. Welcome, Alison!
To showcase her talents, the goddess of Thrift in my novelette, “Beauty, Glory, Thrift” decides to cook a foreigner a feast. The point here is to spend as little money as possible to make as much food as she can, something anyone who’s ever lived on a student budget has had a lot of practice with. Of course, Thrift manages to rustle up something decidedly fancier than Top Ramen or rice and beans, with a little help from my childhood memories of my parents’ cooking.
Say what you like about fish eyes and chicken feet: Chinese people were zero-waste before it was even a thing. My first memories of cooking are all about saving food, from my dad rinsing off gnawed-on chicken bones so we could use them for soup the next day, or my mom pouring all our leftovers into one wok to make delicious fried rice. That philosophy has stuck with me into adulthood, where stretching my dollar has become a lot more of a priority, and I’ve learned to improvise meals from whatever’s hanging out in the fridge.
This is a one-pot braised chicken that tastes kind of like chicken adobo and can be stretched into multiple meals. I cook for my roommates and am bad at portion control (ask me about the time I accidentally made twenty-three servings of apple pie filling), so this will comfortably feed five people for an entire weekend. Just freeze whatever you don’t use, and heat it all up again in a pot the next time you’re hungry, or have a bunch of friends over and make them help with the dishes in exchange.
Chicken You Can Eat Forever
What you’ll need:
- 5 pounds of chicken (I usually use chicken thighs, but whatever’s on sale will do)
- 1 cup of soy sauce (add another glug or two if you like salty food: just keep tasting the broth.)
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 scallions
- 3 tablespoons of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons of black bean garlic sauce (don’t sweat it if you don’t have any: just add some more soy sauce)
- Half a cup of rice for every person who’s eating
- Some kind of vegetable (bell peppers and bok choy do very well)
- Add these in, what the hell: Miso, vinegar, chicken stock, rice wine, Sriracha, peppers, bay leaves, ginger… this recipe is very forgiving. Feel free to experiment!
- First you’ll have to cook the onions and garlic together at the bottom of the pot. Put a little oil in so they’ll cook, and leave them in on medium heat until the onions turn clear. Next, put the chicken in, and fill the pot with water, chicken stock or a mix of both until the chicken is just barely covered. Now is the time to add the soy sauce, black bean garlic and any other spices or broth add-ins you so desire. Cover and let cook at medium-low heat for at least half an hour, though it gets better the longer you leave it on the stove.
- While the chicken is cooking, start cooking your rice and prep your vegetables. Slice up your scallions and throw them in. Leave the root parts untouched: if you put them into a little water they’ll regrow and you’ll have fresh scallions pretty much forever. Chop up your vegetables into rough strips, put them in, too, and cook for another, say, ten, fifteen minutes.
- When your chicken’s done, it’ll be so soft you can scrape the meat off with a fork. Just do that in the pot, ladle some big scoops of chicken meat, vegetables and broth onto your rice, and enjoy.
- The chicken is delicious, but the real magic happens after you’ve already eaten it. The leftovers may be on their way to looking like a gross, congealed, mess, but if you play this right that’s food for the rest of your entire week. There are three parts to this: the meat, the bones and the broth.
- Scoop the chicken, vegetables and bones out of the pot, and put the pot with all its broth into the fridge. Take the meat off all the bones, put it in some Tupperware or a bowl or something and leave it in the fridge. You can use that to make chicken sandwiches (I like mine with lettuce and mayo or guac), chicken quesadillas, chicken salad, etc. or you can just reheat it with rice or pasta if you’re not sick of unadulterated chicken yet.
- The bones go in plastic bags and into the freezer. The next time you want chicken soup, boil them with some Chinese cabbage and more scallions. You can also use them to make chicken stock, though that’s a much longer process.
- The next step is to go to sleep, because that was a lot of work. Leave the broth for tomorrow. When you’re ready to get back to it, the broth will have separated into a layer of fat on top and gel-like stock on the bottom. It looks really gross, but that fat is good stuff! Wait a couple minutes for it to warm up, then scoop it off with a spoon and put it in a small container in the fridge. You can use it in place of oil or butter to make whatever you’re cooking taste all chicken-y.
- The leftover stock is good for a lot of things, but I like to use it in risotto. Heat up arborio rice in a little bit of olive oil or some of that chicken fat. Then heat up the stock and stir it into the risotto one cup at a time. When the risotto is finished, put some scallions on top of each bowl.
- Every time I make this chicken, I’m set on meals for the entire week. There’s something really satisfying having leftovers waiting for you in the fridge when you get back, especially when they can be transformed into something completely different. Beans can be re-fried or packed into enchiladas, mashed potatoes can go into shepherd’s pie… In my opinion, the leftovers are the best part of every meal.
Alison Tam is trying to make the quintile-life crisis into a thing. She likes weird genre mashups, girls kissing and telling things from the alien point of view. Currently a Californian, Alison can only really live somewhere that has at least one boba place. You can find her at storytam.tumblr.com or on Twitter as @TheTamSlam.