I can’t tell you a lie. James and I are really horrible at eating leftovers. Whether it’s from a restaurant or delicious food made right here at home, both of us are horrible at facing that same flavor combination the next day.
I’ve found a way to combat that though, when it comes to chicken. The secret to using a chicken (or two, depending on the size of your family) is to prepare it first at the least common denominator recipe, which in most cases means soup.
What led me to this epiphany is a recipe in the New Braunfels Smokehouse Cookbook, whose famous chicken and dumplings I’ve waxed on poetically about before. The recipe calls for you to cook the chicken in a pot with dehydrated onion and cumin, salt, and pepper, effectively making your own stock – which the recipe goes on to turn into a gravy for the chicken and dumplings. Where it separates from most soup recipes though, is that it calls for you to shred the chicken and add it back in, after the dumplings have had a chance to cook up.
When we’d eaten our NBS (New Braunfels Smokehouse) delights, I had a plate full of shredded chicken left over – that because of their method, was not committing us to a week’s worth of chicken and dumplings. (Come on, we all love chicken and dumplings, but 2 meals in a week is more than enough!)
So I froze most of the leftover gravy and dumplings for a future date, kept a little back for one day of leftovers, and then started to figure out what I was going to do with all that delicious chicken.
Do you know how easy it is to make dinner when the protein portion is already figured out?!
First up on the agenda, shredded chicken tacos. I lightly fried the corn tortillas like we do back in San Antonio while enough of the chicken reconstituted in a can of V8 juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and can of green chiles.
When the chicken was hot and deliciously moist, and the tortillas had just the right amount of give and crunch, I brought them together with cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, and a little lime. We made a side dish of brown rice cooked in pollo y tomate bouillon and refried beans.
The next night, we had leftover chicken and dumplings. The third night, we had chicken enchiladas.
A few weeks later, I did the same thing again. Only instead of making chicken and dumplings, I made chicken noodle soup. I didn’t add the chicken back until we had our individual bowls ready to serve, leaving us with more than enough chicken to enjoy more tacos, and chicken sandwiches with fresh tomato, lettuce, mayo, and crispy fried bacon. Another night we had barbecue chicken sandwiches, heating up the shredded chicken with barbecue sauce and then tossing it on hamburger buns.
The next time you want chicken soup, stew, or dumplings, pull that chicken yourself, and reserve the majority of it. We ate the entire week off a $4.50 chicken, and fresh vegetables and bread we got at the farmer’s market.
The moral of the story: Leftovers don’t have to be a drag.
New Braunfels Smokehouse Chicken & Dumplings
From the New Braunfels Smokehouse Cookbook
1 medium to large chicken
water to cover chicken
1 teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup dehydrated onion flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups biscuit mix
2/3 cups milk
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
In a large stock pot, combine the chicken, cumin, onion flakes, salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover the chicken, and bring all to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for approximately 1 hour. When chicken is tender, remove from broth and set aside to cool.
When cool enough to handle, cut meat from bones, and using two forks, pull chicken to shred. Keep warm.
Strain the broth and return it to the pot, bringing to a boil. Mix the biscuit mix, milk and parsley together in a medium bowl. Drop by tablespoonfuls into boiling broth and cover tightly. Cook for 15 minutes, and do not remove the lid while the dumplings cook.
To serve, ladle 2 to 3 dumplings into a warm bowl, add chicken, and top with dumpling gravy.