This recipe and photography was provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com or in her cookbook, One Pan Whole Family.
A rotisserie chicken is a beautiful thing. Juicy meat, crispy skin and unbelievable convenience makes store-bought rotisserie chicken a smart purchase for busy people on the go. Not just for sandwiches, a rotisserie chicken is the foundation of countless innovative meals. What’s more, prep time is slashed when using a perfectly cooked and seasoned chicken from your local Heinen’s, so dinner can be on the table in half the time. At around $8, rotisserie chicken is also one of the best deals in the grocery store. With a bird in hand, I have a number of ideas to help you get dinner on the table faster, easier and more deliciously.
Even cook book authors need help sometimes, and whenever I need a little break from cooking, I often turn to a rotisserie chicken to feed my hungry family. We have the best results when we pick and shred the chicken when still warm and then divvy it up between a few zip-lock bags. That way, if I don’t use it all up within a few days, I can easily toss the remainder in the freezer without a thought. One rotisserie chicken will yield about 4 cups of shredded chicken with about 12 ounces light meat and 8 ounces of dark meat.
Picking the meat from the bones doesn’t take long. Place the chicken on a cutting board, breast up and pull the legs and thighs away from the body. Peel the skin from the meat and pull the meat from the bones. Sometimes a little cartilage sticks to the meat, so I cut that away with a sharp knife. Anchor the chicken with a large fork and cut the breast meat away from the bones with a knife. There will be more chicken stuck to the bones in nooks and crannies, so pick as much of it away as possible with your fingers. Flip the bird over, peel the skin away and pick the meat from the bottom of the bird as well. There’s a nice bite of meat in the wings if you give them a twist to free it from the bones. Refrigerate or freeze any meat you don’t need for another time and save the bones as well. When I have the time, I like to boil the carcass in a blend of half water and chicken broth. It yields a flavorful brew that can then be used as a base for a simple soup. Just add onion, carrot and celery, a can of white beans and fresh parsley and you have yet another dinner from this bounteous bird.
In the quest to simplify family meals, I’d like to share four dinner ideas incorporating this tasty grocery store staple. Chicken Pot Pie is an old family favorite and few dishes are as comforting and homey, but making a crust and fitting it all into a pie dish is just too much work. So, I’ve simplified the process by using rotisserie chicken and frozen puff pastry, all layered into a skillet and popped in the oven where the crust browns to perfection. Loaded with vegetables, tender chicken and creamy sauce under a crispy crust, this dish says welcome home like no other.
Tortilla Soup with Chicken and Corn is another fast and fresh meal on my short list. A quick sauté of onion, garlic, chili powder and cumin gets the flavor started along with a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, broth, frozen corn and shredded chicken. After a short simmer, the soup is ladled into bowls with crumbled corn chips and topped with cilantro, cheese, sour cream and avocado. I love how the corn chips soften and thicken the soup from below and the condiments create a party of flavor on the top.
One of my favorite ways to use rotisserie chicken is scattered over the top of a Homemade Pizza with Chicken, Fontina and Arugula. Utilizing thawed, frozen pizza dough, the recipe below is as simple as it gets with a light scattering of garlic and olive oil as the pizza’s base. Chicken, Fontina cheese and red onion are layered on top and baked up crispy and then topped still hot out of the oven with a lemony arugula salad. I love how the salad wilts a bit and adds an herbal and tart note to the cheese and chicken below.
Rotisserie chicken’s greatest gift just might be as a topping on salad suppers. Pasta Salad with Chicken, Grapes and Walnuts is the perfect summer dinner. It has something for everyone with lots of sweet grapes and green beans for the kids and mint, parsley and arugula for the adults. The pasta is tossed with a cider vinegar and mustard dressing while still warm so that the dressing soaks into the pasta, flavoring it more completely. Chunks of juicy chicken, walnuts and feta cheese combine to make each bite different. Trust me. You’ll want to make this summery salad on a weekly basis.
So, don’t get your feathers all ruffled at the prospect of making dinner. A little bird told me to start with a rotisserie chicken and the rest is easy. Happy spring!