Chicken: Fried, Roasted, Served with Lemon, and Made Into Soup

Ha! Bet you thought winter was over, what with those few days of marvelous weather we had. Hope you didn’t put all your sweaters in mothballs, because winter is back. Let’s hope it stays long enough to rain a bit and recharge the aquifers.

I’m told there were lots of people sniffing and sneezing at the City Council meeting this week. They probably thought that spring was here and got out the shorts. They need chicken soup!
I bragged a while back about a 5-pound chicken I bought and now I’m seeing them more and more. Even though it’s only the two of us now and the guys at the firehouse are cajoling someone else into cooking for them, I still can’t get used to buying a smaller chicken. I always figure that the bigger the chicken, the more meat is there and the better deal I’m getting, because bones only get so big, right?

I ran across a chart for roasting chicken: at 350 degrees, roast your chicken. . .
1½-2 hours — 2-3 lbs.
2¼-2½ hours — 3¼-3¾ lbs.
2¾-3 hours — 4-5 lbs.

The easiest way I know to prepare a chicken for roasting is to use bottled Italian dressing. It has just the right herbs, and there’s that little bit of oil to make the chicken skin golden and crispy.

I got one of those measuring pitchers with the spout that comes from the bottom of the thing, which means that if you let it sit a bit all the fat rises to the top and you’re able to use only the good part. I make gravy with the drippings from a roast chicken just by skimming off the fat (or pouring it from my handy dandy separator) and adding flour, stirring constantly with a fork or whisk, until it’s the right consistency.

If you don’t roast a whole chicken, you can still take advantage of the lower price by learning how to cut it up yourself. In China, the cooks just hack it up with a cleaver so you get mysterious pieces of bone in your meal if you’re eating in an everyday restaurant. Nicer restaurants that cater to us prissy Westerners tend to cut it up very carefully, at the joints, like we do.

Here’s a batter you can make, and if you boil the chicken first and then dip it in the batter to fry it, it won’t sit in the oil so long and soak it up.

Beer Batter
1/3 c. beer
3 eggs
½ c. flour
½ c. cornstarch
¼ tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. seasoned salt
Beat the eggs first, then add everything else one at a time and blend well.

Pre-cook your chicken like this:
Cut the chicken into pieces and put it in a pot, and cover with water (and maybe some white wine). Pre-cook it in a broth of:

1 stalk celery, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 tsp. seasoned salt
¼ tsp. pepper

Simmer about 25 minutes. Save the broth as a soup base, particularly if you plan to go to a City Council meeting.
Dredge the chicken pieces in flour or shake them in a bag with some flour, and then dip them in the beer batter. Deep fry for about 5 minutes in hot oil.

My mom had a lemon tree that produced huge lemons and had blooms, even in the dead of winter. I never had to buy lemons, and in fact was always trying to find recipes using lemons, or just giving them away. Here’s one of our favorites:

Avgolemono (Lemon Chicken)
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
flour (start with a cup) in a bowl or paper bag
1/4 c. chopped white onion
3 Tbsp. butter
2 c. white wine (one for you, one for the pot)
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
(save the rest of the lemon to slice up)
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1 c. half and half
1 tsp. seasoned salt
Garnish with the green part of green onions, sliced

Dredge the chicken in flour and brown it and the white onion in the butter. Add wine, lemon juice, lemon rind and herbs. Cover and cook on low, so it’s just bubbling, for about a half hour. Add the half and half and the seasoned salt and stir in to make a nice sauce. Garnish with lemon slices and green onions. I’ve made it with the lemon slices laid on top as it was cooking – the rinds get soft and they’re not all that tart.

Now, obviously, that recipe is for 6 people but not everyone has six people at home. Lucky for you, there’s always avgolemono, or Greek lemon chicken soup. Here’s how to make the soup part, then just cut up a couple of breasts of your leftover chicken and add it to the pot to reheat.

Avgolemono (Greek lemon soup)
2 c. chicken broth (or 1 can)
6 Tbsp. rice
3 eggs
Juice of 1 large lemon

Bring the broth to a boil and add the rice. Cover and let it cook on medium for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is done. While that’s happening, beat the eggs and lemon juice together and set it aside.

When the rice is cooked, take about a cup of the broth out and put the chopped chicken in to hear. Stir the cup of broth slowly into the egg-and-lemon mixture. Add it back to the soup gradually while stirring. Another way to do it is to add the egg-and-lemon mixture right into the pot and let it “clot,” the way it does in some Chinese soups like Egg Flower Soup. The kids might fuss, but what do they know?

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