With a full week of January still to be seen, one would expect thoughts of spring further away than a dim horizon. Au contraire.
I rose early this morning because there was a thawing chicken in the fridge calling for the oven. We always keep two or three whole chickens in the freezer because you just never know when a roasted chicken dinner seems the right thing or some week-long meal planning is needed. Winter is my favorite time to roast or simmer a whole bird. Besides, a whole chicken is much less expensive and for our two person household that chicken will make many meals – as you will see.
I went straight to the kitchen and turned the oven to 350F, stripped the bird of its wrapper, rinsed and laid it to rest in a roasting pan prepared with a swizzle of olive oil, a twig of rosemary, crushed garlic cloves and some broken black peppercorns. To this I added carrot, onion and cold water. Another drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of salt and pepper before topping with a snug lid – that bird was put in the heat within just a few minutes. The timer was set for an hour and twenty.
Gazing out the kitchen window I spied a beautiful morning, bright, clear, stone cold, but no breeze, and it took me to the garden for a quick jaunt to see how things were faring. Still well below freezing the cabbages were frozen solid. I adjusted some coverings here and there on Brussels sprouts, kale and oriental greens.
Feeling a little silly in nothing but my pj’s, bathrobe and sandals (yes I knew it was cold) I ran in for a thermos of coffee and another layer of warm clothes. Time slipped by as I sipped my morning brew and basked in the intense January sun. Morning birds and the a niente melody of wind chimes lulled me…
Gene came along and joined me on the patio until a breeze chilled us. Just as well… that chicken was near ready.
The bird rested before being stripped of its bones which were thrown in a pot along with cold water, more garlic and astragalus lozenges. It went to simmer for the making of soup stock.
The breasts were set aside – one for today’s lunch, the other for another lunch on another day. Plenty of scrappy bits for a few chicken salad sandwiches – into a bag and into the freezer. The remainder chopped for what will become chicken noodle soup.
And then it was time to prepare lunch. A few days ago I ran across a recipe that was so familiar I just had to make it.
Take a look at Heather’s Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada Skillet recipe.
Of course I made some changes. One chicken breast instead of three, and bumped up the spices. Of course some onion, and I decreased the sour cream and cheese, doubled the green chilis.
The methodology is very similar to my Mom’s red enchilada casserole to which she adds torn corn tortillas, cooked hamburger, onions and cheese and baked until bubbly. I’ve been making the exact recipe for over forty years.
The new Enchilada Skillet recipe was quick to assemble and very tasty and good enough to add to my favorites file.
So this single roasted chicken is going to make eight large servings of the aforementioned casserole, three chicken salad sandwiches, countless bowls of soup (almost a gallon) and a big bowl of warm chicken scrap soup for the dogs which they love. That’s a pretty good return on one roasted chicken.
Homemade noodles, celery, onion, carrots, together with the chicken and broth will become soup tomorrow.
The chicken chores almost done, I take the compostable scraps out to the compost bin, birdsong still fills the crisp air and bits of green peak out of the walkway soil. I am reminded that an ancient pagan holiday called Imbolc is just around the corner. Halfway between winter solstice (which is the shortest day of the year) and the vernal equinox (which roughly coincides with Easter), Imbolc symbolizes new beginnings. Lengthening daylight will encourage hens to lay more eggs and as they become plentiful we will decorate them for Easter. Imbolc aligns with Groundhog Day, a no less mythical day in celebration of a large rodent who predicts the weather.
Early spring gives one hope after a long dark and cold few months of winter. The days are getting noticeably longer. Seeds have been ordered and a new garden map laid out. Promises made perhaps at New Years are either coming to fruition or tossed aside – either way newness abounds and we feel refreshed and alive for the gentle reminders that spring is coming.
I thoughtfully and intentionally augment the already earthy smelling compost bin with what will become new dirt for the new plants quite possibly in a new garden bed. Full circle – these scraps, some of which were grown in this garden, are now going to contribute to the growth of the next round. Celebration can be that simple.