Usually, I roast a chicken every Sunday for Ru's lunches during the week. I cram it full of lemon, garlic and herbs and it's really fragrant and juicy. But... I forgot that he was going out gallivanting and wouldn't be there for the tupperware box of deliciousness. Time for a Plan B. We've had some particularly shocking weather recently and I wanted to make a lovely stew with the chicken. To make the very most of it, I poached it with some root vegetables, keeping the meat for the stew, and creating a really delicious stock with the bones for the base of the sauce. This is the perfect food for freezing as it makes so much and guarantees delicious dinners throughout winter.
You're right, it is labour intensive and I could use chicken breasts and ready made stock as a shortcut (nothing wrong with that at all) but I had time on my hands and it seemed far more attractive to tackle instead of the ironing... I've frozen the leftover stock for future meals as you make about 2 litres when you poach the chicken. One shortcut I do take is using frozen chopped parsley which I buy in great big bunches and chop finely before freezing in old sauce tubs.
Herby Chicken Casserole
Step 1 : Poached Chicken & Chicken Stock
2 sticks Celery
1 tsp Peppercorns
1 tsp Salt
1 Bay leaf
1 sprig Thyme
2 litres water
Place all of the ingredients into your largest stock pot, bring to the boil and then simmer for 90 minutes until the chicken begins to fall apart. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl and remove the meat. Return the bones to the pot and simmer for another 30 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and skim away as much of the fat as possible. Wash the stock pot because you'll be using it again for the casserole itself.
Step 2 : Herby Chicken Casserole
1 tbsp Oil
4 Carrots, peeled & chopped into large chunks
16 Shallots, peeled and trimmed
2 sticks Celery, chopped into large chunks
3 Leeks, washed and chopped into large rounds
25g Plain Flour
600ml Chicken Stock
2 tsp Grain Mustard
2 sprigs Thyme
1 punnet Mushrooms, quartered
2 tsp chopped Parsley
Melt the oil & butter in the stock pot and add the carrots, shallots, celery & leeks. Saute over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes.
Sprinkle over the flour and stir well. It will look like a terrible mess, don't worry, you're doing the right thing. Add the stock and milk and stir continuously over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes until the flour has dissolved and there's no little lumps to be seen. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the mustard, thyme and mushrooms and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender.
Add the cooked chicken and heat for a further 5 minutes. Fish out the thyme stalks and stir in the parsley. Serve with lots of creamy mashed potato or steamed rice.
This freezes brilliantly in a sealed container for up to 3 months.