05 January 2009

99 cents

A few months ago some girlfriends and I were talking about our grocery bills. Exciting, I know, but the topic seems to come up frequently. My friend Kim mentioned that she read somewhere that you should only buy proteins for no more than a dollar a pound. My reaction was, "Yeah, right."

I very often buy meats for more than a dollar a pound, and a recent holiday discussion with my mom revealed that her local butcher was asking somewhere around $15 a pound for prime rib. In this economy, even my parents vetoed the spendy beef for their holiday party.

But really, a dollar a pound? You can't even buy canned tuna for that. Eggs are about the cheapest thing I can think of, and since I've never cooked with them by weight, I'm not really sure what the price per pound is. On Sunday I was at Winco and saw whole fryer chickens for 99 cents a pound. You had to buy two birds, but I thought I had to take them up on the offer because it seemed like such a good deal. When you buy bone-in meat, it's always good to remember that part of that weight is bone, but even still, the price was right. I'll put the bones to use to make stock, so they're worth the price anyway.

I roasted one of the chickens last night, pulled the meat off and left the carcass in a pot of seasoned simmering water for about four hours. I made a chicken noodle soup using Grandma Peach's homemade egg noodle recipe. Cheap, easy and good. The ingredients were basic: chicken, onion, carrot, celery, water, flour, egg and seasoning. The result was delicious on a warm snowy night (yes, it snowed here. Again!).

Tonight I'm making chicken enchiladas with the remaining meat, and tomorrow I believe I'll roast the other bird. Some of that meat will hit the freezer for a quick meal on a later date.

Chicken Noodle Soup
1 whole fryer chicken
2 onions, one quartered, one diced
3 carrots, thinly sliced
3 ribs of celery, thinly sliced
2 cups of flour
2 eggs
Bay leaf
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Rinse and pat dry chicken, removing any organ meats inside the bird (either discard or save for another use). Season the bird well with salt and pepper both outside and underneath the skin. Roast in a 375-degree oven until internal temperature is 155 degree. The temperature should rise to 160 after resting a few minutes. This took about 50 minutes in my oven for a bird just under five pounds. Once cooked, let chicken cool until it can be handled, then remove meat from the bones. Discard excess fat and skin. Place the meat in the refrigerator, and reserve the carcass.

Fill a large stock pot a little more than half-full with water. Season generously with salt. Add one onion, peeled and quartered, and bay leaf. Place carcass in water, making sure it is covered. Place the pot on a medium-high heat until it begins to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer with a cocked lid for roughly three hours. The liquid should have reduced by roughly half, leaving a concentrated broth. Remove carcass and drain broth, running through a sieve to collect bay leaf and any other meat or bone particals.

Add oil, onions, carrots and celery to pot and cook on medium heat until vegetables begin to soften. Return broth to pot. Add approximately four cups of water and season well. Bring liquid to a light boil. Add in noodles and cook for three to four minutes until noodles are done. Add about half of the chicken, shredded, to the pot.

The soup can be served immediately, but for best results, allow to sit overnight. That's because my noodles tend to be slightly tough just after cooking. After setting up for several hours, they are perfect. Perhaps you'll have more delicate hands, and your noodles will be tender! To skip the work of the noodles, buy prepackaged egg noodles from the freezer section of the store or you could used dried pasta.

To make noodles:
Combine with your fingers approximately two cups of flour, a few pinches of salt and two eggs in a medium bowl to form a sticky, thick dough. The exact amount will vary, so it's OK if you're left with some unused flour in the bottom of the bowl. If not, using a rolling pin, work the dough into a thin layer. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into long thin strips, roughly three inches long by a quarter-inch wide. Let noodles sit out for at least an hour to dry slightly. Then they can be refrigerated until ready to cook.

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