Passover preparations serendipitously began yesterday. As I was shopping for regular staples and dinner, I noticed that whole chickens were on sale. At $1.69/pound at Whole Paycheck Foods, I decided to stock up. And then I remembered that I have 10 guests coming for the first seder next week. This was the perfect time to start in on the chicken soup that would provide the medium for my matzah balls.
I bought 3 chickens, and immediately got to work breaking them down. I separated the birds into 4 groups – breasts, thighs, livers and, of course, stock parts – the bones, drums and wings that will go into making the chicken soup. After all, there’s so much flavor in the bones. Industrious chefs have long known that the bones make the best, most flavorful stock, even more so than the meat. And I must confess, I’m not a big fan of chicken drums or wings (unless they’re deep-fried) so they go into the stock-pile as well.
The chicken breasts and thighs were immediately frozen for a later meal.
I tossed the “stock-parts” with some salt and pepper, and roasted them in the oven. This accomplished two functions. First, the fat rendered away from the bones which will yield me a cleaner stock. As a bonus, I now have schmaltz for my matzah balls. Best of all, the bones achieve a dark, rich color that will make for a more flavorful stock.
Remember the chicken drums I tossed into my stock pile? When the bones have finished roasting, after about 30 minutes at 400F, the chicken legs are cooked through. I pick the meat off the bone and save that separately to put in my matzah ball soup. If I were to put them in the stock pot along with the bones, I wouldn’t have the meat for my soup. Yes, I could fetch it out after the stock was finished. But that would be more hassle than it’s worth. But more unfortunate, the meat would have lost all its flavor to the broth. Better to pick it out now, and add it back at the end.
Inside the chickens is a little pouch that contains the gizzards and neck. I never know how many livers I might get. Though each chicken only have one, the little pouch could have three or none. In this case, I had three in each: enough to make chopped liver. Chicken liver mousse with cognac and butter would also be delicious, but I was feeling particularly Jewish.
I also felt particularly thrifty and resourceful last night. From my three birds, I yielded:
6 boneless chicken breasts (retail value: $22)
6 chicken thighs (retail value: $8)
½ pint chopped liver (retail value: $2)
Chicken schmaltz (priceless)
1+ gallon chicken stock/soup (retail value: $12)
This recipe could not be simpler… with only 4 ingredients. I prefer chopping it by hand – the flavor and texture is better. Some people “chop” it in the food processor.
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or chicken fat
1 large onions, diced
1 lb. fresh chicken livers
salt and pepper to taste
1. Put eggs in cold water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 minute. Cover the pot and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain the eggs and place under cold running water until cold. Peel.
2. Meanwhile, put chicken livers on a paper towel to blot dry. Season with salt and pepper. heat oil or chicken fat in a large sauté pan. Add onions, and sauté for 5 minutes, or until onions start to brown. Season the livers with salt and pepper and add them to the pan. Cook until they are cooked through and firm, about 5 minutes.
3. Chop everything together, by hand or in a food processor. Season to taste with salt and pepper.