With Summer around the corner, I’ve been stocking our freezer with micro-meals so we can just grab, heat, and consume. We have a bad, bad, bad habit of eating out when we feel lazy and since we feel lazy three or four times a week it’s better for our wallet and my waistline if there’s something waiting for us in the freezer.
Most of the time, I freeze soup, beans, and chili so that we have grab-and-go lunches, but lately I’ve been freezing shredded chicken. It’s insanely easy to stock your freezer with shredded chicken. Just:
Buy a whole chicken (not frozen). I buy a two-pack of whole chickens from Costco and they end up being about $4 a piece. One chicken makes you 8-10 servings of shredded chicken and almost a half-gallon of chicken stock, so it’s a super cheap way to go.
Rinse the whole chicken, put in a pot, and cover (or nearly cover) with water. Add a little salt and put on the stove to boil. (I also add garlic sometimes, but it’s probably not necessary.)
Boil the chicken for about two hours, or until the meat is practically falling off the bone. Carefully remove the carcass from the water and put on a cutting board to cool off. Use your tongs to break up the chicken into as many pieces as possible so that it will cool faster.
DON’T TOSS OUT THAT WATER! This is your chicken stock. Keep it boiling and add any veggies or herbs that you have on hand. I usually add 6 stalks of celery, 8 carrots, an onion, and a handful of fresh basil or rosemary from the kitchen garden. Keep simmering.
Once the chicken is cooled enough to handle, pick the good meat from the bones and use your hands to shred it. Put the shredded meat in a tupperware for later and take everything you didn’t shred (bones, skin, scary inside pieces) and put them back in the simmering stock.
Simmer that stock for an hour and then allow to mostly cool. Put a cheesecloth in the bottom of a large bowl and pour the stock into the bowl. Strain with the cheesecloth, getting as much chicken stock as you can out. Pour the stock into a tupperware or glass jars and refrigerate.
Once the shredded chicken is cool, you can either cook with it or put it into freezer bags (squeezing all the air out). Once the chicken stock is cool, skim the thick layer of fat off the top and throw away. If the remaining stock is thick like hard jello, you just need to add a little water to it when you’re cooking because it’s concentrated. If it’s more like soft jello or thick liquid, you’re good to go. Chicken stock doesn’t freeze well, but it keeps for about a week, so you can either cook with it like normal or use it as a base to make other things that freeze well, including soups, quinoa, or pinto beans.
The whole process takes about four hours, so I do it whenever I know I’ll have an afternoon at home. It makes a lot of food and makes the whole house smell yummy. It’s also so easy, I don’t even think you can call it cooking. (And making my own chicken stock makes me feel like I’m starring in Little House on the Prairie or something. Small joys.)
If you aren’t sure what to do with all that shredded chicken, we eat ours in soups, enchiladas, stir-fry, etc. To thaw, either stick it in the fridge the day before or toss the frozen chicken into a pan with a little water or chicken stock and heat through. Add sauce or marinade and *bam*, dinner.
Here’s one of my favorite shredded chicken recipes:
Bottled wing sauce
Greek yogurt or sour cream
Blue cheese crumbles
Start by making your baked potato. It’s your call on how you want to do that. I poke holes in a potato, cover it with olive oil, sprinkle on salt/pepper/garlic, and microwave for 8-9 minutes.
Take your shredded chicken and toss it in a frying pan. If it’s frozen, add a little water or chicken stock and heat through. Once it’s warmed, add the wing sauce of your choice. It’s up to you if you just want the chicken to have a little sauce or a lot of sauce. I love wing sauce, so I drench my shredded chicken, but however you want to go works.
Open baked potato. Add a quick stripe of wing sauce to the center. Top with hot shredded chicken. Add a dollop of greek yogurt (pictured) or sour cream, depending on which you like better. Add blue cheese crumbles. Eat and appreciate that this is not as messy and a million calories less than consuming thirty of your favorite wings. Feel awesome.