I recently posted a great buy on split chicken breasts at Hy-Vee stores — only .88/lb! That is definitely a stock-up moment. While split breasts are slightly more work than the flash-frozen, boneless, skinless we’ve all gotten used to, they definitely net a little more “bang for your buck” when it comes to budget, intense flavor and uses. Well, my friend Laura wanted to know if the sale meant that she could be expecting some new chicken recipes. So Laura, this post is for you – lol!
What do you do with 40 lbs of chicken purchased at amazing bargain prices, anyway? A mini-freezer cooking session, that’s what. Bulk Cooking Chicken for the Freezer provides you with dozens of quick-fix meal options. I did put 16 lbs into the freezer, as is, but the other 24 lbs. were introduced to my slow cooker and my favorite stockpots. You won’t believe how simple (and tasty) this process is.
Look how little water I put in the bottom of the stockpot. There is only about 2-3 inches of water in the bottom of that very deep kettle. I wish I had taken pictures with the slow cooker, but the process is the same — just a couple inches of water in the bottom. You want to end up with rich, concentrated, delectable chicken stock.
Start layering the chicken into the stockpot and be sure to season with a little salt and pepper in each layer. You can see I came to within 3 or 4 inches of the top of my kettle and if I had to venture a guess, now, I would say that when I finished loading the pan, there were 12-15 chicken breasts in there. That’s all there is to it! Beautiful simplicity!
Put it on high heat until it comes to a full boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and put the lid on the pot. The size of your pot, your own stove, the number of pieces of chicken you are cooking and what you intend to do with them will determine how long you allow this to simmer. There is no magic time limit, but to start, go with at least two hours. Check the meat. It may well be done, but you want it to be nice and tender and you want to give enough time to the delicious, rich stock that is developing in the bottom of that pan. (If you are loading your slow cooker, do it the same way — layers with salt and pepper in between and fill the slow cooker as full as you can, while still being able to get the lid on.)
If you intend to shred the chicken, you can let it go until it has literally cooked right off the bones. I generally like to cube some and shred some, so I want it tender, but still firm enough to cut into pieces. In the stockpot on the stove, I left the chicken simmering for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. In the slow cooker, on low heat, I let it go for between 6 and 8 hours.
The end result is a lot of chicken to cool, skin, bone and freeze PLUS the most rich delicious chicken stock you will ever taste. You won’t get that from boneless, skinless chicken. I generally lift all the chicken out onto platters or cookie sheets and let it cool until it is easy to handle. Strain the stock into a container and allow it to cool, cover it and put in the fridge so the fat will form a layer on the top that is easy to skim off.
Once the chicken has cooled, remove the skin and bones and discard them. Shred or chop the meat, as your family prefers. I usually put two and a half to three cups of meat to a quart-sized ziptop freezer bag, push out as much air as possible as I’m closing it and stack them flat, one on top of the other in the freezer. Once they are frozen, I have a plastic tub where I “file” the bags on end, as that works better space-wise in my freezer. I definitely need to do some rearranging in there, but you get the basic idea. You’ll notice on the top shelf there also rows of Spicy Chinese Chicken, Apple Dijon Pork Loin, Honey Orange Pork Loin, Maple Glazed Pork Loin and Beef Stew. The bottom shelf is a mess, but the flat package on the top left is Lemon Ginger Chicken Breasts marinated for the grill, and the center has about 8 cups of browned ground beef crumbles stacked on a bag of twice-baked potatoes. To the far right I have bags of pre-cooked brown rice and bags of pre-cooked white beans.
Once I have skimmed the fat from the top of the chicken stock, I put it into gallon ziptop freezer bags (I tend to make soups in large batches . You may be more comfortable freezing your stock in quart-sized freezer bags, if you want to use less at a time.), remove as much air as possible when sealing and then lay out flat on cookie sheets which I temporarily lay inside the top of my big freezer. Once they are frozen, these bags can be left lying flat or stood on end and “filed” as I did with the chicken. They take up very little freezer space that way.
Once you have a freezer-full of delicious pre-cooked chicken, the quick meal options are pretty much limitless, but here are a couple I hope you will enjoy trying.
Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup in Minutes
- a bag of pre-cooked chicken from your freezer
- a bag of pre-cooked chicken stock from your freezer
- a bag of frozen “homemade” noodles (Reames is a good brand that is easy to find.)
Empty the frozen chicken stock into your soup kettle. This stock will be a little concentrated. I usually add about ¼ again as much water. For instance, if you have 4 cups of stock, add 1 to 1 ¼ cups of water – 8 cups of stock, 2 to 2 ½ cups of water, etc.
Heat to a rolling boil and then add noodles. Bring to a boil again and then reduce heat to cook noodles.
Add pre-cooked frozen chicken in the last ten minutes of cooking. Let it simmer until noodles are tender and chicken is heated through.
Eventually, I will get around to sharing my full-version, Old-Fashioned Homemade Chicken and Noodles with Real Homemade Noodles. And we’ll do it over mashed potatoes just the way my favorite guy loves them. That recipe is a family favorite and a great way to sneak vegetables into a dish your kids will beg to have again and again. But, when I need that slow-cooked, wonderfully satisfying taste RIGHT NOW, this quick version is just the ticket. It never disappoints.
Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
This recipe is the bomb! It’s a hit at potlucks and get-togethers, an often requested family supper and makes the quickest, kids-can-do-it-on-their-own lunches with just the slightest pre-planning on your part.
- 1 or 2 bags of pre-cooked chicken from your freezer, thawed
- (1) 16 oz carton of sour cream
- (2) 10¾ oz cans cream of chicken soup
- 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, minced fine (this is to taste – we like spicy)
- 2 to 3 cups shredded cheddar, colby, cheddar-jack or colby-jack cheese
- 8 – 10 flour tortillas
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Make the sauce by combining sour cream, cream of chicken soup and minced jalapeno.
To assemble enchiladas, slightly warm a flour tortilla (We use the microwave for about 10 seconds.) Fill the center of the tortilla, lengthwise, with a narrow row of shredded or diced chicken. Top the chicken with a dollop of the sauce and some cheese. Roll the tortilla and place seam-side down in a lightly greased 9 x 13 pan.
Fill the remaining tortillas and line them up in your pan. Spread more sauce over the top of each rolled enchilada and sprinkle with a little more grated cheese. Cover and bake 30 minutes, until heated through and cheese and sauce are melted and bubbly.
We would serve this with rice and a salad at suppertime, but here’s a great lunchtime trick. I often make the sauce ahead and store it in the fridge along with the pre-cooked chicken, shredded cheese and tortillas. At lunch time, the kids can quickly roll their own enchilada, top it with some sauce and shredded cheese, put the plate in the microwave for 1 – 1½ minutes and enjoy a delicious hot lunch in no time! Serve it with a piece of fruit and they are good to go!
I have also substituted lowfat and/or non-fat sour cream and soup in this recipe with no problems.
Laura, my friend, there are so many other recipes swimming around in my head that will be great for summertime fare- chicken salad sandwiches, barbecue chicken pizza, chicken taco salad, southwest chicken layered salad, poppy seed chicken salad, etc., but it is 12:10 a.m and this post is already eight miles long, so those will have to be for another day.
Enjoy some chicken!!!