My husbands eyes light up when I suggest we have a boiled chicken dinner. I first made one last December after reading about them in An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. The name is misleading as it isn't really one dinner, but the posibility of many meals all cooked and waiting in your fridge and freezer after one afternoon's cooking. I'm not talking about those complicated "cook for a week" systems that have you make a menu plan with overlapping ingredients and then cook so many pounds of this and so many cups of that and than freeze them in the correct quantities for each recipe. This is much more freeform and enjoyable.
I'm not going to give any quantities here, because that really depends on the size of your family and what kinds of vegetables you love, are on sale, or are seasonally available. I'm just going to give two descriptions of two recent boiled chicken dinners.
Winter Boiled Chicken Dinner
On Sunday afternoon I boiled the chicken with leeks and parsley stems from the freezer and peppercorns, thyme, and cloves from the pantry. Once the chicken was out, I boiled an abundance of onions, butternut squash, carrots, and broccoli. Once the veg were out, I boiled just enough tortellini for dinner. We ate tortellini in broth and then chicken and vegetables for dinner. On Tuesday we ate chicken sandwhiches for lunch. On Wednesday we ate chicken tetrazzini and leftover broccoli for dinner. On Thursday I put some of the leftover veg and chicken in some broth with some noodles for lunch. On Friday I took what was left of the veg with some broth and made a pureed soup. Six cups of broth went into the freezer.
Summer Boiled Chicken Dinner (Asian inspired)
On Sunday afternoon, I boiled the chicken with leeks, cilantro, and lemongrass from the freezer and peppercorns and cloves from the pantry. When the chicken came out, I boiled an abundance of carrots, bok choi, and mushrooms. I made a large pot of rice. For dinner we had chicken and vegetables with dipping sauces and big bowls of rice. It was too hot for soup. Tuesday we ate leftover veg with tofu over rice for lunch. Wednesday we had chicken tacos for dinner. The was a little of that left so I ate it for lunch on Thursday. Thursday was cooler so I made soup with the veg, broth, and leftover chicken. We had it with rice. Saturday I added noodles to the leftover soup and we had it for lunch. There are four cups of broth in the freezer.
Tamar Adler's book is lovely and inspiring. There are very few recipes. She presents her philosophy of how one meal leads to the next. How a little bit of this and a little of that can make a delicious meal. When I first read it, I could eat eggs, bread, and cheese which play fairly large parts in her approach. She likes to gratinize leftovers with bread crumbs, spread things on toast, crack an egg over that last cup of something, and grate parmigian liberally. Reading it again now, has been helpful to me, as I've learned to focus on the things I can eat (honey poured liberally on that last bit of grilled polenta was brilliant, by the way) and attempt to cook those things with, as Tamar Adler puts it, "economy and grace."