Friday, October 10, 2008

Foods for the New Depression: A chicken in every pot

When I first moved to San Francisco I had a sixteen dollar a week food budget. Rice, beans, lentils, eggs, vegetables and a chicken a week were most of my diet. Twice a week I would shop in Chinatown buying my essentials. If I had a dollar left over I would head to the Cala foods spice rack where they had an excellent selection of dried herbs and spices for 99 cents each. I would often manage one bottle of local wine that I would divide into 5 small glasses and have a glass with dinner many nights.

As difficult as it is to believe I ate well. I know at least 100 different things one can do to a chicken, all delicious and many that I return to on a regular basis.

While I entertain a lot I am still thrifty when it comes to food. I seek the sales and deals all over town while I am out and about. I buy from local farmers and try to eat organic whenever possible, but even within that framework I seek deals.

I would roast my chicken on Sunday nights and eat the wings and drumsticks with all the crispy skin and a big bowl of rice and vegetables. The breast meat would make 3 days of chicken sandwiches for lunch. The thighs were often Monday's dinner with noodles and vegetables, or on the rare occasions I could squeeze in some sour cream as a paprika laden stew with lots of onion and dumplings.

The bones went into the soup pot and two more meals would come from soup. In this new depression a chicken in every pot is not a bad idea. This preparation is well seasoned enough for a special meal and the bones and scraps retain some of that wonderful spiciness that will make the soup delicious.

The Marinade
Juice of 10 limes (10 for a dollar in my neighborhood)
1/8 cup salt
1 head of garlic
1/8 cup turmeric
1/8 cup cumin
1/8 cup coriander
1/2 small Spanish onion cut into chunks
Puree it all in a food processor or blender

Take your chicken and cut the backbone out (save for soup pot), set aside the liver in the frig covered. Snap the chicken open and flat and put into a shallow pan. Put on a glove and pour the marinade over the bird and rub it under the skin and into the flesh with your hands. Work it in there. Place skin side down overnight. In the morning place skin side up wiping away excess liquid and let the skin dry for added crispiness. Keep uncovered all day in the frig.

Pre-heat the oven to 450. Put on a rack with a couple cups of water underneath and put in the oven for 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 300 and roast an additional 45. Test it for doneness, skin should be crisp and juices clear.

Serve with a wedge of fresh lime, some olives, rice and vegetables.

I recommend carving in the kitchen and saving those bones.

Take the neck and all the giblets except the liver and place in a pot of water along with the juice from under the rack (why do you think we put that water in there?) You should start with roughly two gallons of water a chopped onion, a chopped carrot and some garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer all night long. If you are afraid of stove top cooking while you sleep simmer in the oven or crock pot.

Before you leave the house strain the broth. It probably reduced by half, if not reduce it on purpose. Refrigerate.

When you come home the fat will have risen to the top. Skim it off and save it for fried potatoes or onions.

Take your gallon of stock and bring to a boil, reduce by half then simmer and throw in 3 cups of split lentils, and 4 chopped tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. The lentils will cook quickly. Taste and adjust your seasonings. Then go into your refrigerator and scrounge.

Ah...a little leftover rice from last night, brilliant.

A cup of peas from Friday, okay.

A little bit of spinach left in the bottom of the bag from the salad, it works.

Whatever you've got throw it in. If you have a good flavorful base it will all taste good.

You spotted that liver, take it out and lightly salt it. Your soup is simmering uncovered so you make a nice salad and take that liver and sear it in a pan with some oil, keep it rare and take off the heat. In the hot pan throw in some balsamic and olive oil, hit with a dollop of mustard. Take your hot dressing and toss your salad, reserving a bit of the dressing. Slice your liver and place on top of the salad and drizzle with that last bit of dressing.

Depression era foi gras, crisp greens, good bread, and a really good soup.

Serve with a bottle of Astica and toast the new depression.


Yanon Soume said...

How far do you think 16 dollars would take you in Chinatown today?

What do you think the equalivent would be in current funds?

I hope you continue this series for a while. I really like tips for doing things without expense and the marinade for the chicken sounds amazing.

Karl Wilder, Chef said...

I went to Chinatown and found out.

6.00 chicken
1.00 two pomegranites
1.00 pound of fresh spinach
1.00 3 bunches of green onion
1.00 3 pound bag of short grain rice
2.25 2 pounds of crisp green beans
1.50 1 pound of tomatoes
1.25 2 pound bag of fish trimmings for the cats

With standard pangry items this could be a nice 4 days of dinner. Repetitive but still delicious.

Hilah said...

I love the sound of this marinade! I bet it would be really good on fish, too.