The bachelor’s handbag – slang for the clear, handled bag containing a rotisserie chicken – is a recent addition to the Australian lexicon. But the chook itself has been part of Australian culinary history since the late 50s.
Half a century later, the hot chicken is ubiquitous – sold everywhere from upmarket specialty shops to supermarkets, golden-brown and glistening with fat. And the cost – from $11 for a whole bird – means that, while it may indeed be a bachelor’s best friend, the rotisserie chicken is also held in affectionate regard by cash-conscious family cooks.
Owner of Adelaide’s Africola restaurant, Duncan Welgemoed, says one large chicken will feed his family of four, with leftovers. His first task is to remove the meat from the chicken in order to make a stock with the carcass.
“I add a little chicken stock powder to give it depth, as you’ve lost the majority of the fats and juices in the original cook,” he says. “Bring to the boil and let simmer for 20 minutes only, as you just want to capture the flavour, and because you won’t get the gelatine that you normally would have using a whole raw chicken.”
Strain and freeze the stock – it will keep for up to three months. Regula Ysewijn uses the chicken stock with dishes from soft polenta to pan-roasted vegetables.
Rachel Roddy uses chicken stock as the broth base for a stracciatella alla Romana, a simple Italian “egg drop” soup thickened with semolina and flavour-boosted with parmesan.
Meanwhile, Enver Katranci of Henrietta Chicken in Sydney’s Surry Hills uses a vegetable broth as the base of his hot and sour soup, flavouring it with soy sauce, rice vinegar ($2-3 at supermarkets) and ginger, adding shiitake (or any kind of mushrooms), shredded carrot, pulled leftover chicken and spring onions.
“Add chilli flakes or chilli oil for extra flavour. If you want to up the veggies, add shredded Chinese cabbage just before pulling off the heat,” he says.
Welgemoed uses leftover chicken as a base for a soup, adding lentils, along with garlic, finely diced onion, celery and carrot, parsley stalks and oregano.
“Cook the lentils in the stock until they are just soft, add the thigh meat of the chicken, 100ml of lemon juice, chopped parsley, lots of pepper and salt and a big glug of extra virgin olive oil,“ he says.
Welgemoed, who originally hails from South Africa, also also uses chicken (or vegetable) stock to make a rustic African peanut soup.
“This one is super easy and a great way to use up frozen pastry sheets,” says Samantha Gowing, Byron Bay based chef and cookery teacher. Gowing uses chopped or shredded chicken, onions, garlic, frozen peas and roasted vegetables with a bechamel sauce.
“If you can’t be bothered with bechamel, believe it or not: tomato or HP sauce are the bomb for both flavour and to bind,” she says.
“Top your pie with another piece of pastry, egg wash the top and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until golden.”
Felicity Cloake makes the pastry for her chicken pie from scratch, but you could always substitute with store-bought. She also includes bacon and adds richness with cream and butter.
Nigel Slater’s easy and thrifty version is a pot pie with a puff pastry top, mushrooms, onions and a slug of beer.
Use an air fryer, deep fryer or just use a pan to shallow-fry spring rolls with leftover chicken, says Katranci.
“I like to use Chinese cabbage and bamboo shoots in my spring rolls but no stress – lettuce, cabbage and carrots will work too,” he says.
Chop your veggies and mix together with fine shredded leftover chicken, a tablespoon of dark soy sauce and, if you have any ginger paste (around $3.90 in supermarkets), don’t hesitate to throw a teaspoon in. Add pepper and salt, mix well and roll in spring rolls sheets (about $2.90 from supermarkets or Asian stores) and fry. Serve with sweet chilli sauce.
Welgemoed reserves the carcass meat of his store-bought chickens to make pan-fried chicken taquitos.
“It doesn’t need lots of chicken,” he says. “Just taco tortillas, cheese, the carcass meat, cumin, dried chilli and coriander. Fold the tacos as you would a spring roll and fry in a pan with some leftover pork or bacon fat and serve with a salsa.”
Henrietta’s staff will often have arayes – a kind of Arabic toastie that originated in Lebanon – for breakfast.
“It’s very easy,” says Katranci. “You just need Lebanese bread or pita, the leftover chicken (breast or thigh), sliced cheese, some chopped onion or spring onion, pickles and a handful of chopped rocket.
“Just split the bread in half, put on some cheese slices, cut into quarters, then place a thin layer of chicken – nothing bulky or chunky, it’s all about the delicacy here. Sprinkle on the chopped rocket, layer the onion and pickles with some chilli flakes if you like, then add more cheese. Place the other slice of the pita on top and toast both sides until golden in a non-stick pan or sandwich press.
“Once it has enough toasted colour and you see cheese running on sides, grab the arayes with a spatula and place on a chopping board. Apply a tiny bit of butter, sprinkle sea salt, slice it into triangles, and serve with a bit of hummus or yoghurt dip.”
If you had the foresight to buy a chicken with stuffing, Zoe Williams rates this chicken and stuffing toastie among her top 10 toasties of all time.
For the hearty rather than haute, try Jackie Middleton’s cheerful easy cheesy bake. Middleton uses leftover chicken thighs, broccoli, tomatoes and walnuts, smothering it all in a cheesy sauce and baking it just long enough to add colour and heat everything through.
Tom Kerridge, too, does a simple chicken bake that uses cream of chicken soup for added flavour, and a mash top.
Adam Liaw’s recipe for a savoury bread and butter pudding gets a little bit special with butter and cream, but also reels the cost back by using not only rotisserie chicken but stock from chicken bones as well as stale bread.
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