Who's going to cook a whole chicken, cool it down, pull the meat off the bone and shred it into little pieces just to get started?
Fortunately, rotisserie chickens are a simple, readily available solution. From carryout shops and casual dining establishments to small grocery stores and huge food warehouses, most of us don't have to travel far to find a roast chicken.
Served whole or cut into serving pieces, rotisserie chicken is great for on-the-fly weeknight suppers. But with a little time, it's easy to take the meat off the bone and use the cooked bird as an ingredient in a more complicated recipe.
Keep a few things in mind when buying a rotisserie chicken:
- If there's a choice, opt for plain instead of flavored. Although most of the flavoring is concentrated on the skin, which you'll probably discard, it does inordinately perfume the meat and accumulated chicken juices (which you may want to use if the recipe calls for broth).
- Look for a large, full-breasted chicken. It has more meat, of course, but it also has less waste and is less likely to dry out under a heat lamp or in a hot box.
- Pull the chicken from the bone as soon as you get home. It's easier to separate while warm, it saves room in the fridge, and you can start your recipe without delay.
- If you have time, dump the bones, skin and accumulated juices into a soup kettle, barely cover with water, and bring to a simmer. In 30 minutes, you'll have a pot of stock that tastes like it's been simmering for hours.
- Use shredded chicken to top pizzas, flavor pasta and rice, toss in salads, or beef up soups. I especially like it for curry and enchiladas - dishes I might not have time to make from scratch.
One final piece of advice: At the checkout, double-bag the bird in plastic and keep it upright--a cardboard box is even better. It's no fun cleaning chicken juice off car seats.
Copyright 2004 USA Weekend and columnist Pam Anderson. All rights reserved.