Turning inexpensive parts into a wonderful meal

Recipes for Cheaper Chicken Parts

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My local supermarket is always having a sale on chicken thighs and sometimes drum sticks. Whole packages can be bought for a couple of dollars. But besides frying them what can be made from them? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Various Uses for Thighs or Legs

I likewise buy the hind quarters of chicken (the leg and the thigh). I often place them in my crock-pot and cook them and then I make chicken salad for sandwiches and use some to put in salads. You have a complete meal. I use the cooked meat for chicken & noodles, or for soups. I put them (before they are cooked) in a baking pan and use prepared BBQ sauce with a sprinkle of brown sugar on them. Then place in the oven and bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Or dip them in Shake & Bake and place in the oven the desired directions on the box. Always a good price on these and we get ours in 10# bags. I just wash and place in zip lock bags and freeze.

Related: Homemade Chicken Marinades

Lots of Uses

Thigh and drumstick meat cooked and diced can be used in any casserole dish as a substitute for nearly any other meat: chicken casserole, chicken stroganoff (using chicken bouillon to flavor instead of beef bouillon), chicken tetrazzini, chicken instead of tuna casserole, chicken stew, chicken and dumplings, and chicken salad. I also use the meat to make enchiladas, burritos and tacos. They're great to cut up into scalloped potatoes and with some mixed veggies added to the dish you have a complete meal. They are also good baked with barbecue sauce and in homemade chicken pot pies (recipe I got from the Stretcher!). Cook, salvage the meat and dice it then freeze portions for quick meals like chicken a la king, stir fry or chicken 'n rice. Mix it with mushroom soup and cooked noodles, or BBQ sauce for a Sloppy Joe alternative. We also like it in spaghetti sauce and manicotti recipes instead of hamburger. The meat also makes great hot sandwiches with pita bread.

Here is one of my family's favorite dishes with this wonderful cheap meat. Cover bottom of a casserole with pasta of your choice (we like little shells). Pour just enough melted margarine to coat pasta (stir well). Spread out so it covers bottom again, then cover pasta with diced chicken. A little salt and pepper. Add enough grated cheese over the ingredients to cover them. Pour enough skim milk so it covers the pasta and the cheese is partially covered. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

A Cheesy Recipe

You can always boil just as you would with a whole chicken and use the meat in casseroles. Another recipe that's really good is "Cheesy Chicken Thighs" (could use quarters or drums too). Melt one stick margarine or butter into shallow casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350. Crush cheese crackers. Dip chicken pieces in an egg wash (beat one egg with a little water or milk) and then coat with cheese cracker crumbs. Bake in 350 oven for one hour or until done.

Related: Going Beyond Cheap Recipes to Trim Food Costs

Ideas for Using Leg Quarters

I buy chicken leg quarters in 10 pound bags; there are so many things to be done with them. I usually use my large stockpot to boil all 10 pounds at once, then de-bone all the chicken and freeze in individual containers. I then toss the bones back in the stock pot and simmer for several hours before straining. I refrigerate the stock, after it's been reduced quite a bit by boiling, and skim off the solidified fat the next day. Then I freeze the jellied chicken broth in one or two-cup servings. You can also add a few sticks of celery or carrots to the pot while boiling for extra flavor, or a few teaspoons of inexpensive chicken bouillon powder. The broth makes a great base for soup and I also use it in place of or in addition to water when cooking rice.

For the cooked, de-boned chicken there are endless options. I use some of it for chicken soup, some diced up for chicken fried rice, and added to cheese and broccoli for chicken divan casserole, which can be made and frozen ahead of time for later use. The chicken can also be diced, added to a standard red sauce and served over rice as chicken cacciatore, or over spaghetti, as an inexpensive and healthier alternative to meatballs. We also sometimes use it for chicken and cheese sandwiches and other variations.

My Greek friends in college boiled the chicken, then boiled potatoes, added the chicken and sprinkled the entire thing with lemon juice; spaghetti was an alternative when we couldn't afford potatoes. I also use the chicken in jambalaya in place of sausage. This can also be frozen for use later.

As my husband isn't wild about chicken, I have to hide it in sauces and cheese to make him eat it, but it sure is a lot cheaper than red meat or pork. It also goes great in a chicken pilaf/pilau, with rice, spices, raisins, etc, that can be cooked all at once in a Dutch oven either on the stove, in the oven, or in a slow cooker or rice cooker. Lots of tasty, inexpensive options!

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Tried and True Recipes

Some easy recipes:
Cover with cream of mushroom soup and bake, marinate in Italian dressing and bake (regular dressing not creamy), make your own shake and bake with flour or Bisquick and seasonings and oven fry, chicken soup with noodles, rice or dumplings (my favorite) [you can even do this in a crock pot], marinate in soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and a little honey and bake, chicken salad, chicken fried rice or stir fry, use chicken in place of shrimp in Scampi. For the ones with marinade, bake them right in the marinade.

More complicated recipes:

Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Cacciatore, Kabobs, substitute thighs for breast for Chicken Divan, Kiev, or Cordon Bleu (you will have to skin and de-bone for these).

Go to FoodNetwork.com and do a search under chicken.

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