It’s a meal of leftovers, one of those beautiful creations that stretches a dinner from one meal to fifteen meals. The meal in question was a full-blown Winner Winner Chicken Dinner that, since 36 hours ago, has made 8 servings and is expected to provide at least 8 more servings. I've been buying Draper Valley organic chickens from the Olympia Food Co-op since my farmer Don Grower at Endicott Farms decided not to raise chickens this year. They are a decent, accessible chicken for me right now. I use this slow-roasted chicken recipe from Nourished Kitchen, or an adaptation of Seven Spoons cookbook's basic faster-roasted chicken. The other night, Maxwell made stuffing that we shoved inside the chicken. What was in the stuffing? Oh, just red onion, carrot, leek, butter, rosemary, sage, stale bread, chicken stock, eggs, salt and smoked duck breast. What? Yeah, I said smoked duck breast. And we made extra.
Find, if possible, a quality bakery in your area that makes good, crusty loaves of bread from a natural fermented starter. Ask if they can slice the bread for you. This bread should be good enough to eat, alone, untoasted. I'm in love with The Bread Peddler's multigrain loaf, which has good tensile resistance (chewy goodness). Toaster ovens are a worthwhile investment.
Slather the toast (after cooling for a few) with creamy, fresh chevre with herbes de provence from Twin Oaks Creamery at the Olympia Farmers Market (currently open Saturdays 10am-3pm). You could stop right here and eat, or you could add:
The chicken gravy on here is the absolute tits. Basically schmaltz (chicken fat) and butter. Try it slathered on things, eat it with a spoon. You might want a chair nearby. It makes life possible - can't you feel your joints and connective tissues sigh in relief? Make it after you've roasted the chicken, using the liver and neck and any other odd bits. Make extra and store in the fridge. Later, chop it up and put it on toast. Heat it and drizzle on life.
Smush on some of the roasted garlic you had baking in little foil jackets next to the chicken. At least eight cloves to a slice. When I use the oven, I like to use every square inch of it, so I had six heads of garlic roasting (rub off outer skins, cut off tops so cloves squeeze out easily when roasted, wrapped in foil), cubes of organic red potatoes and hella rosemary, and a pan of sliced, oiled, and salted fennel bulbs, onions, leeks (white and green parts), and brussels sprouts. Cook until soft and/or crispy and/or charred. Eat some, refrigerate the rest. This way, you don't have to cook much again for days!
Neck meat. Long hailed as the most succulent of meats, chicken neck meat joins chicken skin as my favorite. It yields an sufficient amount of meat, even after roasting alongside the chicken and lending itself to the chicken gravy. It will often arrive in the odd bits bag inside a store-bought chicken. Do not be alarmed. Roast as with the chicken, and use in gravy and/or put aside in the fridge. In a slow moment, use your fingers to pull the meat from all the fun little crevices in the vertebrae. In another, slower moment (or hour) separate bones and suck the remaining bits from the stripped bones. There is a particularly delectable bit inside the bones, connecting the vertebrae.
When it comes to chicken skin… Most disappears within minutes from the still-hot-enough-to-burn chicken, crisp and unctuous and perfectly salted. Save what’s left, like the tepid, pale skin from the breast that spent its evening pressed against the pan. Another day, slice it thin, or cut with kitchen scissors (my favorite are Betty Crocker and from Dollar Tree). If you want more crispy skin, pan fry it. If you just want some more fatty goodness in your life, drape it on whatever you’re eating.
Use a flavor-neutral, crisp, flakey sea salt to gently finish the toasts. I like Cyprus White sea salt (available at Buck's Fifth Ave Spice Shop) or the classic Maldon sea salt (available in adorable little tins for $1 at Little General Food Shop). My favorite quote from my favorite episode of 'Mind of a Chef’ (featuring the Seven Fires): Francis Mallmann in Patagonia, Argentina says, “I love to salt from a distance when I cook outside, you see, because I really like the way the salt falls.”
Salt makes it all come together, enhances the flavors, makes the soul of the chicken discernible.
Make this dish, or a variation on it. Make something completely different, inspired by these toasts. Just go for it.
Just: put bread slices in the toaster. While toasting, peer interestedly into your fridge and pantry, and set on the table anything that appeals. Listen to your gut. Grab the bread and slather, press, drape, sprinkle it with whatever you've got. Don't be shy. Generally, I think, things that taste good - taste good together.
I recommend eating these toasts with a side bowl of plain sauerkraut, either homemade or store-bought (make sure your kraut is unpasteurized and raw, preferably from a local source; if you're in Olympia, that means OlyKraut).
To ensure ease of kraut-y-ness, I have started keeping an open bowl of kraut in my fridge (complete with fork) so it is simple to just grab and eat with everything or between meals.