Like many people on this wonderful wide web, I am a little obsessed with the boys from The Basement Yard. Joey and Frankie are beautiful, perfect himbos. Not only are they wrong about so much, but they’re wrong in delightful and interesting ways. Take, for instance, this discussion on broth and how to make it.
Frankie has a wife (and a loose grasp on what “broth” is), so I’m not so concerned about him, but Joey is the type of man for whom the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken was invented. (Also, Joey, if you see this: I’d be more than happy to teach you to make broth and/or stock. You name the bone, and I’m there.)
A rotisserie chicken is the perfect protein for bimbo, himbo, or thembo who wants to ease themselves into the world of making food for themselves. It’s already cooked, so all you have to do is rip the meat from the carcass, and add that meat to other foods to assemble a meal. But the fun doesn’t stop there; the chicken has more to give (specifically: its bones and skin).
To get the most out of the rotisserie chicken, it helps to think of it in phases. Phase one is the Fresh Phase. The chicken is hot and enticing, and best enjoyed as the star of the plate, with a few easy sides. Phase two is the Fridge Phase—the phase where you should start shredding and picking, then mixing the chicken into other dishes. The last phase is the one most people skip. It’s Claire’s Favorite Phase, because it involves eating crispy chicken skin (and making a delicious broth).
The Fresh Phase
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This could also be called the “Honeymoon Phase.” The chicken is looking lovely, all plump and juicy, and you’re excited to eat her. All you have to do is pick your favorite part of the chicken and pair it with a side dish. (For me, this is the leg and thighs.) A simple salad—even from a salad kit—is a good call, as is any roasted or air fried vegetable. If you happen to be enjoying your chicken during the time of year when produce is fresh and plentiful, I’d suggest blanched asparagus or green beans. Mashed potatoes are good too; you can even make them in the microwave.
If you want a finishing flourish, you can whip up a quick gravy. Usually, when making a poultry-based gravy, you can use the pan drippings you get from roasting the bird. Since this bird was cooked elsewhere, you do not have such drippings. That’s fine. As I’ve covered previously, you can make a perfectly good gravy with a few pantry staples:
To make a gravy, you need 2 tablespoons fat, 2 tablespoons flour, and 1-2 cups of flavorful stock. (I give a range for the stock because everyone is different when it comes to gravy viscosity; some like it thicker than others.) Cook the flour in the fat until it smells nice and toasty, then whisk your liquid in and cook it until it’s thick. This ratio, as written, makes enough gravy for two people, but you can scale it up as needed.
Once your gravy is thickened to your liking, give it a taste and adjust with salt and pepper (or any other seasonings you enjoy). If you want to get a little fancier, try this four-ingredient onion gravy.
Another fun way to eat a fresh rotisserie chicken is to get high as shit and make little wraps. I’ve described my process before, but it’s a simple one. Buy a chicken and some sort of tortilla, pita, or wrap, then pair it with your favorite condiments and accoutrement:
In addition to the chicken, grab some tortillas or soft pita, and a bag of shredded slaw-like vegetables, along with as many sauces as your heart desires. Once high, assemble little chicken slaw wraps, and sauce them the fuck up. In fact, now is a good time to raid your fridge, pull out every condiment, and come up with new, exciting, cutting-edge sauces that a non-stoned brain couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Add some shredded cheese for good measure.
You don’t have to be high to eat a chicken this way, but it is fun.
The Fridge Phase
There she sits, in the fridge, all cold and congealed. She’s lost her luster—her skin is rubbery and her breast meat has lost a little of its juice—but the ol’ girl still has a meal or two left in her. At this point, you’ll want to take the chicken out of its bag, and remove every piece of meat you can. Don’t forget to get the meat off the back of the chicken, and save the bones, fat, and skin (we’ll use those later).
Once you have the meat separated from the carcass, it’s time to put it in and on things. Chicken salad is an obvious choice, as is adding shredded chicken to a green salad. (Don’t know how to make a vinaigrette? Learn here.) It also takes well to a soup, especially if you forgot to fully close the rotisserie bag, and the meat has dried out a little. You can add the chicken to any soup or chili—including instant ramen—or you can buy a little box of broth and a frozen puck of spinach and artichoke dip and make spinach and artichoke chicken soup.
My current favorite struggle meal is brothy beans with rice and chicken, seasoned heavily with garlic salt and hot sauce. Cook the beans however you normally cook them (canned is fine; we don’t can shame here), then prepare some rice. If cooking rice on the stove feels daunting, we can walk you through it here, or you can buy some microwavable frozen rice from Trader Joe’s (or get a dedicated rice cooker). Next, mix the beans and rice together in a sauce pan, add a little broth to loosen it up if needed, then stir in your chicken. Season to taste—garlic salt and hot sauce never fail me—and heat until the chicken is warmed through.
Skip the hassle and get a rice cooker:
Casseroles are another good option. This cheesy chicken and rice casserole is the perfect vehicle for leftovers of all kinds—not just chicken—and this turkey pasta bake can be made just as easily with a bird of a different feather. I’m also fond of this chicken noodle soup casserole, which is beige food at its best.
Claire’s Favorite Phase
Before we start boiling bones, I want to talk to you about chicken skin, one of my favorite skins. Cooked and cooled poultry skin is not appealing. It’s somehow both leathery and gummy—but you can give it a new, sexy life with a little heat.
Fried pre-cooked chicken skin is actually better than fried raw chicken skin. Much like French fries, the skin benefits from a second round of cooking:
It has already been cooked once, so much of the fat has been rendered and the collagen melted, so it crisps up easily and quickly. It’s also usually already seasoned, and those seasonings will become concentrated as the skin fries, shrinking into a perfect chicken chip. Even grey, flabby skin from the bottom of the bird transforms into something golden and crunchy in mere minutes.
If you have an air fryer, this couldn’t be easier. Peel any leftover skin off of your cooked fowl, taking care not to neglect the blobby, unappealing looking skin on the bottom of the bird carcass. Lay it flat on the insert in your air fryer basket, then cook at 350℉ until it is browned and crispy, which can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes, depending on how rendered the skin was to begin with, and how big of a piece you’re dealing with.
If you don’t have an air fryer, that’s fine too. As I’ve mentioned previously, you can make cracklins in a pan:
Peel off the skin and place the pieces in a cold nonstick pan. Set the pan on a burner, turn the heat to medium, and let the pieces cook until they are golden and crispy, flipping once to get both sides (chopsticks work best for this).
Transfer the cracklins to paper towels, season with salt and/or MSG, and eat them like chips. (You can also put your cracklins on a sandwich or in a salad, but I eat them like chips, because it’s not illegal for chips to be made of meat.)
Finally, there is the matter of stock, aka “bone broth,” aka “like a soup, from bones.” Frankie wasn’t totally off the mark when he instructed Joey to “let the bones and the marrow soak in the water, and it becomes a broth,” though he did fail to discuss the temperature of the water, which is important, and stock and broth are not quite the same thing.
If you don’t know the difference between stock and broth, you can read up on it here, but it boils down to the matter of meat. Broth is the liquid a meat was cooked in; stock is made by simmering bones. If you’re interested in making a golden, clear chicken broth, you can learn how here, but that’s not what we’re doing with our rotisserie chicken carcass (because we can’t).
Making stock out of cooked chicken bones is simple. If you have an Instant Pot, you can toss it in there, along with a teaspoon of salt, whatever vegetable scraps you have in your freezer, a bay leaf, and some ACV to help extract the collagen. Cover it with water and cook it all under high pressure for an hour, then strain out the solids—once through a colander to remove the big pieces of bone, then again through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth to remove the smaller particulates. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can just chuck everything in a big stock pot, cover it with water, and simmer for several hours, then strain as described above.
Hey kid, wanna Instant Pot?
Store your stock in the fridge for two to three days, or in the freezer for months (I’ve gone a full year without trouble). The next time you buy a rotisserie chicken, you’ll already have some stock, which you can use to make gravy for your chicken (during the first phase) or chicken soup (during the second). You may find yourself trapped in an endless cycle of chicken-eating and stock-making, but there are far more vicious cycles out there, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.