Much as I love to cook, I am unwilling to feel as though I am working inside the oven while trying to get dinner on the table. I’m all about keeping the cooking to a minimum but still prefer to make my meals at home rather than eating out during the work week. My solution is this compromise: rotisserie chicken.
One of my favorite go-tos, rotisserie chicken is a terrific starting point, and one chicken can provide several meals. It is available at most local grocery stores, though quick-service restaurants such as Pollo a la Brasa, California Chicken Cafe and Zankou Chicken often do a better job and offer the convenience of having your bird ready and waiting for you to pick up if you call ahead to order it. Yes, you can also order some side dishes and bring home a full meal, but my fridge is often full of leftovers begging to be part of another meal.
When I don’t have a lot of leftovers hanging available, there are plenty of staples and pantry items that can quickly come together for a tasty, fast and easy dinner.
Check out these recipes from our archives that I use either as is or as a jumping-off point for what to do with my pile of shredded chicken.
Rotisserie Chicken and Spicy Chili Crisp Noodles
Cook time: 10 minutes. Yields: Serves 4. By Genevieve Ko.
If you are willing to tolerate the modicum of heat that may result from boiling water for pasta on the stovetop, try adding rotisserie chicken to Genevieve Ko’s Spicy Chili Crisp Noodles. (You don’t have to make the noodles or the chili crisp from scratch — store-bought will do just fine.) The savory, spicy, tangy sauce will complement the chicken, which gives the meal an extra hit of protein.
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/4 cup chili crisp
Finely chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Mix the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and half of the chili crisp in a large bowl. Add the cold noodles and toss until evenly coated.
Divide among serving dishes and top with the remaining chili crisp and cilantro.
Chicken Quesdillias With Tomatillo Salsa
Cook time: 30 minutes. Yields: Serves 4. By Diane Morgan
Another stovetop option is Diane Morgan’s Chicken Quesadillas With Tomatillo Salsa. Shredding some chicken and grating cheese takes almost no time and you can whip together a lively tomatillo salsa using fresh or canned tomatillos. Of course, there are plenty of tasty store-bought salsas if you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own.
For one night, maybe two, my family will be happy with chicken legs but, after that, the leftover-disguise plan needs to come into play. Because tortillas are a staple in my pantry, my thoughts turn to chicken quesadillas. Shredding some chicken and grating cheese takes almost no time, and for some kitchen fun, I whip together a lively tomatillo salsa. (Out of time? There are plenty of tasty store-bought salsas.)
Keep disposable surgical gloves on hand (available at any pharmacy) to wear while working with fresh peppers. Oils from cut fresh peppers on your hands can easily irritate your eyes or nose if you touch them.
1 (12-ounce) can whole tomatillos, drained and diced
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons minced Anaheim pepper
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1 cup (4 ounces) grated pepper Jack cheese
11/2 cups shredded grilled chicken
1. Combine tomatillos, lime juice, Anaheim and serrano peppers, salt and cilantro in small serving bowl. Set aside.
2. Heat heavy 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Place tortilla in pan and sprinkle one-third of cheese and one-third of chicken evenly on top. Cover with second tortilla. When bottom tortilla is nicely browned, 2 to 21/2 minutes, use wide spatula to turn quesadilla. Brown other side. Place on cutting board. Repeat to cook other 2 quesadillas.
3. Use sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut each quesadilla into 6 wedges. Arrange wedges on warm platter and serve immediately. Pass salsa.
Chicken Tabbouleh Salad
Cook time: 15 minutes. Yields: Serves 4. By Mayi Brady
Mayi Brady’s Chicken Tabbouleh Salad will have you cook the tabbouleh, but for about 15 minutes of stovetop time you get a whole lot of bulgur pilaf to eat in salads, as a side dish or as the base for a bowl, which, of course, you will top with, among other things, some of that rotisserie chicken.
If you’ve ever eaten tabbouleh, then you’ve eaten bulgur wheat, even if you didn’t know it.
Bulgur is whole wheat that has been cooked and cracked. It can be eaten after just being soaked in water, or it can be cooked— as it has been here —to make a bulgur pilaf.
The pilaf makes a great side dish to grilled meats, and the leftovers can easily be transformed into a main dish salad.
To make bulgur pilaf, chop an onion and 3 cloves of garlic. Cook them in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, bring to a boil, then add 1 1/2 cups bulgur. Cover and simmer until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. This will yield enough for four side dishes and leave about 4 cups to make Chicken Tabbouleh Salad.
4 cups bulgur pilaf
3/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 green onions, sliced, plus more for garnish
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
1. In a large bowl, toss together the bulgur pilaf, parsley, currants, lemon juice, green onions, salt and pepper to taste and the chicken.
2. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.
3. Add them to the bowl along with the lettuce and toss again. Garnish with green onions. This salad can be eaten chilled but is best at room temperature.
The Curious Palate’s Chicken Salad
Cook time: 45 minutes. Yields: Serves 6 to 8. By Noelle Carter
If you want nothing to do with the oven or the stove, look to the Curious Palate’s Chicken Salad and simply skip over the part about roasting the chicken. Garnished with dried cranberries and roasted, sliced almonds, the salad is bound by a garlicky mayo that gets a punch of flavor from a freshly made basil pesto. (If you don’t want to make your own aioli or pesto, you can buy those premade as well — we don’t judge.)
This wonderful chicken salad from Mar Vista’s The Curious Palate restaurant features almonds, dried cranberries, scallions and Rocky Jr. chicken.
1 (5- to 5 1/2-pound) roasting chicken
A few sprigs thyme
1 garlic clove
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt, seasoning the inside and outside. Stuff the chicken with the apple, lemon, thyme, garlic, bay leaves and black peppercorns.
3. Truss the chicken and place it on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast the chicken until a thermometer inserted reaches 170 degrees, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove and set aside until cool enough to handle.
4. Peel the skin from the chicken and shred the meat. Cover and refrigerate until needed. The chicken can be made up to 2 days ahead.
1 egg yolk
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup canola oil
1. In a food processor or blender, combine the yolk, garlic, black pepper, salt and lemon juice. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil to form the aioli. This makes about 1 cup aioli, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the aioli will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days.
1/2 cup chopped arugula
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup toasted almonds
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a food processor, combine the arugula, basil, almonds and lemon juice. Pulse to puree the ingredients. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil to form the pesto. This makes about one-half cup pesto, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the pesto will keep for up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated.
- Chicken salad assembly
Shredded roast chicken meat
1/2 cup aioli, more if desired
1/4 cup pesto, more if desired
1/4 cup chopped roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped green onion
Salt and pepper, if desired
2 tablespoons sliced, roasted almonds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1. In a large bowl, toss the chicken meat with the aioli and pesto to coat. Stir in the tomatoes and green onion. Taste and adjust the aioli and pesto, and season to taste. Garnish the salad with the roasted almonds and cranberries before serving. This makes about 1 1/2 quarts salad, which will keep for up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated.
Adapted from the Curious Palate in Mar Vista. The restaurant uses smaller chickens (Rocky Jr. brand); we tested with a larger roasting chicken and assembled the salad using canned roasted tomatoes.
Chicken and Heirloom Tomato Salad With Banyuls Vinaigrette
Cook time: 25 minutes. Yields: Serves 2. By Russ Parsons and Josiah Citrin
For powerful simplicity, Josiah Citrin’s Chicken and Heirloom Tomato Salad With Banyuls Vinaigrette is just that: chicken (wink, wink — from the one you just brought home, rather than one you’ve roasted at home as the recipe suggests), tomatoes and earthy, almost heady vinaigrette thanks to the Banyuls vinegar.
Ever since his earliest days in the kitchen, chef Josiah Citrin has had roast chicken on the menu — and not just because it’s a dining room requisite, like salmon. Depending on his mood, he might mention a dozen more preparations. This one serves leg and thigh meat with a salad of chopped heirloom tomatoes with Banyuls vinaigrette.
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Banyuls vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons minced shallot
1/2 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grape seed oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Combine the mustard, Banyuls and red wine vinegars, lemon juice, water, shallot and garlic in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Season with salt and pepper and shake well. Add grape seed oil and shake well again. Add olive oil and shake well. Any leftover vinaigrette can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator, then brought to room temperature and shaken well before using. Makes three-fourths cup.
- Shredded leg and thigh meat from an herb- and lemon-stuffed rotisserie chicken
- 2 cups small heirloom tomato wedges (cut from about 10 ounces assorted heirloom tomatoes)
- 1/2 cup chopped assorted basil leaves
- 6 tablespoons Banyuls vinaigrette
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sea salt
1. Toss the shredded chicken with the tomato wedges, basil and vinaigrette. Season to taste with black pepper and sea salt. Serve as second course after the breasts and glazed vegetables, or serve alone as a light entree.