The economy’s faltering and my doctor just told me to lower my sodium intake–bleah. The two situations sum up to more home cooking: save money, avoid sodium. Very pragmatic. Hrm. Prag.mat.ic. Prac.tic.al. I met the decision with a sigh. No more chip snacks, no more ramen, no more going out to eat on a whim, and no more avoiding cooking dinner by going out to eat…! The point being that I can’t monitor my sodium intake if I eat out regularly.
I don’t know about you, but even though I LOVE to cook, I hate to do it when it becomes a mandate. And here I am, facing a mandate of eating in. I say bleah!
But having no choice in the matter, I decided to find a way to motivate myself. I could…make this a fun culinary adventure. I could…maybe…take a chicken and see how much I can stretch it over meals! Make it a “how to eat more cheaply in the new economy” project. Making this mandate into a challenge has made the experience a bit more fun. And I imagine it will expand my cooking repertoire (and increase the blog posts on Muffin Top to boost).
Earlier this week, I made chicken soup with a whole chicken. In my case, I made a North Korean chicken soup. But you could just as easily make a consomme, your family chicken soup or Jewish chicken soup (one of our household favorites). Whatever involves poaching a chicken. (Phase 1…and I guess you could also roast a chicken just as easily as Phase 1)
When you make the soup, just be sure to set aside some of the chicken to save for later. In the case of the North Korean chicken soup, I only shredded half the chicken, and set aside the other side (not shredded) for future meals.
Enjoy the soup! And eye the saved meat and dream of future meals.
My point here is that you can still eat gourmet and stretch that chicken. An organic whole chicken (3-5 pounds) from Rosie’s is about $14 (cheaper if you’re eating a Foster Farms chicken).
Phase 2–how to use that cooked chicken (whether it’s poached or roasted). You can put it on top of a salad..you can make it into a regular sandwich…but my point is that you can still eat adventurously with leftovers…
I was on the brink of making chicken enchiladas with the leftover chicken, but then I saw Tea’s post on do chua, and I became determined to make a banh mi at home.
Banh Mi is an extraordinarily delicious Vietnamese sandwich, made from spiced pork, or liverwurst or chicken. It is the ultimate fusion food (French-Vietnamese) blending the two culinary traditions: French bread and the concept of a sandwich and Vietnamese flavor and spices. But despite what filling you choose to eat (pork, chicken, liverwurst)…every sandwich has some jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and the awesome do chua.
Tea has a great post on do chua–and in short it is a sweet and vinegary pickled mixture that is the signature of banh mi sandwiches.
If you’ve already got chicken, the do chua is the only other thing you’ll have to prepare in order to make this sandwich. Carrot and daikon radish are very inexpensive ingredients and the other sandwich ingredients include cilantro, jalapeno pepper, and mayonaise. Oh, and the bread: a french bread.
I was excited about assembling the sandwich and I couldn’t BELIEVE HOW EASY IT COULD BE. WHO KNEW IT COULD BE SO EASY?! I mean, my banh mi did not beat the magnificence of a banh mi sandwich from Saigon Sandwiches in San Francisco (on Turk and Larkin–and btw, they price the sandwiches super cheap! Way cheaper than Subway $5 sandwiches–the sandwiches at Saigon Sandwiches hover at a cost of about $3.50/each) but I love that I can now make one at home.
Annnd…I found a way to stretch that chicken.
Recipe follows after the jump…
DO CHUA (recipe from Tea and Cookies)
- 2 cups each raw carrot and daikon radish, julienned or grated on a mandoline.
- 1/2 cup distilled vinegar
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp agave nectar (I used 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar)
- 1/2 tsp salt
Toss all ingredients and let sit a while before eating (30 min to 1 hour). The vegetables will express some juice as they sit. Pack the vegetables in this brine/juice to store in the fridge. Lasts at least a week. (I read that they will last indefinitely in a mason jar in the fridge).
- french bread (baguette or small sandwich baguette), halved
- enough chicken to make a sandwich…slice into 1/4 inch slices for manageability
- do chua
- cilantro (leaves roughly chopped or whole cilantro leaves ok)–from a few sprigs
- jalapeno or anaheim pepper, a few thin slices
In a toaster oven, put the french bread, cut sides up and toast lightly.
Meanwhile you can slice the chicken and jalapeno if you haven’t done so already.
When bread is toasted, slather mayonnaise on. Then add jalapeno slices, a generous amount of do chua, and cilantro leaves. Stack chicken slices on top. Sandwich done. Enjoy!!!