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Fast and cheap chicken dish

I need a fast, inexpensive chicken dish that I can cook for 35 people. It's for a homeless shelter where they have no cooking/warming ability, so something that could be served room temp. would be perfect. I'm short of time this weekend and am in the middle of a home renovation, so my conditions are less than ideal. I'm looking for something homemade and comforting and will promise them better next month. Any ideas? Recipes? TIA

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  1. How about Arroz con Pollo? It's pretty cheap, made with chicken thighs, and very flavorful, and would hold for a bit. Here's my reciepe for 4-6 which could be expanded:

    Arroz con Pollo

    One chicken cut up into eight pieces or a pack of eight chicken thighs, bone / skin on
    1 large onion (chopped)
    4 or 5 cloves of garlic (smashed)
    ~1/2 a green pepper (chopped)
    ~1/2 cup pimentos (chopped jarred is fine, cooked sweet red pepper is fine...)
    A bay leaf
    Bijol Powder (you can use saffron or turmeric - this is a cheap spice that makes the rice yellow)
    Salt and Pepper
    White rice
    Frozen peas to taste
    Chicken stock
    Sofrito (jarred tomato / spice mixture OR the following ingredients as a substitute)
    - 4 ounces of tomato sauce, or a few tbsp of tomato paste (if using paste, add with the spices)
    - 2 tsp oregano
    - 2 or 2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
    - dash of cayenne pepper (if you like heat at all.)

    Put a little oil and a few tbsp of water in the bottom of a good size pot that will hold everything and that has a lid... a dutch oven works great. Add the chicken skin side down and render the fat from the skin and brown it. After it is good and brown, the water should be boiled away and you can turn the chicken over and brown the other side in the remaining fat.

    Remove the chicken to a plate, and add the chopped onion and green pepper, and saute. After a couple of minutes add the garlic, sautee until fragrant. Add whatever dry spices you are using to the oil to bloom. Add the sofrito or whatever you are using. Add the bijol or the coloring agent of your choice. Stir well.

    Decide how much rice you want with your chicken...add either chicken stock or water (or a combination) of both. Bring to fast simmer / slow boil. Add the rice to work with the liquid. Stir well. Add the chicken and any juices back in (you can remove the skin if you don't want to eat it... it has served its purpose... but it won't hurt anything left on). You can bone and chop the chicken if you want, but I don't normally bother unless I am feeding a big crowd. Nestle the pieces into the rice and water. Cover and simmer for 15 mins.

    Remove cover, add pimentos and peas, cover and cook 5 - 7 mins more until rice is done to taste. Serve.

    Some people use dry white wine or beer in place of some of the chicken broth.
    Left over sausage is good tossed in with the chicken.
    This is peasant food - you can't really do it incorrectly, so experiment.
    Don't use boned, skinned chicken breast. It will be tasteless.

    4 Replies
      1. re: ldkelley

        everyone likes arroz con pollo. you can't go wrong. shortcut: use already cut up chicken and boil in water, add yellow rice mix from grocery store, toss in pimentos and frozen peas near end of cooking. voila! or keep it really simple (and still delicious) and use white rice, with freshly ground black pepper. good memories.

        can also spark up either by adding a bag of frozen bell pepper slices.

        1. re: ldkelley

          If you're doing a public food thing for a shelter like this, I'd recommend against adding alcohol to the dish. Lots of folks just don't like the taste alcohol gives (I'm one of them, I replace wines with broth or juices, usually). :)

          1. re: Morganna

            i'd also stay away from strong flavors, like teriyaki (which i absolutely adore).

        2. You've got me on the room temperature part unless you serve room-temp roast or fried chicken plus potato salad and call it a picnic. Otherwise, this Chicken Teriyaki is good: lay chicken pieces in big flat pans. Sprinkle them VERY generously with soy sauce and garlic powder. Bake. When half done, pour over them canned crushed pineapple and do a little more soy sauce and garlic powder on top of the pineapple. Finish baking. Good served with rice.

          1. A chicken pasta salad could be hearty & good room temp.

            1. Chicken Marbella? Tastes great at room temp. But promising them something better next month might be setting yourself up...

              You'd need to multiply by 6-8 times, but the basic recipe is:

              2-3 pounds bone-in, skin-on thighs
              1/2 head of garlic, peeled and minced
              2 Tbsp dried oregano
              Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
              1/4 cup red wine vinegar
              1/4 cup olive oil
              1/2 cup pitted prunes
              1/4 cup pitted Spanish green olives
              1/4 cup capers with a bit of juice
              3 bay leaves
              1/2 cup brown sugar
              1/2 cup white wine
              2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley or cilantro, finely chopped

              Combine garlic, oregano, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, and salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces and coat completely with the marinade. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

              Arrange chicken in a baking pan. Pour marinade over the top. Sprinkle with brown sugar and pour white wine into the pan.

              Bake at 350, basting frequently with the pan juices, until chicken is done.

              Serve solids sprinkled generously with chopped parsley. Serve pan juices as a sauce on the side.

              1 Reply
              1. re: alanbarnes

                This is what I was thinking, too. You can use thighs and breasts and get a big package of them from Costco. Capers and spanish olives can be pricey but I wouldn't leave them out.

              2. They have probably heard those promises before.... I think they will appreciate whatever you do. I don't think they are expecting gourmet.

                1. You could do a stew with a protein and veggies in the crock pot. Just take the crockpot to the shelter. The crockery will stay warm for quite a while. Then rice in the cooker. That also stays nicely warm in its cooking vessel. If there are 2 outlets you can replug and put on warm. Alot of good ideas above, but with any of them I would make sure the meat is in small pieces versus on the bone. Hard to dish out in even portions with big pieces, and if you are homeless there is a good chance you have not recently seen a dentist. Chewing can be an issue. Good on you for making this effort.

                  1. I know everyone is going to scream at me. But when I had to cook for a large crowd from a temporary location and exactly 2' X 1.5' of counter space I made my turkey roaster full of Shake and Bake barbeque glazed chicken. It was surprisingly good given that is came out of a package and served at room temp just fine. I did add what little was available in the way of condiments. I think I dumped about half a bottle of w.sause and a healthy sprinkling of garlic powder and black pepper.

                    1. I think a chicken with rice dish would really stretch the chicken. But wouldn't be as good at room temperature as many of the other suggestions. Let us know what you ended up doing.

                      1. What about an asian style noodle dish. You could make a quick peanut sauce and pour over thin spaghetti, toss in cooked chicken and some sliced peppers and green onions or broccolli. Tastes great at room temperature and is cheap other than the red peppers.

                        1. How about fried chicken or chicken adobo?

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: DamnAvocado

                            I was going to say Adobo too, since it's made for sitting around for a while at room temp, with all that vinegar and soy sauce in it.

                            1. re: foodiemommy

                              Any great chicken adobo recipes to share?? The last time I had it was by a Filipino/Spanish colleague, and it was absolutely incredible...any other I've attempted to create myself has just fallen short of my expectations (sadly).

                              1. re: lilingenue

                                That kind of recipes would be great. Something stewed, easy to eat, nutritious and tasty without being too highly spiced (remember, a lot of homeless people have bad teeth or various illnesses).

                                Bless you, I've done that in my neighbourhood kitchen, and it really makes a difference. Nicest thing is when people can get themselves together and help others in turn.

                                1. re: lilingenue

                                  Everyone does his or her adobo differently. Mine is easy and I learned it from my Filipina mother-in-law.
                                  Put some chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on) in a big pot. Add some chopped garlic (I think I use 3-4 good-sized cloves for 8 thighs). Slice up some onion (I would use 1 big onion for 8 thighs) and put that in. Add some black pepper (I sometimes use peppercorns), and a couple of bay leaves. If you can get dried lily flowers, you can add a few of those too. For the liquids, I use a little under 2 parts vinegar to 1 part soy sauce. I just use white vinegar and for some reason prefer China Lily soy sauce to others for this recipe. Don't be stingy with the liquids, because the sauce is good on the rice.
                                  Once you've mixed in all the ingredients, heat to a boil and then reduce immediately to a simmer. Let it cook for about 40 minutes.
                                  Serve over jasmine-scented rice.
                                  There are all kinds of variations. This is something I'd make on a busy weeknight, and the leftovers are great. I like it better the day after, actually.
                                  If you want some more adobo advice I think you'll find lots on this site and by doing a broader web search.

                                  1. re: foodiemommy

                                    Thanks very much foodiemommy...that's a great starting point. I'm assuming that the soy sauce you use is a dark one? I'm looking forward to trying it out this week.

                            2. Its a homeless shelter. Think hearty, comforting...chicken and stuffing bake with mashed potatoes. You can throw in a layer of green beans or peas for a little extra cheap nutrition. Hot and filling, something to stick to the ribs for a little while. Who knows when the next hot meal will be? Doubtful that prunes and capers are what they are looking for. Maybe use rice and cheese? Add broccoli to that one?

                              Sometimes, less is more. I know its a tough one to grasp but when you have nothing, the little things are something.

                              1. How about creamed chicken with biscuits? buy boned thighs, roast them off on an oiled tray with salt and pepper til cooked through. Chop well (the homeless can be elderly or not have the best of teeth). Chop up a couple of onions, add a few bay leaves, salt and pepper. When completely cooked, add butter, then flour, to make a roux. Add milk to make a white sauce (and any juices from the roasting pan). Stir in the chicken, removing the bay leaves. Taste. (you could also add frozen peas and carrots). Buy a roll of refrigerated biscuit dough (or make your own). (be sure it's still hot, or reheat) and pour the chicken into half hotel pans or lasagna pans. Dot with the biscuit dough and bake at 425 degrees until the biscuits are cooked through.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: fayehess

                                  that won't be very good at room temp, though, imo. such a tasty creamy dish needs to be eaten hot.

                                2. marinate a bunch of chicken thighs overnight in some soy sauce, garlic, sugar and apple juice...bake and roast the next day...serve w/ some buttered egg noodles and a tossed salad.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: soypower

                                    how will the buttered egg noodles be at room temp, though? plus, amazingly, may people don't do "thighs" -- or any chicken dark meat. the thigh is my favorite piece, though.

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      you're right...the egg noodles would hold up better if they were tossed w/ olive oil, salt, and pepper instead of the butter...and i think they would still taste good room temperature...

                                      as for not liking dark meat, i often find that most people don't even realize it's dark meat because of the marinade.

                                  2. Roast jerk flavoured chicken pieces is pretty tasty and simple.