There are some things that are a constant on our holiday table, and chicken soup is a given. Too hot outside for soup? My gang doesn’t care. They won’t be satisfied until I ladle shimmering broth over a mound of skinny noodles and carrot coins.
But what to do with all of that leftover moist chicken packed away in a container in the back of your refrigerator?
There are plenty of ways to use these flavorful chunks. You’ve simmered slow and low to keep them moist, so don’t let them go to waste! I’m thinking way beyond chicken salad with mayo and celery here.
Most of these recipes are super simple. A few require a bit more effort. If you want to wow your gang with a Moroccan-inspired chicken pie loaded with spinach and flavors from the Middle East, you’ll find that recipe at the end of the post. It requires phyllo dough, but nobody will guess how easy it was to whip up. Plus, it will fill your home with a whole new array of scents beyond brisket and kugel.
First, these ideas:
With this easy fried rice recipe, you’ll convert your Jewish leftovers into a Chinese main dish in no time. Want to make it super simple? Make brown rice in advance, purchase pre-packaged chopped greens and use frozen peas and corn as suggested here.
Asian Cabbage and Spinach Salad
Lime juice, fresh ginger, peanuts, sesame seeds and soy sauce dress this simple Asian cabbage and spinach salad. Toss leftover chicken into the mix and you’ll have a complete meal that doesn’t resemble chicken soup in the least. Note: this recipe calls for fish sauce.
Chicken Salad with Grains and Pistachios
This one is not even a recipe, really. It’s just a suggestion to toss leftover chicken over your favorite grain. I like farro, here, as it’s hefty enough to balance chunks of chicken. Before a holiday, I buy a few different fresh herbs to have on hand, even if I’m not sure what I’ll be using them for. Toss the chicken with your favorite homemade vinaigrette, fresh herbs, toasted pistachios or any nut of choice and throw over a platter of cooked grain.
Curry Chicken Soup
Who said that chicken soup chicken can’t be used in another soup recipe? Use your leftover broth for this one or turn to a good organic brand if your family has already finished every last drop of Jewish penicillin. This Asian-inspired soup is creamy with dairy free coconut milk and loaded with personality thanks to curry powder, onions and garlic and plenty of chopped cabbage. Want it super easy? Use frozen, shelled edamame and pre-sliced cabbage. Toss in cooked chicken just long enough to heat it up.
Your kids will love this one. Cider vinegar, tomato sauce, brown sugar and quick reheating transforms leftover chicken into easy Sloppy Chicken Joes. Mound it on a bun and serve with a simple green salad.
Moroccan Inspired Chicken and Spinach Pie (recipe below)
Savory meat or chicken-filled pies have a long tradition in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking. They are often seasoned with chopped parsley, lots of long-simmered onions, cumin and garlic. Phyllo dough is used to enclose fillings in long “cigars” as appetizers or in triangles as neatly folded fried pockets.
For this recipe, I’m simplifying the process by avoiding frying. My good friend and cooking partner, Melissa Roberts, helped me to overcome my fear of phyllo and the quantity of margarine needed to brush each delicate sheet.
Her trick is to use a combination of margarine and olive oil, keep the sheets covered in the plastic wrap they are packaged in, and don’t fret if they tear. By crumpling a few sheets on the top of the pie before baking, nobody will know if they aren’t perfect rectangles.The crumbling adds pretty texture to this fragrant, savory pie, too.
You’ll find Ras el Hanout spice blend in this recipe. It is a Moroccan-inspired blend that generally includes coriander, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. It is available in most grocery stores.
2 Tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted in dry pan
5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 medium onions, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt or more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Ras el Hanout spice blend
2 cups cooked chicken, light and dark meat combined, chopped
3 Tbsp silan (date honey)
3 tsp lemon juice
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, cooked for 5 minutes, thawed and very well drained.
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp unsalted margarine, melted
12 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
⅛ tsp cinnamon (optional)
one 9-inch deep dish pie plate (1.5 inches deep)
pastry brush, large mixing bowl
large non-stick pan
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a dry, large, non-stick pan, lightly toast pine nuts until golden and set aside.
Heat 2 Tbsp oil in same pan. Add chopped onions, salt and pepper to pan and cook until onions are golden, about 10 minutes.
Add chopped garlic and Ras el Hanout. Cook 3-4 minutes, but don’t brown the garlic.
Add chicken to pan and stir.
Add silan and lemon juice, stir and taste. It should be pleasantly sweet with a tart tinge. Adjust to taste.
Remove pan from heat and cool the mixture 10-15 minutes on the counter.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken mixture and spinach. Add eggs and pine nuts and combine.
In a small bowl, mix remaining 3 Tbsp of olive oil with melted margarine.
Prepare the pie plate by brushing bottom and sides with olive oil/margarine mixture.
Line pie plate with 8 sheets of phyllo dough, first brushing each sheet with oil/margarine mixture. Stack them in the pan in an overlapping circle and allow edges to hang over the pan.
Spoon chicken/spinach mixture onto layered phyllo dough and fold edges of phyllo over the filling. (It will not cover the filling.)
Brush remaining 4 sheets of dough with oil/margarine mix and crumple each one. Place onto exposed area of filling. Dab crumbled dough and edges with any remaining oil/margarine.
Sprinkle with powdered cinnamon.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is golden.
Allow pie to cool for 10-15 minutes before slicing.