Several weeks ago, I had cooked several pounds of chicken quarters in my largest slow cooker, with poultry seasoning, some "aromatics" (chopped onion, garlic, and celery) and salt. The result was a huge quantity of rich and flavorful broth and a whole lot of chicken that was falling off the bone tender.
...A little too tender, at least for giving the "right" texture for the casseroles I had envisioned. I did make some chicken, rice and vegetables, and the flavor was superb. Still, it just seemed a little too, well, soft. Not quite hospital food but definitely not as good as I really wanted it to be. (Actually, the consistency was very similar to canned chicken, something that you could substitute if that is something you keep on hand.)
Now that I had a couple of pounds more of this "over-cooked" chicken to use up, I froze the meat in one pound portions while I gave the matter more thought. I ended up adapting a chicken croquette recipe I made decades ago and ended up with a lovely loaf and some deliciously light and crispy patties--enough from just one pound of the meat for two or three meals for a family of four or five.
This is old-fashioned food, but, with a food processor, the preparation was quite easy. You will note that there seems to be an inordinate amount of egg compared to the amount of chicken. This is necessary because the pre-cooked meat will not hold together as well as a meatloaf made with raw ground meat.
With all these other ingredients, this could easily be adapted for using up that leftover chicken that isn't quite enough on its own for another meal. I have included the amounts for a half recipe at the end of this post, in case you find yourself in that situation.
The patties were good for serving right away and the loaf could go back into the freezer after baking for another day--as a main dish or sliced and served on crusty rolls.
Chicken Loaf and Patties
1 lb boneless, cooked chicken
1/2 to 1 c onion, diced
1/3 c diced bell pepper
1/2 c diced celery (optional)
2 c finely shredded carrots
2 c dry bread crumbs
1 to 2 t mixed herbs (I used rosemary, sage, and thyme)
1/2 c yogurt
salt and pepper to taste (NOTE: If the chicken you are using was seasoned while cooking, omit salt completely)
1. Shred the chicken in a processor or pull it into fine shreds with a fork and/or knife. If the chicken is as overcooked as mine was, you will want to pulse gently and be sure you don't let it process too long!
2. Prepare the vegetables and bread crumbs. The carrots and crumbs can be processed in the food processor as well, but chop the onion, celery, and pepper to provide more texture.
3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing until well blended.
Put about half the mixture into a very well-oiled loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and the edges begin to turn a toasty brown.
OPTIONAL: You may wish to lay a few strips of bacon across the bottom of the pan in place of oiling it, before adding the chicken mixture OR you could lay a couple of strips of bacon across the top of the loaf.
Heat a small amount of canola or other vegetable oil in a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium high heat, until the fat is just shimmering. Using a large spoon or spatula, scoop out about one third cup of the meat mixture and, using your fingers, press it together and place in the hot fat. Press down lightly with a spatula. Repeat with the remaining patties but don't crowd the pan. (You may need to cook these in a couple of batches.) Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the bottom is very well browned. Turn, press lightly on each patty, and continue cooking until the second side is also browned. Be sure you have flattened the patties a little so that the middle will be completely cooked by the time the outside is golden and crusty.
Both patties and loaves go well with cole slaw or tossed garden salad and mashed potatoes--a classic "meat and potatoes" meal. While there is no gravy for the potatoes, sprinkle them with a bit of good grated cheese or top with a little light sour cream and chives--or any other toppings you might put on a baked potato. As noted above, they also make great sandwiches. Condiments that you like on other ground meat dishes will go well here too--ketchup, barbecue sauce, lettuce and tomato, even salsa, cheese, etc.
Half recipe amounts
1/2 lb boneless, cooked chicken
1/4 to 1/2 c onion, diced (one small)
2 to 3 T diced bell pepper
2 to 3 T diced celery (optional)
1 c finely shredded carrots
1 c dry bread crumbs
1/2 to 1 t mixed herbs (I used rosemary, sage, and thyme)
1/4 c yogurt