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1 Rotisserie Chicken, 3 Easy Meals

A cooked chicken can go a long way with these tasty recipes

One Chicken Three Meals Tortilla Soup

Turn a rotisserie chicken into three meals: Try this Quick Tortilla Soup for one. — David Smith / Alamy

En español | When my daughters were young and I was juggling career and parenthood, we ate a lot of rotisserie chicken for dinner. On those nights when there was no time to start from scratch, I'd serve up a fragrant chicken, fresh off the store's rotisserie wheel, with steamed green beans and tossed salad. As long as I didn't play this card too often, everyone left the table happy and well fed. Now it's just my husband, David, and I at home, and we're eating less meat. That same rotisserie chicken that once served a family of four now makes at least three meals for the two of us. Here's how.

In its warm state, the bird is so much easier to carve, so I break down the chicken as soon as I get it to the kitchen. I start by pulling each leg and thigh section down, which removes the thighbone from the backbone socket. With just a little coaxing, these two legs easily separate from the back.

Of course, you can enjoy the legs and thighs without further preparation, but with a little effort, your meal can be much more interesting. I make Quick Coq au Vin (Meal No. 1), stewing the chicken legs and thighs with mushrooms, potatoes and a potent red-wine sauce for a fast dinner.

For the next meal: With legs and thighs now gone, I separate the backbone from the breast, break it in half and drop it into a large saucepan or small Dutch oven. I also add the wings, bones from the breast meat (save that meat for Meal No. 3), and the skin. In fact, any leftover skin, bones and accumulated juice go into the pot for soup.

To make flavorful broth quickly, I add a little store-bought broth to the bones, along with some water. After simmering for just 15 to 20 minutes, it's done. I strain it, and when the bones are cool enough to handle, I remove any remaining bits of meat and add them to the broth.

With this quart of liquid gold, simmer up your favorite chicken-based soup or try my punchy Quick Tortilla Soup, chock-full of corn and beans (Meal No. 2).

Now, what to do with that cooked chicken breast? You can slice it for sandwiches or fan it atop a main-course salad. You can shred and toss it with barbecue sauce or chop it for chicken salad. I often make a light, simple Chicken Casserole With Spinach and Mushrooms (Meal No. 3). And sometimes I even have leftovers.

Quick Coq au Vin

Serves 2

For a slightly thicker consistency, mix 2 teaspoons of flour with 4 teaspoons of water and whisk into the sauce at the end of cooking.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package (8 ounces) sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 chicken legs and thighs from a rotisserie chicken
4 to 5 small new potatoes (about 8 ounces), rinsed and halved
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until liquid evaporates and mushrooms start to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme; cook until fragrant, about a minute. Stir in flour, then wine and broth; bring to a simmer. Add chicken and potatoes. Return to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until flavors blend and potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in parsley. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Serve.

Quick Tortilla Soup

Serves 3 to 4

Serve the soup with any or all of the following: grated pepper Jack cheese, diced avocados, light sour cream or Greek yogurt, chopped fresh cilantro, hot red pepper sauce or pickled jalapeños.

Backbones, breastbones, wings and juices from a rotisserie chicken
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 can (16 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained
1 package (9 ounces) frozen corn
4 ounces tortilla strips or chips

Bring bones, broth and 2 cups of water to a boil in a Dutch oven or soup kettle over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, to make a potent broth, 15 to 20 minutes. Strain bones, pulling whatever meat remains. Add water, if necessary, to equal 4 cups.

Return pot to the stove and heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder; cook until fragrant, about a minute longer. Add broth, tomatoes, black beans and corn; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, and skim foam as it surfaces, to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Chicken Casserole With Spinach and Artichokes

Serves 2 to 3

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced and divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, divided
1 package (10 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed and lightly squeezed dry
1 jar (14 ounces) canned artichoke quarters, drained and rinsed
1 whole chicken breast, from a rotisserie chicken, shredded
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 of the garlic cloves in a large saucepan. When garlic starts to sizzle and smell fragrant, whisk in flour. Mix broth and milk; gradually whisk into flour and bring to a simmer to make a thin sauce. Whisk in 1/4 cup of Parmesan, followed by the spinach, artichokes and chicken; season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mix breadcrumbs with remaining garlic clove, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and 1 teaspoon of oil. Turn chicken-spinach mixture into a small casserole dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, and bake until crumbs are golden brown and casserole is bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve.

AARP food expert Pam Anderson is a best-selling cookbook author and blogger at threemanycooks.com.

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