Leftover Transformers: Roasted Chicken to Chicken Pasta to Caribbean Chicken Chili

After my brother roasted our chicken upside down, resulting in crispy legs and butter-sodden breasts, I recycled the white meat in a pasta sauce. When we failed to eat the whole pot, I dreamt a lazy lunch. Five tablespoons of powdered peppers and tomato sauce switches to chili. It’s a quick-change act that relies on illusion: realer, righteous chili requires a more rigorous (though possibly less alliterative) approach. Nevertheless, a close approximation of Texas, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Washington, etc. can be achieved with a passive raffle through the spice cabinet.

We needed beans, so we walked to the corner deli. I have been buying Caribbean groceries with the mania of a bomb shelter visionary; I want to work my way through a goat carcass, sample every brand of ginger beer, and bake my own sweet rolls. Last night, I settled for a simple substitution: peas for beans. Instead of kidneys or pintos, I bought pigeon peas, more commonly found in Caribbean renditions of “rice and peas” than heartland chili recipes. Firmer and chalkier than my usual bean choices, the pigeon peas were a striking contrast to cooked tomato, shredded chicken, and soft garlic. At work, I ate the “chili” out of Tupperware and picked chicken neck bones off my tongue. None of my co-workers looked twice.

Honey Roasted Chicken

1 chicken
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Truss the chicken if that turns you on. Rub it with butter. Sprinkle on a thin layer of salt. Rub honey all over the bird. Liberally dust with paprika and salt, and season evenly with cayenne and black peppers. Cut up the remaining butter into small pieces and distribute them over the chicken. Cook until the skin is crispy and browned and desired internal temperature is reached. Serve the legs, thighs, and wings. Reserve the breasts and 1 cup pan juices.

Chicken Pasta Sauce

2 chicken breasts, cooked, chopped
1 chicken neck, raw
2 chicken livers, raw
1 cup pan juices
2 fresh tomatoes
1 32 ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
1 head of elephant garlic, peeled
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
salt, to taste

Put all ingredients, except salt in a pot. Cook over low heat for at least 3 hours, stirring intermittently. Salt to taste. Serve over pasta or crusty bread.

Caribbean Chicken Chili

3 cups pasta sauce, with cooked pasta mixed in if you like
1 16 ounce can pigeon peas, drained
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a pot. Cook over low heat until desired thickness is reached, probably 30 minutes to an hour, stirring with relative frequency. Cover overnight in the refrigerator.

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