Chef Kelly Liken shares her secrets for cooking once and eating two (or three!) family meals
With just a little planning and foresight, you can fire up the oven or grill to cook once and eat two or three very different meals. For busy families — and even those anti-leftovers folks out there — this is a very attractive proposition indeed.
This is also how Vail chef Kelly Liken likes to cook for her own family — her husband, Rick Colomitz and their 2-year-old daughter, Lucy. The couple has been busy preparing for their new restaurant, Harvest by Kelly Liken, in the completely remodeled Balata space at the Singletree Golf Club. Described as a “fun, neighborhood gathering place,” the restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week this summer.
With such a busy schedule preparing for the new eatery, Liken has had to be even more efficient than usual when it comes to the dinnertime juggle.
Many busy moms and dads heed the convenient siren song of the fragrant, golden brown rotisserie chickens at the grocery store, but the high sodium levels and the chicken’s unknown origins have led Liken and Colomitz to prepare their own — usually a beer can chicken they rub with either a compound herb butter or with a salt-free spice rub (Liken makes her own but also loves the rubs from Penzey’s Spices, penzeys.com) prior to cooking. The couple cooks a chicken nearly every week, and typically gets two or three meals out of a 3 ½ -pound bird.
“It’s fairly easy and more delicious to do it ourselves,” Liken says.
Plus, it’s a dish that Rick not only likes to make but one he excels at.
“As a busy mom and a chef, I love to cook for my family — but I cook for my family every night and it’s nice to have a break,” Liken says.
When Colomitz shares his chicken recipe, he always starts with the same line: “First you crack a beer and drink half of it.”
After rubbing the chicken down with either the herb butter or the spice rub, he inserts a half-full beer can into the cavity of the chicken and sets the chicken upright on an old sheet pan on the grill.
“About an hour later, your chicken is perfectly moist and delicious,” Liken says. “You can accomplish the same thing in your oven and it’s just as good.”
The family prefers the darker meat, so they’ll generally eat the thighs, legs and wings for dinner along with some sautéed vegetables or a salad. The next night, Liken will turn that meat into a completely different meal of shredded chicken and vegetable tacos served on romaine lettuce leaves in place of taco shells.
“They’re just as delicious as tacos but we’re trying to get a lot of the grains out of our diet, as lots of folks seem to be,” she says. “I shred the chicken, heat it in some ranchero sauce and then sauté a ton of vegetables — bell peppers, zucchini, onions and poblanos. Those are the go-to veggies I always have because they’re so versatile.”
Served with guacamole and salsa, this is a tasty, healthy meal Liken loves.
As a busy mom and entrepreneur, Liken knows all too well that moms can become creatures of habit when it comes to mealtime — especially their own.
“As busy moms, we think about what’s for dinner and we end up eating the same breakfast and lunch every day because of that focus,” she says. “It’s good to think outside the box, about how dinner can be repurposed for breakfast or lunch without it feeling like leftovers.”
Liken likes to sauté the aforementioned vegetables in a really hot pan with olive oil — “that way they come out like they’ve been roasted, but it’s faster,” she says.
She doesn’t season the whole pan, either, instead seasoning only what they’re likely to eat that night and setting aside the rest.
That way, “when we do repurpose them, it doesn’t taste like leftovers, instead it tastes like something that was created for that dish,” she says.
Case in point: sautéing veggies at dinnertime for tomorrow’s breakfast.
“Rick makes amazing vegetable omelets. It’s easy for him to make and it’s a super healthy, high protein breakfast or even lunch the next day,” Liken says.
Another protein Liken likes to cook once and use for a few meals is pork shoulder, either slow cooked in the Crockpot or slow roasted in the oven on a Sunday afternoon. There’s little prep work and the meat cooks while you take the littles to the park, or sneak in a bike ride or a hike. You can speed up the long cooking process by using a pressure cooker, if you prefer.
Unlike steak, which tends to be tough the next day, pork shoulder is easily repurposed into multiple meals that taste fresh and different. Liken likes to serve the pork simply the first night, flanked by baked potatoes and sautéed vegetables. The next night she gives it a Southern spin, serving it up as pulled pork sandwiches. Layer the tender meat on a crusty roll and then top with your favorite barbecue sauce, some coleslaw and a smattering of pickles.
Still have some leftover? It’s even great for breakfast — as a hash, chopped up with potatoes and topped with an egg.
“It’s good to think outside the box, about how dinner can be repurposed for breakfast or lunch without it feeling like leftovers.”
Beer Can Chicken
1 3- to 4-pound whole organic chicken
1 12-ounce can of your favorite beer
3 tablespoons of your favorite dry rub (recipe for Kelly Liken’s is below)
1. Preheat your grill over medium-high heat; you want the thermometer registering around 400°F.
2. Open your favorite beer, and drink roughly half of it. (According to my husband, this is the most important step!)
3. Liberally rub down the entire chicken with the dry rub and season with salt and pepper if your rub is salt free.
4. Sit the chicken up on the beer can and place in a roasting pan that
you are comfortable putting on your grill.
5. Place the chicken in the pan on your grill. Cook with the grill lid down for about 40 minutes to an hour, or until an instant read thermometer registers 165°F. Rotate the chicken a few times during the cooking to ensure even browning.
6. Allow the chicken to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving it.
My Favorite Dry Rub
• ½ cup paprika
• 3 tablespoons cayenne
• 3 tablespoons black pepper, freshly ground
• 5 tablespoons garlic powder
• 2 tablespoons onion powder
• 2 ½ tablespoons dried oregano
• 2 ½ tablespoons dried thyme
Pulled Chicken “Tacos”
½ leftover beer can chicken
1 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes
1 small white onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, chopped
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 zucchini, cut in half moons
1 red onion, julienned
Salt and pepper
Guacamole, sour cream and
Whole romaine lettuce leaves or similar
1. Heat a medium sauté pan or sauce pot over medium high with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
2. Add the diced white onion, garlic and jalapeño and sauté until translucent. Add the can of tomatoes and its juice and simmer until a thick, chunky sauce forms.
3. Add the pulled chicken and heat through, finish with the cilantro, salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve the “tacos” with the romaine leaves as a wrapper and set out a condiment bar for the whole family to build their own tacos.
Leftover Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup
Chef’s note: This is a basic, go-to recipe for chicken noodle soup that can be fancied up in myriad ways. Think about adding chilis, cilantro, tomatoes, lime juice and avocado with tortillas instead of noodles. Or add Vietnamese or Thai flavors with a bit of soy sauce, chiles, lime, mint, cilantro and basil, and use rice noodles. The combinations are endless!)
For the Stock
1 roasted chicken carcass, meat removed and reserved for the soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 quarts water
1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium celery stalk, coarsely chopped
½ medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
For the Soup
2 medium carrots, peeled and
2 medium celery stalks, medium diced
½ medium yellow onion, medium diced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1 cup dried egg noodles
For the Stock
1. Using a cleaver or kitchen scissors, break up the carcass into smaller pieces so that they will fit in an even layer in the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven; set aside.
2. Heat the oil in the pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the carcass pieces and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned all over.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring to a simmer.
4. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, occasionally skimming any fat or debris off the surface using a large spoon. Continue to simmer until the flavors have developed, about 1 ½ hours.
5. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a 2-quart saucepan and pour the stock through the strainer. You should have 6 cups. Discard the contents of the strainer.
For the Soup
1. Bring the stock back to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander.
3. While the vegetables and noodles cook, shred the reserved chicken meat from the carcass into bite-size pieces. Reserve 1 ½ cups for the soup; save the rest for another use.
4. When the vegetables are tender, add the drained noodles and shredded chicken and stir to combine. Return the soup to a simmer. Cook until the flavors meld, about 5 minutes more. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Going Whole Hog
Roasted Pork Shoulder
1 ½ pounds boneless pork shoulder
2 oranges, sliced into rounds
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 cup cider vinegar
3 cups water
½ cup brown sugar
Salt and black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large, heavy Dutch oven, place the onions, oranges, vinegar, brown sugar and garlic on the bottom.
2. Season the pork shoulder liberally with salt and pepper and place on top of the oranges and onions. They should act like a kind of “rack” for the pork to sit on.
3. Add enough water to raise the liquid level about of the way up the pork roast. Cover tightly with a heavy lid and place over high heat until the liquid simmers.
4. Put the covered Dutch oven in the oven and cook until moist and tender, 3 to 4 hours. Alternatively, this can be done in a slow cooker if you have one big enough.
** This can be turned into many things, day after day. For the first night we usually serve as a traditional supper, with some vegetable and a baked potato.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Leftover roast pork, pulled into
Your favorite barbecue sauce
½ head of cabbage, julienned or shredded
1 red bell pepper, julienned
½ red onion, julienned
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
¼ cup cider vinegar
cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ shallot, minced
Salt and pepper
1. Combine the vinegar, Dijon, shallot, sugar and olive oil in a small jar. Shake vigorously to combine.
2. Place the cabbage, bell pepper, onion and cilantro in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss with the dressing. This can sit for a while to allow the flavors to meld together.
3. Gently warm the pulled pork in your favorite barbecue sauce.
4. Build the sandwiches on crusty rolls, topped with the slaw and some pickles.
By Caramie Schnell • Photos by Charles Townsend Bessent