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Chicken for Lunch: 5 Days, 5 Ways

Rotisserie chicken was once something served just in restaurants, but with the advent of in-store roasters, it's available in many food co-ops. I'm convinced that many of the birds purchased from the chicken roaster are actually destined for deconstruction. That juicy roasted chicken is full of delicious potential for five quick and easy lunches for the week.

Of course, you can roast your own chicken at home; it's easy to do, and once you've done it a few times, it will become second nature. Buying a whole chicken is also great for your budget, since you are not paying for someone else to cut and package it for you. Cooking the chicken on the bone will give it the most flavor and keep the meat moist. Pulling the cooked meat from the bones requires no knife skills, just fingers. You can even do it while carrying on an important after-school conversation with the kids!

You’ll need about 2 1/2 cups for five days of lunches, divided it into five portions (a good rule of thumb is that for every pound of bone-in whole chicken, you’ll get approximately 1 cup of pulled meat).

Banh Mi

Banh mi sandwiches have taken the food scene by storm, with sprightly Vietnamese flavors stuffed into a crispy baguette. For an easy take, toss pulled chicken with a few sprinkles of fish sauce or soy sauce and some five spice powder, if you have it. Shred about a thumb-sized piece of daikon radish and a carrot, mix the two and sprinkle with rice vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. Pack this radish carrot mixture separately in a small jar. To make the sandwich, slice a small baguette in half lengthwise, and pull out a bit of the soft bread. Spread with mayo and sriracha sauce to taste, add a few leaves of lettuce, some sliced jalapenos and cilantro and the shredded chicken. Wrap in foil or plastic wrap and keep cold until lunchtime. Drain the (quick-pickled) daikon radish mixture and add it to your sandwich just before eating.

Pan Bagnat

The classic French pan bagnat is a tuna salad sandwich, but this version, made with chicken, is equally delicious. Take a baguette, slice it in half, and pluck out some of the center to make room for the filling. In a bowl, mix shredded chicken, some of your favorite vinaigrette, a handful of sliced olives, sliced roasted red peppers, chopped fresh parsley or basil and slivered red onion. Stuff the baguette and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. The vinaigrette marinates the ingredients and soaks into the bread, melding the sandwich into a delicious whole.

Fruity Chicken Lettuce Cups

The seasonal fruit is a perfect complement to chicken; use strawberries in spring, peaches in summer, apples in fall. First, wash a head of butter lettuce and separate the leaves. Spin dry. In a large bowl, combine pulled chicken, chopped or sliced fruit, chopped celery and scallions and just enough mayo or yogurt to moisten. Pack the lettuce, loosely wrapped with a paper towel, in a large zip-top bag for later use. To serve, spoon the chicken mixture into the lettuce cups. Top with a handful of walnuts, if desired.

Curry Chicken Salad

Combining your new friend, pulled chicken, with a lush, curry yogurt dressing, makes for another great lunch without much effort at all. Just put a few tablespoons of plain yogurt in a bowl, add a few pinches of curry powder, salt and a spoonful of your favorite jam (apricot is nice). Add scallions, raisins and shredded carrots, mix in the chicken and stuff into pitas, or serve with chapati.

Lemon-Olive Pasta

Set off the flavor of roast chicken with a kick of lemon and some salty olives in this simple pasta salad. Cook some spiral pasta (use about 4 ounces left over from last night’s dinner) and toss with olive oil, finely-grated lemon zest and a squeeze of juice, a handful of chopped parsley, pitted green or black olives and some frozen peas (the peas will thaw in time for lunch). Salt and pepper and some shredded Parmesan complete your salad.