Monday, June 13, 2011

Chicken, part 1

when whole fryers go on sale (never pay more than 97 cents a pound!), I usually buy two or three. This week at Vons they are only 69 cents a pound and I bought two. The easiest way to cook a whole chicken if you're going to use the meat for something else (not a straight chicken dinner, where you would want to add a little more flavor as you cook) is to poach it in the crock-pot. The hardest part about this is cleaning the chicken (usually I ask Deputy Handsome to help with this, but he is working!!) and pulling out all the guts (save these for later!). Once the chicken is empty, season if you like with salt, pepper, paprika, or whatever you want (or nothing at all!) and place it in an empty, dry crockpot. Don't be scared by the lack of liquid! I promise it will turn out ok. Cook on high for 3-5 hours depending on how big the chicken is. You can tell it's done when the skin is all browned and crispy looking. Then just pull it out to cool and after a bit pull all the meat off the bone. Done! I add the meat to all sorts of things and I'll share some of my favorite recipes with you tomorrow.

Once the chicken is out of the pot, I strain the juices that are left in the bottom of the crockpot and put them in the fridge overnight. The next morning, skim off whatever fat has collected on the top and you have free chicken flavoring for soup or any recipe that calls for broth (I usually mix a 2-to-1 ratio of drippings with warm water to make broth). The drippings can be frozen if you won't use them within a few days.

Don't forget about the yucky insides you saved and also any bones and skin leftover from carving the chicken. Throw these in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for an hour or two, uncovered, until the liquid is slightly reduced and has some color. Strain the stock and discard the solids. Broth will keep in the fridge for a few days, or freeze until you need it in one or two-cup portions. If you are crunched for time, you could totally make stock with just the yucky insides at the same time that the chicken is cooking in the crockpot. That is what I am doing today.

mmm ... my house smells soooooo good right now
Extra Credit: You can also throw in any vegetables you have in the fridge into the stock pot. I have a container in my freezer where I throw the rooty ends of onions and carrots, tops of celery, garlic paper and any other pieces of vegetables that I cut off and don't serve to my family. Whenever I make chickens, I pull out this container of vegetables and add it to the stock pot for more flavor.

how I store my veggie odds & ends ...
also the yucky insides if I don't plan on making
stock right away.
I used to go through a box or two of chicken stock a week ($2.99 at Trader Joe's ... that's more than I paid for one whole chicken at the current sale price!) but since I started cooking whole chickens and making my own stock, I have not used any purchased stock. This is a great way to save on your grocery bill!

Disclaimer: I understand that these are not real recipes and are actually sort of vague descriptions of how to prepare chicken, but this is how I do it and I got my techniques from a few different sources, including: "Miserly Moms" by Joni McCoy and "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook" by Beth Hensperger. You could also type "homemade chicken stock" or "slow-cooker poached chicken" into Google and get a ton more suggestions. That's what I did, but I didn't save the links.

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