Thursday, June 2, 2011

Crock pot chicken and homemade broth

While I truly enjoy making most of our food from scratch, there is a time factor that gets involved.  I do work 50+ hours per week and my kids have scout meetings, volleyball practices (and the accompanying games).  Hubby and I have church obligations and occasionally a social outing.  All of that takes time, so how I choose to prioritize my time with regard to cooking tasks is important.

Frozen whole chicken

Frozen bird in the crockpot

I am not sure who invented the crock pot, but whoever it was, I hope they received their due royalties from it.  I use my crockpot for the occasional roast, but mostly for chicken and broth.  Before I go to bed early in the week (usually Sunday or Monday night), I throw a frozen chicken in the crockpot.  I just cut off the wrapper, toss it in, put the lid on and turn it on low.  By the time I wake up in the morning, the house smells of chicken.

Chicken, done and ready to debone

I always check the temperature of the chicken and most of the time it's done when I get up, but if the bird hasn't reached 180 degrees, I let it cook a while longer.  Then it's time to scoop the chicken out on to a big platter and let it rest.  You can, and I have, tried to debone a chicken immediately after removing it from the crock pot.  Really, it's not worth it to burn your fingerprints off your fingers, so I let it sit 20-30 minutes so it can cool down some (fear not, you can still burn yourself, just not quite as bad!)

Chicken bones and juices from cooking
 All of the skin, bones, cartilage and miscellaneous fat (usually found in the thigh area-imagine that) goes back into the crock pot with whatever juices are there from cooking the bird.  I usually divide the meat into piles of dark and white and put it in a storage container to go in the fridge and be used for various chicken recipes through the week.

With the carcass and the goodies back in the crock pot, I add 4-6 carrots (depending on the size-they've been kind of scrawny lately), 4- ribs of celery, 1 onion and 2-3 tablespoons of dried parsley (if I have bay leaves, I'll put a couple of those in too.).  Don't worry about spending a lot of time prepping these veggies, they are there for flavor purposes only.  I cut the carrots in half, cut the celery in three or four large pieces and halve the onion.  Fill to the top with water and leave for 12-24 hours.

The beginning of broth

Broth, 24 hours later

When you're ready, strain the broth into a large bowl.  Discard the bones and veggies.  I pour the broth into recycled glass jars to freeze and thaw what I need as I need it.  I've also used ziploc bags and laid them flat to freeze.  They stack great and don't take up much space.  The broth will also keep in the fridge for 4-5 days, so there's no need to freeze it if you know you will have a way to use it shortly.

Broth-ready for freezing

So, that's it.  Chicken in the crockpot and homemade broth.

A few ways to use your chicken and/or broth:
Chicken and cheese quesadillas
Chicken noodle soup
Chicken and gravy over mashed potatoes or noodles
Chicken enchiladas, tacos or nachos
Chicken salad
Honey chicken stir-fry with rice
White chicken chili
Chicken & wild rice soup
Plain rice or spanish rice (broth)

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