If you’re like me and made the switch to proteins from better sources (like local, humanely raised, organic…) then you have learned that making lots of meals with chicken breast is not so practical anymore.  Whole chickens are  a lot cheaper per pound and can usually provide our family with at least two meals.  My problem was that Hubby is often home from work late, and timing a perfectly roasted chicken can be a challenge.  The solution: Crock pot.

I’m not a huge crock pot fan.  I think most of the recipes involve lots of processed ingredients or come out tasting like mush, but this crock pot recipe is one of my favorites.  And bonus, you don’t have to clean the crock pot or deal with a chicken carcass after dinner since you will make chicken stock in it right away!

Start off by putting some balls of foil in the bottom of your crock pot.  This is so that as the chicken cooks, it isn’t just sitting in juices at the bottom, boiling away.

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Just throw some used aluminum foil balls into your crock pot until you’re ready to cook!

Next, make up a little spice rub.  I went with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, but maybe you want to do paprika….or chili powder and lime zest…or lemon zest and rosemary….whatever chicken seasoning you want, plus salt and pepper of course.

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mmm, lime zest roasted chicken.

Go ahead and get some fresh herbs ready, too if you have them.  Anything with a wooded stem is probably good….thyme, rosemary, sage…

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Our garden is coming along and we’ll have tons of fresh herbs soon. I can’t wait until I can tell Starr Lily to run out and cut me a sprig of this and that!

Open up your chicken, get the guts out (I feed these to the dog, raw) and set it breast side up on the foil balls.  Rub the seasoning mixture all over the inside and outside.

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Stuff the fresh herbs inside (this is also a good place to put in some whole garlic cloves, or sliced lemons or onions…whatever aromatics you choose)

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Turn on your crock pot, and walk away.  Yup, that’s it.  No liquid or anything.  I use high heat if it needs to cook in 3-4 hours, but find it’s better to use low and do 6-8 hours (or until hubby gets home….).

You know it’s done when you slice in between the breast and leg and the juices run clear (or take the temp).

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Looking good! I need to add a roasted chicken to my menu next week.

When it’s time for dinner, pull out the chicken and let it rest for about ten minutes or so.  Meanwhile, pull the foil out of the crock pot.  Chop up some onions, carrots, celery….or whatever vegetables you have laying around.  Broccoli stems?  Sweet potatoes?  That works too.  Throw in some herbs like parsley if you have them, too.  Add some salt if you want, about a teaspoon of whole peppercorns, a few bay leaves….there’s no exact science here though, so do what you want.

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Nice mirepoix Amanda!

Now you should be ready to carve up the chicken.  Go ahead, and throw the bones back into the crock pot as you go.

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Now you can fill the crock pot the rest of the way with water, all the way to the very top.  Cover it up, turn it on low.  Enjoy dinner.

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Leave the crock pot on overnight.  In the morning, or afternoon, or whenever you think about it again, turn it off and let it cool a little.  Once it cools down you can throw it in the fridge.  Yes, the whole ceramic insert with lid, all into the fridge (yes, I really hate dishes apparently).

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Delicious stock!

Once it is cold, all the fat will rise to the top and you can skim it off in one big chunk.  I didn’t have a very fatty chicken and didn’t have enough to skim to take a picture of, but this saves you from having to use a fat separator.

Now you are ready to pour it into some containers.  I use a small mesh strainer that fits right over my quart size containers (I use some ball freezer containers, some Ziploc ones with screw lids, mason jars and old take out containers).  I ladle the stock through the strainer into my biggest container, and then pour into smaller containers.  Make sure you leave head space at the top since it expands when it freezes…about an inch for the quart size, less for smaller containers.

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I find that it’s nice to have a variety of sizes.  Quarts are nice if you are making soup, but a lot of recipes might use a cup of stock (or can) so I use some 8oz canning jars as well, and if I have small amounts leftover I’ll freeze into an ice cube tray.

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Watch out for glass jars! They crack if defrosted too quickly and spill yummy chicken stock all over your kitchen counter and floor – not that I know that from experience…
If using glass, let it defrost in your fridge first.

The solids left behind get tossed.  Seems harsh, but I usually use celery and carrots that are at the end of their life so it’s okay.  If you have a little one starting solids at home, you can toss the carrots to the baby I suppose.

And that’s it!  Well, except now it’s time to break down and clean that crock pot.  I stick all the jars in the freezer and grab as I need it.  No more buying cartons or cans of stock.  I used a 4qt slow cooker and ended up with about 3.5 quarts of stock (predictably).

Anyone else make their own stock?  Have any favorite crock pot recipes that aren’t mushy processed stuff?

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