When cold weather blusters outside the kitchen window, my recipes shift from fresh garden dishes to hearty comfort foods such as crock pot roasted chicken. Being a frugal sort who also has a picky palate, a roast chicken is the best opportunity to go one step further with meal preparations by simmering up some chicken stock for the freezer reserves.
The Humble Crock Pot
Over the years, my trusted crock pot has stood by faithfully through 5-alarm chili cook-offs, congealed cheese souffles, and countless fine-tunings of my ever changing Yankee pot roast recipe. If one day the inevitable occurs and my slow-cooking friend passes on to the great appliance heap in the sky, I plan on moving heaven and earth to find an exact replica. Yes, it’s that special. It was while using this slow cooker that I introduced my two little girls to the enui of the culinary arts. “Now sweetie, once you add the chopped leeks, push the HIGH button and set the timer for 3 hours.” My crock pot has a special place in my heart, as it makes a reliable companion – simple, sturdy, and mildly attractive with it’s scratch-resistant black enamel and stainless steel trim gleaming from the kitchen counter.
The Roast Chicken
There are countless variations of this meal, but to set the stage for the chicken stock, my six-year-old suggested I present one of her slow cooker favorites. Dice a single red onion and scatter into a crock pot large enough to accept the sacrificial bird. Next, mix up a dry rub of equal parts (roughly a tsp or two) onion powder, salt, black pepper, chili powder, and garlic salt. Apply this rub to the chicken – we prefer fresh hens, but a frozen bird will do as well. Place the chicken in the crock pot without liquid as it doesn’t need it, slip on the lid, and set the controls for 5 hours on HIGH. When completed, pull the meat from the bone, and serve with fresh bread, baked potatoes, cottage cheese, hot house tomatoes, a nice salad, some broccoli – whatever the taste buds desire, as this roaster goes with just about anything.
The Chicken Stock Recipe
Not one to waste a penny-pinching opportunity, I start the chicken stock as soon as dinner is done and the dishes cleaned. The girls help by first picking all of the remaining chicken meat from the bone for sandwiches, chicken salad, and for dicing into soups. Once cleaned of useable meat, they will select, dice, and add whatever low-acidic veggies are in the crisper at the time. Usually, this means celery and carrots, though a bit of parsley can find it’s way in on occasion. As the rub is now infused with the liquids from the roast, we won’t add any additional spices. Once the veggies are in, I’ll fill up the crock pot with water just below the brim, cover, and let cook on low over night. In the morning, the house smells amazing, and I’ll dole out the colander-strained stock into re-purposed butter-spread containers for freezing, reserving some in an ice-tray for recipes calling for just a touch of taste.
My recipes are designed with my daughters in mind, as well as for simplicity and frugality. If you have tips, personal observations, or outright suggestions, I would love to hear from you below in the comments.