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Just a few years ago, the thought of cooking a whole chicken was quite intimidating to me. As a former vegetarian, cooking meat seemed like a daunting task, and cooking it on the bone was scarier still. I had no idea how to tell if it was done, and even less of an idea of how to carve and serve it. More so, the thought of rubbing a chicken with herbed oils or sticking my hand in a turkey carcass to remove the neck was the stuff of nightmares. (Thanks, Grandma, for chasing me with a turkey neck during my first vegetarian Thanksgiving! ;) Haha) However, as I learn more about environmentally responsible animal farming and less wasteful eating habits, I am more convinced than ever that whole chickens are the way to go. First of all, the flavor is all in the bones, fat and skin, leading to the most flavorful and juicy white chicken meat I have ever tasted. Second of all, you can cook once (perhaps on a lazy Saturday or Sunday) and enjoy chicken meat on sandwiches and salads throughout the week. Perhaps most exciting for me is the opportunity to use the leftover bones and veggies to make your own chicken stock.
To make this whole process even easier and more approachable, I learned that roaster chickens easily fit in a slow cooker. This method is perfect for the summer when you don’t want to overheat your house, or for all year when you want a low-maintenance alternative for roasting chicken! With this method, the skin will not get crispy (OK by me as I still take off the skin when I am done cooking). However, you will get fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth, perfect chicken with very little effort. When you are done making the chicken, don’t even rinse out the slow cooker. Throw the bones and a few more carrots, onions and celery stalks back in with some bay leaves and peppercorns to make chicken stock! I usually freeze mine in 2-cup portions to use the next time I need it!
Slow Cooker Roaster Chicken
1 whole roaster chicken (between 4-5 lbs), giblets removed
1 lemon, cut in eighths
4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
5 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 large or 2 small onions, roughly chopped
spices: basil, parsley, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth or water
Rinse chicken under cold water. Place in slow cooker and season to taste with herbs, spices, salt and pepper. Add 4 lemon slices to the interior of the chicken, then place the remaining slices between the wings/legs and body of the chicken. Sprinkle with vegetables, then add cooking liquid. Set slow cooker to low heat and cook for 8-9 hours. Remove and discard the skin prior to serving. Serve with roasted potatoes and favorite vegetable.
Slow Cooker Chicken Stock
Bones from 1 roaster chicken
1 onion, quartered
3-4 carrots, roughly chopped in 2-in pieces
2-3 stalks celery, roughly chopped in 2-in pieces
4 cups water
Return chicken bones and fresh vegetables to the slow cooker after chicken has been cooked and carved. (You do not have to discard the liquid or vegetables that remain in the slow cooker). Add water and pinch of salt. Cook on low heat for 8 hours. Skim fat from resulting broth, then store in airtight container in fridge for immediate use or in freezer for future use.