A few weeks ago I was in the Farmer's Market up in my hood of Inwood and happened to stop at one of the farm stands advertising free range organic chicken. On an impulse I picked one up - but having no time to cook it (or enough days in a row where I would be home to consume an entire chicken) I stuck it in the freezer waiting for opportunity to present itself.
Meanwhile I had been reading up on cooking whole chickens in the crock pot and after looking at a few different methods I came up with my own. I didn't want soup and I was hoping for something that would give me in essence a roasted chicken dinner that I could come home to at the end of a work day.
Step 1: Defrost the chicken. (Yeah I might have forgotten this part....). My chicken was barely defrosted when I stuck it in the pot. I did manage to wrestle the bag of frozen giblets out but it certainly did put up a fight.
Step 2: Get out your crock pot. This should be easy right? Yeah - I have a tendency to cram a lot into my kitchen cabinets so...first empty cabinet, then take out crock pot, then shove everything back in cabinet (first making sure it's cleared out of curious cats), then find counter space for crock pot that is close enough to the outlet.
Step 3: Peel and slice two carrots in half, one stalk of celery and slice half an onion. This part really was easy - unless you've taken up all your counter space with making room for the crock pot. Then you need to do some finagling...or putting things away. Whichever floats your boat.
Step 4: Line the bottom of the pot with the vegetables like your making a bed for the chicken. Season the chicken to your liking (I used kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, garlic powder and a touch of smoked Spanish paprika) and place the chicken on top of the vegetables. Don't ask me for measurements. I don't measure at 7am.
Step 5: Put the lid on the pot. Realize that you've made the bed of vegetables too high, remove the chicken adjust the vegetables and try again. This may take 2, 3 or 4 tries depending on how good your hand-eye coordination is in the morning. The chicken, being still partly frozen is also heavy and slippery. Be warned...
Step 6: Set the crock pot for 10 hours on low (8 if you're a smarty pants who remembered to defrost your chicken. If you are go get yourself a medal or a chest to pin it on...your choice). Wash your hands, counter tops, sink and anything else that may have come in contact with the partially defrosted chicken. Or just call in a Hazmat team to do it for you.
After a 12 hour workday I came home and the entire lobby of my building smelled of roasting chicken. When I opened my apartment door I was clobbered by the scent and I practically dove into the pot head first. But instead I first took a picture (see above) and then carefully removed the chicken. Having added no liquid or fat, the chicken had produced it's own rich jus that was a beautiful deep dark brown. I left the vegetables and jus in the pot and then removed a leg and thigh for myself for dinner. After dinner the saga continued...
Step 7: Remove all the meat from the bones. This will be easier if you live in a pet free household. It increases exponentially if you have pets that haven't been fed since you left for work that morning and are now saying "to heck with that canned crap - give us the CHICKEN!".
Step 8: Place the bones (and skin, cartilage etc...) back into the pot with the vegetables and jus, and add four cups of water.
Step 9: Cover and set the crock pot to cook on low for 8 hours. Attempt to go to sleep as the apartment fills with the incredible heady scent of chicken stock simmering away.
Step 10: When you wake up in the morning and after your moment of "OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S 7:40 AND I DIDN'T SET THE ALARM!!!!" and then you look at the cats who are staring at you from the edge of the bed and yell "WHY DIDN'T YOU WAKE ME UP?" - then proceed to the kitchen and find your strainer and a big bowl and strain all the liquid from the pot into the bowl. Press the solids with the back of a heavy spoon to extract any extra flavor that is hidden in those carrots celery and onions.
Step 11: Place the gorgeous brown stock in the fridge to allow the fat to rise and solidify for easy removal. The stock will keep for about a week in the fridge and several months in the freezer. I freeze mine is small containers so I can use it in recipes as needed.
And voila! You now have roasted chicken to use for all kinds of meals (I made a curried chicken salad for lunch today and I think there may be chicken fried rice for dinner tonight....) and a gorgeous chicken stock that you can store in your freezer and use as needed.
This whole chicken ordeal has me reminded of one of my favorite Muppet skits involving the Swedish Chef, a chicken and a basket. I leave you all with this glorious piece of muppetry and wish you continued happy kitchen adventures!