Homemade soup intimidated me for a long time, especially making your own stock. It seemed much easier to just buy chicken bouillon cubes at the store. I can’t recall why exactly I started reading about making my own stock but I was impressed by the nutritional value. The idea that we should eat chicken soup when we’re sick is less about a red can of processed soup and is really rooted in the original soup making, homemade stock and all. Stock is nothing more than water and stuff simmered for hours. In this case, it’s chicken bones, onions, spices, carrots and some spinach. For vegetable stock, it’s lots of vegetables. By simmering the bones, you release all kinds of nutrients in the marrow. And with the vegetables, you know how folks say not to overcook vegetables because they lose all their nutrients? Well, you probably lose some in temperature, but most in the liquid. So now, that stock is PACKED with nutrients. So stock is easy – time consuming, but easy.
I recently discovered the easiest method yet of cooking a whole chicken. Now, buying a whole chicken is the most economical way to eat chicken, not always the most convenient, but definitely the most economical. Different methods have different flavors and textures, but if your goal is cooked and tender chicken, pull out your crock pot.
If you can plan ahead, start first thing in the morning. Stick an onion inside a whole chicken and couple of vegetables in the bottom. Put your chicken and seasonings in the crock pot (read – NO LIQUID). Put on the top. Turn it on. 8 hours later, open the top, pull out the chicken and let it rest. Leave the liquid (yes, now there is liquid) in the pot.
If you want shredded chicken, start pulling it apart as soon as you take it out, while it’s still warm.
If you want chunk chicken, try to pull off the skin and pull out the bones, but leave the chicken in tact to cool.
As you’re pulling off the skin and bones, just dump everything back into the crock pot, leaving it on low. Add about 2-4 cups of water, more seasoning, if you want and cover. About 8 hours later, come back. Strain and reserve the liquid off the wilted vegetables. Discard bones, skin and vegetables. Savor the stock!
After you cool the stock, it should get gelatinous. This is good, it means you got good nutrients and marrow from the bones. It’s delicious, nutritious and easy! To use the stock, you will probably add about 1 cup water for each cup of concentrated stock. I like to pour mine into ice cube trays and smaller containers so I can pull out a little at a time.
This particular night, I transitioned to chicken and rice soup (printable recipe: Chicken Rice Soup)
1 1/2 cups stock
1 cup brown rice
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4 onion, finely diced
3 stalks of celery chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp oregano
In a large pot, heat homemade chicken stock with 2 cups water. Add vegetables and cooked chicken. Liquid should cover vegetables and chicken by about 1/2″. About 1 hour before eating, add 1 cup brown rice and 2 cups water. Let boil and simmer. Serve warm.