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Crock It! For Christmas
It’s funny. People seem to think I use my slow cooker every night of the week. I like roasted food just as much as the next person, so I actually don’t use it every night, but this time of year when days are busy and time is short, it does become incredibly useful. Not just for making a meal, but for cooking soups that can be frozen or stored for future use, creating a side dish that is different from the usual, or freeing up an afternoon to make those final drop offs and pick-ups for sports practices before we all have a two-week break. It’s also a great way to plan ahead so meals are ready after Christmas when some of us may not feel much like cooking.
So, in an effort to make life a little easier for the whole family, here are some recipes to help during this final week of rushing and hustling and bustling until we all get a little break.
Crock It! Clams- Whether you’re serving fish on Christmas Eve or just want a an option for something different for dinner, this recipe is easy and takes advantage of a broth that simmers all day. For Christmas Eve, just omit the bacon.
Bacon and Bean Soup- A homemade take on the canned version, this soup will warm cold hands and toes if we keep getting snow!
Winter Citrus Chicken- This meal takes advantage of the bountiful citrus fruits available at this time of year, and also adds a level of brightness to chicken not common in slow cooked chicken recipes.
Spinach, Leek and Bacon Risotto- This recipe takes a standard meal, like a roast chicken, and adds a little elegance to it in the form of a side dish. I served it recently at a family birthday party, and it was just special enough that my tasters couldn’t believe it was made in my slow cooker
Chicken Stock- This is a recipe I have not posted before, and only recently tried for the first time with my left over turkey carcass from Thanksgiving, but the idea and process for making a stock is fairly simple and universal, and works great for chicken as well.
Crock It! Chicken Stock
Throughout the fall and winter, I make a roast chicken about once each week. A small roast is picked clean by the time the five of us are done with it, but the oven stuffer often has enough meat left over for chicken soup. In the spirit of making better use of my carcass, and having stock on hand for a variety of uses, it turns out that the slow cooker is the easiest way to make home made stock and requires little to no work at all. It’s my kind of recipe! Even better, the finished stock can be frozen for future uses in a variety of recipes, and many of the Crock It! recipes we’ve posted here.
Carcass of one chicken (if you also have skin or stuffing or even leftover gravy, that can be used also)
Variety of vegetables including (1) onion, celery, carrots, any herbs leftover in a vegetable drawer, (2) bay leaves
Enough water to cover everything in the pot
Place all chicken and vegetables in slow cooker (6 quart size is best) and fill to just about the top with water.
Cover and cook on high for 6 hours.
After 6 hours, turn slow cooker off a and with a slotted spoon start removing the largest pieces of bone and vegetables. Set them aside in a bowl.
Place a colander or large hand strainer over a large bowl. Place a paper towel or cheese cloth over the strainer.
Using a large soup ladle, remove the broth from the slow cooker in spoonfulls and pour over strainer. The solids will stay at the top, and the liquid will go through to the bowl underneath.
Continue until all of the broth is removed. It may require changing paper towels or cheesecloth 2/3 of the way through the process.
Allow stock to cool and store in a container in the refrigerator or pour into ice cube trays and freeze for future.
Notes from my experience:
Until about two weeks ago, I had only made stock on the stove. What I really love about this recipe is that the stock can cook all day while I am not at home, and I don’t have to worry about anything boiling over on the stove.
When using your carcass, don’t worry about getting all of the meat off. Take what you will need for a recipe from the bones and store it in the refrigerator. Any meat left on the bones will just add more flavor to the stock.
What I really love about stock is that just about anything goes. If you are short on vegetables in your refrigerator at home, the prepackaged soup vegetable in the store work really well and don’t require very little planning or thinking ahead.
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