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Got a chicken? Got a pot?

September 25, 2009
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My best and craziest memories of college are of living with 7 roommates in a gigantic apartment just a block away from campus. We were something like 42 steps to our favorite bar – yes, we counted. (Those were black strappy heeled steps, by the way.)

We drank a lot, hosted a lot of parties, and when we were hungry we went to Pizzeria Uno’s. Unless it was one of those quiet nights…the kind where we all tried to use the stove at once and fit on our black pleather wraparound couch to watch a movie.

A favorite dish? Lean chicken breast pan-cooked in balsamic vinegar. No fat. Man, did that make for a tough pan to wash!

I don’t know why. I guess because it was easy and ‘healthy.’ Mostly I noticed then, and I still notice now, that people don’t like to handle raw chicken parts.


Well, we talk a lot about eating ‘whole foods.’ Is chicken a whole food? Yes. But not when you remove the skin, the fat, and only eat the breast. That’s a partial food. It’s like eating white rice or white bread. It’s missing something. When we eat animals, if we eat animals, it is a good idea to try and eat all the edible parts. Not to mention, you’ll get much more nourishment for your dollar. Boneless skinless chicken breast costs maybe $4.99/lb. but a whole chicken is something like $1.99/lb. Worried about the fat? It actually helps your digestion. There are plenty of scary, industrialized fats out there to avoid, but this isn’t one of them.


So here’s a meal that uses a whole food. 1 whole chicken. That’s right. A whole chicken, skin and all. The good news is that you don’t have to cut it up or dance around the kitchen with it – you just toss it in a pot. Can you do that? Good. Because it’s really worth getting the healing minerals and nutrients of time-tested homemade chicken soup every now and then.

And the pot will be a lot easier to clean than a pan with burnt balsamic vinegar. Trust me.

One last word on chicken. The industry is, in a word, vile. Supermarket chickens grow in cages crammed full of birds who have their beaks ripped off to avoid pecking each other to death. It’s disgusting. I implore of you to look into these practices if you are not already familiar. And when you buy animal products, look for those which were raised with some respect. That might mean you buy from a local farmer, or maybe you just choose Whole Foods over a conventional supermarket. Do what you can. Remember – you are what you eat. A healthy bird makes for a healthy you!

Chicken In A Pot
This is more like a rustic stew than pure chicken soup. The beauty is that you can toss in whatever you like and not spend hours preparing ingredients.
1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs.), rinsed
10 cups water
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns
1 Tbl. sea salt
3 onions, peeled and quartered
4 carrots, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
Optional ingredients: celery, leeks, corn, fresh herbs, rice, etc.

Inside your whole chicken there should be a bag containing the neck and organ meats. Take these parts out and combine with water, salt, bay leaf and peppercorns in a large stock pot. Simmer for about 30 minutes, then remove the chicken parts.

Add the whole chicken and veggies that require long cooking. (For instance, you can wait to add corn or spinach) Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Using tongs, carefully remove chicken and veggies from pot and place in a baking dish. Keep warm in the oven while you strain the remaining broth into a large bowl, discarding the peppercorns and bay leaf.

Pour broth back into pot. Add quick-cooking vegetables now, and any pre-cooked ingredients (like leftover rice.) While this simmers, take your chicken out of the oven and use a fork and knife to separate the wings, legs, thighs and breast meat. You can keep the wings and legs intact, but discard all other bones. For more about carving a chicken, see these steps.

Place chicken meat and veggies back into the pot, stir, adjust seasoning, and serve piping hot.

This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays.

  • Sara

    I’m not a huge chicken fan, but this soup looks yummy enough to try. I’ve heard you’re supposed to “wash” a whole chicken. What is that? Did you do it? Is it necessary? Thanks for the recipe!

  • Michelle

    You know, my mom used to wash with soap, rinse and dry. In cookbooks I’ve seen to just rinse and maybe pat dry with paper towels. I’m sure either is fine…? I don’t cook a heck of a lot of chicken either.

  • Chad

    Good job, you nailed that one. This is an easy way to get folks back in the kitchen.

    Just wash the bird under cold water and pat dry. Wash with soap? What?

  • Jen

    That chicken dish looks so yummy!!!

    I recently came across this article, where the USDA does NOT recommend washing or rinsing raw chicken at all (not that they’re the most trustworthy orginazation :) The reasoning does make sense though.

  • Maria

    If it is best to eat the whole chicken (and I also read that this is true in “Read Food: What to Eat and Why” by Nina Planck–the book you recommended ;) ), how do those who eat chicken breast, lettuce, fat-free dressing, etc. manage to lose weight?

    I know and have heard of many people who eat refined carbs, but lost weight by cutting out fat from meats/dairy products. I just read an article from Runner’s World by Mark Bittman. He lost 35 pounds by cutting out meat products and eating more produce, beans, nuts, or essentially a vegan diet. Planck on the other hand, seems to think that a vegan diet is not very nutritious. I just would like to know your opinion, since you are very well informed on this topic :)

  • Daily Diner

    My favorite recipe! Chicken in a pot. The generic term I use on my blog is “baked chicken”. Always have a whole bird ready for baking around here. I will be making more soups soon—its triple digits here in Northern California.

    One thing to note, if you buy the bird from a butcher, he will chop it up for you. I like to get ours cut into 8 pieces, because we’re a family of four and everyone has their favorite part.

    Maria- Meat is best when a sidedish. small portions.

  • Jacqueline

    Michelle, thanks so much for this post! I have been wanting to make my own chicken soup for a while, especially when I had a nasty summer cold this year! I am one of those who despise handling raw animal “parts,” but I think I can handle this recipe. Keep them coming!

  • Erica

    hahah love that you measured the number of steps :) I think I can actually walk miles in heels due to my college training days ;) Great recipe. I do not like touching chicken and only do it because Josh really enjoys it ;) This is perfect for the fall weather

  • Michelle

    @Chad – I know, isn’t that funny? But that’s what she always did!

    @Jen – thanks for the article! I can see their point. Hmmm.

    @Maria – Well I think you raise a good issue. Losing weight and being in good health are not necessarily the same thing. You can surely lose weight on chicken breasts and low fat food, just like you can lose weight by eating nothing at all. But for best overall health, whole foods are key. It’s ok to be vegetarian or vegan, but the same principle holds true. Eat whole foods! Want to lose weight? Small portions, more exercise and a diet of whole foods will go a long way.

    @DailyDiner – I wish I got mine from a butcher! Good tip, thanks!

    @Jacqueline – Oooh good luck and let me know how it goes!

    @Erica – oh man, i definitely cannot wear heels anymore like I used to. my feet fell apart! haha

  • vered | blogger for hire

    Homemade chicken soup brings back great childhood memories.

    “There are plenty of scary, industrialized fats out there to avoid, but this isn’t one of them.” – so true.

  • Kimberly@Living Free

    Hi Michelle!
    I just found your blog and am wondering how I could have been missing it!! I really like it so far:)

    I just started practicing yoga about 4 months ago and LOVE LOVE LOVE it!! It has made such an impact on my body and my mind. I was just wondering if you do cardio and if so, what do you do. I seem to be stuck on only doing yoga. I have a pretty physical job(cleaning houses) and walk when I can, but I would rather just do yoga:)

  • Daily Diner

    Do you have a Whole Foods Market there? Their butcher will chop it up for you….anyway you want it!

  • Mary

    This reminds me of a lovely chicken soup I used to make all the time while living in South Korea. It was a famous South Korean dish where you used an entire chicken. So I am going to gather the ingredients and make it later this week. YUM! Thanks for the delicious recipe.


  • Alex

    I’m a vegetarian, but the soup still looks yummy, although I’m more attracted to the big hunks of carrot and celery than bird.

    I think you should do a post on animal fats. I know there is a lot of controversy on whether long chain saturated animal fats are healthful, and I would like to hear your opinion…You could call it “You.Need.Fat.Animal.Remix.”?


  • EatingRD

    oh yum, this reminds me of winter and so comforting! I need to get a bigger pot!

  • Jessie

    Thanks for posting! This is a really great idea. I love your attitude toward fats too–so refreshing and absolutely correct.

    Thanks also for your comment over on my blog the other day. I’m really enjoying reading here.

  • Lori

    Even here where meat is already so inexpensive, chicken with the bones is even more so. I’ve gradually been transitioning to using the whole bird and want to get more comfortable with it, especially for making things like my own stock. Great post!

  • Juliana

    I’ll definitely try your chicken in a pot with my crockpot, looks delicious and just right for the colder weather…look forward to try it :-) By the way, thank you for visiting my site ;-)

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