Got a chicken? Got a pot?

September 25, 2009


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.