Domestic Whine

Yes, that’s whine, not wine. Though I am quite fond of the latter, too.

Over the last year I’ve been broadening my cooking horizons dramatically, particularly with slow cooker recipes. Since I’m now living on less than half my previous income (no day job now, just writing full time), I’ve tried to find ways to keep the grocery expenses down, and the slow cooker is also great for that. I may have gone a little too far, though…

There are many great slow cooker recipes for chicken. I have always bought boneless, skinless chicken breasts when making them–preferably the fresh ones from the meat counter, not the frozen bags (though I certainly resort to the frozen ones when the other isn’t handy). So…I was reading a crockpot cooking blog and saw instructions for how to cook a whole chicken in the slow cooker. Once cooked, the poster said to strip off all the meat by hand and use it for slow cooker chicken recipes, chicken salad, chicken tortillas/burritos/tacos, etc. Since whole chickens can be bought on sale as low as $0.79 per pound, it seemed like a good idea. Seemed being the important word here.

I bought a 4.25 pound whole chicken. It fit perfectly in my medium-sized cooker. I prepped all the spices to rub on and then cup open the chicken bag.

Can I just say…YUCK! As in…squick. Gross. Revolting.

I have found I do not, absolutely freaking NOT like cleaning fowl. I should have known this. Since my formative years I have pretty much refused to eat any meat that remotely resembles the living being it used to be. I do best with ground meat — no sign of a cow there. I can deal with filet cuts and even steak on a bone (still doesn’t look much like cow). But I try not to look at the turkey on thanksgiving (I wait for the meat to come out on a platter, already carved, then snag some white meat). I am not the type to stick my hand into the crevice of a chicken and pull out the slimy parts. Or to peel off the skin or break the bones and cut off wingtips.

Still, I can’t afford to waste food these days, so I persevered. Mostly with my eyes closed. It’s a wonder I didn’t loose a finger.

Thankfully I finished and the chicken actually turned out quite good — very moist, and falling off the bone, which was good because pulling off all the meat to use in other recipes was almost as bad as cleaning and dressing the bird in the first place.

I smiled. I had a nice big tupperware of meat that looked nothing like a bird. Then I read the rest of the recipe — how to use the carcass to produce homemade chicken broth. Aha! Another way to save money, since many of my recipes call for chicken broth. Also, since I hadn’t added salt, my home made broth would be much healthier (i.e., low in sodium) than the canned stuff from the grocery store.

Little did I know the horror had just begun. I added water and some new recommended spices to the carcass and put it on low for another 10 hours overnight. The next morning, just before I needed to finish up the broth, I got a search call. I had to switch the broth off and put the crock in the refrigerator until afternoon. By the time I got home, I had a cold, slimy dead chicken swimming in cold, slimy broth with congealed fat on top.

Not to be deterred, I closed my eyes again and dug my hands in–after a nice wash with antibacterial soap, of course–to peel the remaining meat off and find every single one of those disgusting, annoying little bones.

Again. Gross.

Anyway, the chicken is done and the broth is done. I don’t think I’ll be trying that again, though. I’ll just pay a few cents extra for the frozen chicken breasts and canned broth.

In the meantime though, keeping the horrific memories of cold chicken carcasses carefully out of mind, I am enjoying the chicken meat.  I have had several chicken sandwiches, made a chicken noodle casserole, and today I’ve got a nice crock of one of my favorite recipes, chicken tortilla soup, steaming for lunch. I’ll also make chicken and spinach quesadillas to go with it. And I still had enough meat left to freeze several cups for the future.

Mmm. Smells good in here. So good it’s hard to concentrate on writing. May have to make it an early lunch.

Here’s the very easy chicken tortilla soup recipe for other slow cooker devotees:

Chicken Tortilla Soup

 

4 cups water

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes

1 cup shredded chicken (I used one cooked chicken breast)

1 can (4 oz) chopped green chile peppers

1 envelope (2 oz) noodle soup mix with chicken broth

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp salt (I omit)

½ tsp black pepper

½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

1 onion, chopped

½ cup tortilla strips or crushed chips (I used Fritos)

 

Combine water, tomatoes, chicken, chile peppers, soup mix, salt and pepper in crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Top with cheese, tortilla strips and onion.

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