Spicy Chicken and Orzo Soup (crock pot)

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With my husband sick last week I wanted to make a good but easy chicken noodle soup.  Using a whole chicken, I broke it down and cooked it all day in the slow cooker to develop a spicy homemade broth.  Adding orzo noodles at the end you can finish the meal with little effort.  The hardest part of this dish was breaking down the raw chicken, very different from carving a cooked bird.  I had never really done this before, but I have read about it in my cooking magazines.  Don’t let them fool you, it is a bit of a process.  For those of you who don’t like to handle raw chicken…this is not for you.  I unfortunately don’t have pictures of the process as I didn’t want to get raw chicken hands on my phone.

Here is a link to a brief tutorial.  http://www.marthastewart.com/967789/how-cook#973692

Now I cut mine a little differently because I didn’t watch the tutorial first, rather went from memory.  Using kitchen shears I cut the bird in half through the spine and finished separating right from left by then splitting the breasts.  With the two equal halves I cut off the legs and wings.

If you don’t want to deal with bones you can use boneless and skinless chicken breasts, but I’m not sure you will develop the same flavor in the broth without the bones and skin.

I decided to use the orzo noodles for a smoother consistency with the large pieces of chicken, but you can use a traditional egg noodle or whatever noodle you want.  The fun part of cooking with orzo is that on day two the noodles will soak up almost all of the broth making a thick casserole consistency for the leftovers.

The best part about this meal is that it is very cheap to make a large quantity of food.  Whole chickens are inexpensive compared to buying the pieces separately.  I paid $5 for the whole chicken and about $3-4 for the rest of the ingredients (except spices that I had on hand).  After we had this for dinner I put the rest into mason jars for lunch, it made enough for 2 of us for the entire week.  Less processed and way less sodium than the canned stuff!

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Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds), broken down into pieces.
1 large onion, diced
6 large carrots, peeled and diced
6 stalks of celery, diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 dried chili pepper (Optional for heat)
4-5 sprigs of thyme, stems removed
1 bay leaf
1 lb orzo noodles, uncooked.
water
salt and pepper to taste (be generous, at least 1-2 tsp of salt and pepper each)

Directions:

1. Break down your chicken as instructed above.

2. Layer the crock pot with onions, celery, carrots and top with chicken.

3. Season with salt and pepper generously, add garlic, thyme, chili pepper and bay leaf.

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4. Fill the crock pot with cold water.  Cook on high for 2 hours then cook on low for 4 hours.

5. At least 30 minutes before serving add orzo noodles and stir gently.

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6. To serve ladle out noodles and vegetables with a whole piece of chicken per person.  The chicken will literally fall off the bone in your bowl, so you can grab end and it will come out clean with little effort.

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7. For storage remove the rest of the pieces of chicken and separate meat from bones, stir to mix well (you can do this immediately if you don’t want to serve the chicken pieces whole).

Enjoy!

 

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Whole Sage Chicken and Stock (slow cooker)

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Starting with a small roaster chicken, an easy weeknight meal can be made in the slow cooker while you are away at work.  I found this recipe online a few years ago, so easy and inexpensive to make.  The best part is that this chicken is super moist and the flavors can be unique based on the spices you want to use.  I used dried sage, onion, and garlic for tonight’s chicken.  I am including two options for stock with this post as well.  The quick stock is nice but unnecessary for basting during cooking, the chicken will be delicious if you leave it alone all day.  I used this quick stock to make a butternut squash soup to have as a side to the chicken, yum!  If you have the time and patience, you can make a true slow cooked stock in the slow cooker after you eat the chicken.

Ingredients:

– 1 small roasting chicken 4-6 lbs
– 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
-1 medium yellow onion, half sliced in rings and half diced.
– 2 Tbsp of dried sage
– salt and pepper to taste

Quick Stock:

– chicken neck and organs (that are usually neatly cleaned and packed in chicken).
-1/2 onion, diced
-2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced
-1 bay leaf
– 1 tsp dried sage
-1 tsp ground pepper
-1 tsp salt (more to taste)
-4 cups of water

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Directions:

1. Line bottom of crock pot with sliced onion and 1/2 of the sliced garlic.

2. Remove organs and neck from chicken (reserve for stock), rinse with water and pat dry.

3. Season inside of chicken with salt, pepper, and 1/2 the sage.  Fill with diced onions and 1/3 of garlic.

4. Place chicken breast side up on top of onion bed.  Season with salt, pepper, remaining sage and garlic.

5. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until fully cooked.  (Optional if home while cooking) Baste chicken with a small amount (1/8 cup) of quick broth after 1 hour.  Then baste every hour after with juice on bottom of crock pot.

6. Carefully remove chicken when fully cooked from crock pot and carve.

Quick Broth:

1. Place reserved chicken neck and organs in medium sauce pan.

2. Add garlic, onions, seasonings, and water.

3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer for at least 45 minutes, up to 2 hours if able.

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Slow cooker Broth:

If you have the ability, after eating the chicken reserve the bones and return to crock pot with residual juices from cooking and sliced onions on bottom of pot.  Fill crock pot with water to cover bones and cook on low for 8 hours.

Strain and store in refrigerator until ready to use for up to 3 days.

Enjoy!