Step 1. Cook the chicken. I cook them at 350-375 degrees for somewhere between 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the bird and what else I have cooking in the oven with it. Sometimes I bake some sweet potatoes in the oven at the same time, which I serve with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar (or some combination of those) and cook up some green beans on the stovetop to round the meal out. Other times, I throw some water in the pan with the chicken, add potatoes, carrots, and onion, so I'm making instant chicken broth while I cook the chicken, which I then use to make gravy. Still other times, I might make mashed potatoes and corn on the stovetop and serve a nice garden salad with yummy vegetables in season. There are many, many possibilities with this step!
Step 2. Make chicken stock. After we finish eating that first meal, I dump whatever is left of the chicken in my largest pot, add carrots, onions, celery (if I have any lying around), parsley, a little salt and pepper, and enough water to fill the pot almost all the way to the top. I'll bring it to a boil, then let it simmer, covered, for anywhere from 6 to 24 hours, until I get a chance to do the next step. You may find it necessary to add more water during that period to keep the chicken submerged.
|Bowl of freshly made chicken stock. You don't see that rich color in store bought versions!|
Step 3. Pour the contents of the pot through a strainer to separate the stock from everything else. Refrigerate the stock to let any fat come to the top to skim off if desired before freezing, if that is what you are going to do with it (fat-free stock can be frozen for much longer than stock with the fat still in as well). Then sift through the chicken remains, separating out any bits of meat from the ucky parts. I'll typically get anywhere from 2 to 4 cups of meat out of a chicken at this stage. (Just to warn you, if your kids are like mine and get very upset if they don't get the wishbone out of a chicken, make sure you pull it out before making your stock. The bones get brittle and almost mushy during this stage, so there typically isn't a wishbone available once you get to this point.)
|Deboned chicken bits. Got about 2 cups off this chicken.|
|Chicken fried rice|