If chicken soup is truly good for the soul, then this recipe should be in your files. Think of a dark roasted chicken stock mixed with tomatillo puree, garlic, jalapenos, onion, and puffy pillows of hominy floating with shredded roast chicken. Stir in a little sour cream and cilantro, and you have comfort in a bowl. It smells fantastic and warms you all the way through, and helps sore throats and coughs feel better. All of my guys give this soup big thumbs up….
In August I started a health experiment. My family tree has a few food allergies and intolerances, and I’ve lived with certain symptoms for a few years that I thought were related to other things, but never really thought I might have inherited any of those food issues. But this summer I reached a point where I could no longer ignore the possibility. I’ve been tested for allergies and already knew that wasn’t an issue, but a food intolerance can be sneaky. It can mask itself as other things, many other things, making it difficult to pinpoint a source for symptoms….
[This blog post showcases a few photos from my spring visit to Whiffletree Farm, and includes a recipe for homemade chicken stock from their pastured chickens. Visit my photography website to see all the photos from this photo shoot. ~ Andrea]
In May I spent a morning photographing the daily chores at Whiffletree Farm in Warrenton, Virginia. The farm is run by Jesse and Liz Straight and their family, along with paid apprentices. (Make sure to check out their apprenticeship program.) They began their farm in 2009 and moved to the current location in 2012. Their specialty is pastured broiler chickens and turkeys, though they also have laying heritage hens, free-forage pigs and grass-finished beef. In their farm store, they sell whole chickens and as various chicken parts, stock, and eggs, as well as their own pork products. In addition, they offer local grass-fed beef and lamb from Over the Grass Farm, and products from a number of their friends and neighbors (full product list for 2014).
We started early, around 6 am, and I had to leave my home at 5 am to make it there in time. It was a foggy morning, the kind that makes the tall grass damp and mutes the colors of the pastures and sky. Jesse and his apprentice Matt and I talked as we walked out to the chicken pasture, and his daughter came along to help. While Jesse moved all 20 chicken coops, she tapped the coops with a stick to encourage the chickens to go. The chicken coops are moved every day so the chickens are getting fresh grass and much less exposure to their droppings, all of which helps the chickens stay healthy. This also helps naturally fertilize the pasture.
They get frequent deliveries of new chicks, which stay in protected stalls in the barn with heat lamps until they are about three weeks old, then they are moved out to the pasture. The barn is actually an old horse barn with center stalls on both sides and lots of room for more chickens to come.
As the baby chicks grow, they offer fresh pasture grass along with their feed to encourage the chicks to graze when they move outside.
There are a few roosters strutting around the barn, but Jesse said they were destined for the pot soon.
I was very impressed with the farm and the family’s commitment to sustainable practices, as well as their support of the local agricultural community. I went back for another quick trip to their farm store and brought home chicken backs (for the chicken stock recipe below), chicken and duck eggs, and a few other local delicacies. We’ve already planned for a summer visit, which is coming up later this month. I’m ready and planning for it to be about 30 degrees warmer.
So, now for the chicken stock recipe. I tend to make mine very basic without vegetables, with the exception of onions, because I like it to be a palette for other flavors. So it works well for soup, stir fry, risotto, just about anything that uses chicken stock. If you want a light broth, just use half (or less) of the stock called for in a recipe and add water. There’s no salt in this recipe, so I add extra salt to taste for each dish I make.
I keep jars of stock in the freezer in three different sizes: 1 cup, 2 cups, and 1 quart. This way I can use whatever amount I need at the time without constantly refreezing for smaller amounts.
One of the benefits of using the chicken backs is the extra meat. I pulled about a pound of meat off the bones after making stock, which was great in chicken tacos.
- 3 to 4 pounds chicken backs
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon sunflower or olive oil
- ~6 quarts/liters water
- Using the cleaver, hack the backs into 2-inch pieces. Heat the sunflower oil in the bottom of the stock pot, and arrange part of the chicken pieces around it. Sauté until the the pieces are just browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to drain. Repeat with the rest of the chicken until it's finished. Sauté the onion until soft, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Arrange the cooked chicken pieces in the bottom of the stock pot and pour in the water. Cover with the lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking at a simmer for 1 hour. Skim any foam or other bits off the top every 10 to 15 minutes as it cooks.
- Remove the chicken pieces and set aside to cool. Strain any remaining large pieces with a slotted spoon or strainer, then pour the stock through a large strainer, sieve, or chinois. Allow the stock to cool, then transfer to plastic freezer jars. Will store in the freezer for several months.
- Pull the meat from the cooked chicken pieces and save for chicken salad, tacos, or soup.
8 to 10 quart heavy stock pot with lid
strainer, sieve, or chinois
large bowl or pot
plastic freezer jars in various sizes (1 cup, 2 cups, quart)
Though you can skim off the fat from the stock, I recommend leaving it for storage and allow it to rise to the top of the jar, then skimming before using in a recipe.
More from The Farm Project
More Chicken Stock Recipes From Other Blogs
There’s only two more weeks until The Fit Foodie 5K Race Weekend here in Fairfax, Virginia, and my feet have been hitting the pavement several times a week to prepare. It’s a pretty big day for me because this is my first 5K since starting cancer treatment last year. My break from cancer treatment is coming to an end, so I am enjoying this last month before we have to start again….
On our crazy busy weeknights, getting a healthy meal on the table quickly is a big deal, and we get the boys in the kitchen to help. Each one has a job, and they rotate the jobs amongst themselves. One helps with food preparation, one helps with setting the table, one helps with cleaning up at the end. This is one meal that the kids love to help with because the vegetable prep is pretty easy, they just need to thinly slice the napa cabbage, and chop onions and carrots. All four of my guys really like this, and I make a double batch, which is enough to feed the family and have some leftovers. They like the crunch of the cabbage and cashews, and the drizzle of lime juice helps balance the sweetness of the sauce….
Spring is almost here. The snow is nearly melted, the ground is starting to soften, and the first crocuses peeped out today, which means it’s about time to get out in our garden and start prepping the spring beds. I have packs of cilantro and dill seeds, two herbs that love cool spring temperatures, plus our spring greens ready to plant. Cilantro is at the top of my favorite herbs list, and I love that it pops up in the spring, its fragrant leaves ready for just about anything I want to cook. We seed several rows of it, staggering the plantings to help keep it going into the summer. Once the summer heat really kicks in, the cilantro will flower and go to seed, but we have a few months to enjoy fresh-picked cilantro before that happens….
Curries are one of my favorite dishes to make in the slow cooker because the flavor improves the longer it cooks, but the bonus is that I get to enjoy the aroma for most of the day. This chicken korma with tomatoes and sweet potato makes the house smell so good. It’s a family favorite that I pulled from the Cooking Light online feature 105 Slow-Cooker Favorites, which is full of meat and meatless dishes. I make a double batch, which gives us plenty of leftovers for lunches or a hasty meal on one of our crazy busy weeknights. I love that it only takes about 15 minutes to put it all together, and then the slow cooker does the rest of the work….
My family’s love of Mexican food is well-documented on this blog, and we have some kind of Mexican dish on the menu once a week. My boys especially enjoy the leftovers for lunch. When I pack their lunch bags for school, I warm up any leftover rice, meat, and beans, then layer it into their Thermoses and top it off with cheese and salsa. It’s a healthy hot lunch that they love and devour….
All that wet, cool weather we had last week kept us indoors. Every time I had to go out, I got drenched and chilled. I was ready for the fall temperatures, just not eight inches of rain in six days. Thank you very much, Tropical Storm Karen. Staying trapped indoors for a week got a little old, but it was perfect weather for soups, chilies, and curries….
My guys love chili so much that they could eat it every week, even on a hot summer day. When we have a pot cooking on the stove, the boys ask me to take off the lid so they can see it cooking and stick their noses a little closer to soak in the aroma. Inevitably, Hockey Guy will ask, “Is this the chili I like?” And I always say “yes” because that boy has never met a chili he didn’t like….
I remember very clearly the first time I had Ro*Tel®. I was spending a summer working in Arkansas, and the family I stayed with made the now-(in)famous Velveeta and Ro*Tel dip. This was back in the 80s when thick and gooey cheese-coated nachos was all the rage at sporting events and sports bars, and I remember thinking how addictive that dip was. Even though I haven’t made the dip in years, I still always have cans of Ro*Tel® Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies in our pantry because it’s such a great convenience item, especially when chili peppers are out of season. I throw it in soups and stews all the time, and it’s perfect for slow cooker recipes, or even spicing up a pot of plain rice. When you need tomatoes and chilies, a can of Ro*Tel® is perfect….
Some days we just want good Chinese food like you would get for takeout. Nothing fancy or esoteric, just some of our favorite Chinese restaurant dishes, such as kung pao chicken, hot and sour soup, egg drop soup, Mongolian beef, sesame chicken, char siu pork, and dan dan noodles. If you love Chinese takeout, then The Chinese Takeout Cookbook by Diana Kuan is worth a look….
Brunswick stew is comfort in a bowl, and my family can eat bowl after bowl. We like it with dark pumpernickel bread, cornbread or oyster crackers on top, and I prefer the bread, which we dunk in the broth and soak up the flavor. It’s an old Southern tradition that we like to keep, and it’s especially good to warm us up on cold winter nights….
I always enjoy looking back on our favorite recipes from the past year, the ones that we would make over and over again. Though there are often many—and this year was no different—I try to keep the list down to twelve. So here they are, our family’s favorite recipes from 2012. We hope you enjoy them, and we look forward to sharing more recipes with you in 2013!
We are big fans of robust Caribbean spices. Allspice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger are all staples in our pantry and add tons of flavor to both savory and sweet dishes. They are an important part of the iconic jerk spice mix, which we rub all over grilled meats, and they are a perfect addition to meaty stews. This Jamaican chicken stew from Cooking Light is full of flavor and perfect for cold wintry days. Pour it over brown rice and you have a meal in a bowl….
Last week we quickly harvested the last of our summer garden just before the night temperatures plunged into the 30s. We had baskets full of fresh basil to process and share with friends. I chopped and froze a bunch of tomatoes, threw several in this dish, and our kitchen counters are still completely covered with more ripening tomatoes. With that much basil and all those tomatoes, I needed to do something with them, and fast. This easy recipe from the latest issue of Cooking Light hit the spot and was a hit with all my guys. It’s simply skillet cooked chicken cooked with orzo, tomatoes, spinach, and cheese….
The Ticonderoga Farms Fig Feast is in its second year, and had a happy crowd waiting to enjoy the farm-fresh figs. This year visitors were treated to Chef Patierno of Girasole and Panino demonstrating how to make his beautiful fig tart. As he talked about the tart, he had many good things to say about Ticonderoga figs, emphasizing that these are the only figs he uses now because of their high quality. As someone who has eaten these figs for the last year, I have to agree….
Our homegrown tomatillos have been coming in at a trickle, and finally they started rolling in, so last weekend I made tomatillo chili. I’ve been working on this idea for a while, using all grilled or broiled ingredients for a smoky taste. I started by briefly marinating the chicken in lime juice while the tomatillos broiled in the oven, then grilling the chicken and vegetables and briefly sautéing the spices. The resulting flavor is smoky and slightly sweet, balanced with a bit of saltiness, and it was a hit with the family. All of my guys went back for seconds, a win in my book….
I was out having lunch with my friend Michelle a couple months back, and we went to Sweet Basil Café in Herndon, a favorite lunch spot for the work crowd. That day they had a mango chicken salad on the specials, and it sounded so appealing that we both ordered it. The flavors really hit the spot with sweet mango, grilled chicken, lemon vinaigrette, and nigella seeds, and I knew I had to give this one a try at home. I like dinner salads in the summertime because they are so easy and light on hot days….
Weekly dinners at Casa Meyers can be a challenge with juggling the family schedule, and I try to keep things as easy as possible, including cleanup (my least favorite part). Some kind of Mexican food is on our menu every week, and it’s always a favorite for our boys. For our latest Mexican meal we made grilled chicken sliders flavored with chipotle powder and served the shredded meat topped with mango avocado salsa on whole wheat slider buns, and also made a slaw with chipotle vinaigrette. I played around with the salsa recipe a bit, trying it with and without jalapenos, and we decided the jalapenos made it way too hot….
I adore flavorful baked chicken recipes, especially when they are easy, and it hardly gets easier or more flavorful than this baked curry chicken. I adapted this from a recipe in Ten, by Sheila Lukins. Her version mimics tandoori chicken with only a little sauce and feeds a crowd, but my family likes sauce, the more the better, so I made extra sauce and cut back on the chicken, plus I made a cilantro raita to go along with it, which was a big hit. The chicken takes an hour in the oven, but prep only takes about 10 minutes, so it’s very little hands on work and perfect for a weeknight meal….
I spent a couple years working in Saudi Arabia, and when you live in an area so remarkable for such a short amount of time, there will always be opportunities missed. One of the things I wish I had been able to fit in while living in the Middle East was a trip to Morocco. For someone like me who thrills at the sight of handmade ceramics and carpets and the aromas of local food, this would have been the trip of a lifetime. Who knows, I may still go someday….
Chicken Marsala is a classic dish of pan-fried chicken with a creamy Marsala wine mushroom sauce, and it’s easily adapted with lactose-free milk.
Serve with roasted red potatoes and steamed or sautéed green beans….
Country Captain sounds like such an unusual name for a chicken dish, but once I learned the origins it made sense. A “country captain” was a captain of native troops paid by England in the colonial days, and it’s very likely that this dish or something very similar was introduced to England by a native officer. The dish spread to the American south which has claimed country captain chicken as its own….