Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Make-Ahead Chicken Dinner


 After getting a few requests for additional recipe posts, I thought I'd try and share with you more frequently some of the meals we enjoy.  This chicken dinner is easy, delicious, and best of all, the majority of it can be prepared ahead of time.  I don't know about you, but there are often times that we are away from the house and somehow arrive home just as everyone is hungry and tired (smile).   

I cooked a whole chicken in the crock pot for the first time a couple weeks ago.  I prepared everything early on a Sunday morning and when we arrived home around noon, the house smelled wonderful and the chicken was literally falling off the bone. 

I loved it so much that I made it again for supper yesterday... I started it about 11:00 in the morning and we ate at 5:00.  Six hours seemed to be just perfect for the chicken.

Let's get cooking, friends!

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken


 1 whole chicken
1 carrot
1 celery rib
1/4 yellow onion
1Tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
1 tsp minced or chopped garlic
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Crock Pot (it doesn't have to be fancy... I received mine as a wedding gift and it's still going strong today)


 Begin by removing the packaging from your chicken.  Remove any giblets and give it a thorough rinsing, inside and out, under cold water.  Pat the chicken dry and place it in a crock pot.  Sprinkle coarse salt all over the chicken and inside the cavity as well.  Repeat by freshly grinding black pepper over and inside too. 


Chop the carrot, celery and onion.  Prepare the garlic and thyme.  (I didn't worry about chopping up the thyme... I just removed the leaves from the stems.)    


 Scatter the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, and lemon juice over and around the chicken in the crock pot.  Put the lid on, turn your crock pot on high and simply leave it for the next 5-6 hours. 

Note: You do not need to add any liquid to the chicken... as the chicken cooks, it will create its own juices.  Yum!

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 Fresh Garden Salad


 Typically my salad making consists of opening the refrigerator and seeing what I have that is fresh.  Yesterday it was a spring mix of lettuce and greens, grape tomatoes, a cucumber, red onion and goat cheese. 


I chopped the vegetables and combined everything with the exception of the goat cheese, covered and placed in the refrigerator.   

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Balsamic Vinaigrette


 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp lime juice (lemon would also work)
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

While we're at it, let's make a balsamic vinaigrette for the salad... it's easy, I promise!  Combine all the ingredients, cover and shake until everything is thoroughly mixed.  I love this dressing because it's so flavorful - a little tangy and just slightly sweet. Place it in the refrigerator too... we'll add it to the salad just before it's time to eat.

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Cornbread


 1 cup self-rising cornmeal (or 1 cup cornmeal, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp salt)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

8" Cast Iron Skillet

Note: This is just the right amount for our family, but if you're serving a larger group, you can easily double the recipe and use a larger cast iron skillet.  My skillet is old but I think the equivalency would be about 8".

Combine cornmeal, buttermilk and egg.  We're going to add the butter later.

This is a very traditional cornbread.  I have no idea whether this is acceptable in the cooking world, but many times I have combined the cornbread ingredients ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator for a few hours until I'm ready to put it in the oven.  It's just another step out of the way.  If you'd prefer to wait until dinner time to combine the ingredients, that's fine too.

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About Six Hours Later 

   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Over high heat on the stove, melt 1/2 Tbsp butter and stir it in the bowl with the cornbread batter.  Melt another 1/2 Tbsp butter and swirl it all over the cast iron skillet so that the cornbread won't stick to the skillet as it cooks. 

 
Pour the batter into the skillet and bake until golden (for this size, I removed after 20 minutes... for a larger size, you may need to bake longer). 


  While the cornbread is baking, pour your desired amount of vinaigrette in the salad, mix and sprinkle goat cheese over the top.   (Of course you can eliminate the cheese or use whatever you would like as a topping.) 


Remove the chicken meat from the crock pot and place on a platter.  I like to pour some of the pan juices on top of the chicken along with some of the vegetables and thyme.  Besides being easy, what I love so much about this chicken is that since it has simmered in its wonderful juices for several hours, it is so moist and tender.


Remove the cornbread from the oven and don't forget to place a jar of fresh, local honey on the table as well.  It works as dessert too! 


If you're like me and simply putting this meal on the table for your family, you can haphazardly set the table and serve the cornbread in the skillet (smile).  

Enjoy! 

P.S.  When you're cleaning up, don't throw away all that delicious chicken juice!  Strain to remove the vegetables and bones, add some water to the rich broth, ladle into freezable containers or bags and you have homemade chicken broth to use another time! 

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23 comments:

  1. It just so happens that I had a fresh chicken ready to cook. I ran outside in my pj's to gather some fresh thyme and I don't think my neighbors saw me :) It's in the crockpot in perfect time for dinner. I've got all of the ingredients for the rest of the meal as well. Thanks so much, I know it will be delish!

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  2. I love those napkins. They're on my list to buy from Anthro.

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  3. looks yummy - thank you for the recipe!

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  4. Uh - yum! Thanks, I will try this! With three little ones, it's all about make-ahead meals these days...

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    1. Okay I actually did make this chicken for dinner - it was fantastic and easy. I'd never cooked one in the crockpot before. Thanks for the great recipe!

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    2. I'm so glad to hear that you liked it, Sarah! Thanks for letting me know.

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  5. Oh Man Andrea, I'm gonna do this tomorrow. I love my crock pot and never need an excuse to make cornbread. Yum is right. Love simple comfort food don't you? Can't wait.
    Lisa

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  6. Wonderful meal! Yum! Thank you for sharing.

    Marina

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  7. Gosh, Andrea, I want to try all of these. I'm on the lookout for simple dinners that my kids will eat. This might be one of them.

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  8. What a beautiful rustic dinner! Love the cornbread in the skillet...how cute. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. This all looks so yummy, Andrea! I love getting ideas for meals especially when I know it is something my family will love!!

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  10. Your girls are getting a very healthy start on life with your cooking. I was raised on food like this and was very rarely sick growing up. I think your photography is getting better with each post. Beautiful!!

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    1. Oh thank you, Rachel! I had a difficult time taking pictures once the meal was finished... it was late afternoon and rainy outside, so our kitchen was very dark! :-)

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  11. Wow that looks great !!! Hope your having a great week

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  12. As one who has requested and enjoyed your recipes, thank you for including these. I will be trying them soon!

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    1. I'm so glad you have enjoyed them, Barbara!

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  13. I love a great crock pot recipe...and this is one that I am definitely trying!!...
    Happy Valentine's Day!!

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  14. This meal looks lovely and perfect for a rainy day:) I try to cook only with whole foods so this is a great dinner idea. Now if I could just get someone else to do the cooking while I relax with a good book!!!!!:) I know I know it wouldn't be the same for my family. They feel very loved when I am cooking for them. That is something one can't hire out....

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  15. Wonderful! I love your photos and your dishes. I can almost smell everything cooking. Perfection!

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  16. Everything you do is beautiful! This looks healthy and delicious!

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  17. Just now I've prepared this chicken recipe for tonights dinner - thank you!

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  18. Andrea I tried your chicken on Valentine's night. Absolutely delicious! The BEST chicken we've ever had. Thanks so much for the recipe.

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