Sunday, January 17, 2016

Poached chicken, chicken stock and a chicken & cabbage casserole

Heavy on the chicken are we in this post! There's a reason for it, though, and that is to show you one of the wonderful things about cooking for the GAPS diet: utilizing as much of the ingredients on hand as possible. As an excellent example of this, here is one of the mainstays of my diet thus far -- chicken. Much of the early stages of the GAPS Intro diet rely on chicken, beef and fish stocks.

A wonderful way to produce the staples for many of the GAPS Intro recipes starts with poaching a whole chicken.  If you include a few roughly chopped carrots, celery stalks and onions, you will end up with not just a supply of cooked chicken meat, but also a quantity of wholesome chicken stock.

Further, once you've picked the meat from the bones, you can freeze the bones and accumulate them until you have enough for a batch of bone broth. I absolutely love this use and re-use aspect!  Multiple products from one item.

So, to start, let's assemble the ingredients:  a whole chicken (still frozen!), a few organic carrots, stalks of celery and a couple of white cooking onions.  Don't peel the vegetables; just wash the carrots and celery thoroughly and trim the ends. Quarter the onions and leave the skins on as they give the stock a really nice colour.

Put everything in a large stock pot (yes, that is my blue enamel canner doing double-duty as a stock pot!), add 8 quarts of water, cover and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and keep at a slow simmer for 3-4 hours. Simmering will result in a clear broth. Unfortunately, for this batch, I missed it and allowed the stock to fully boil for nearly an hour before I caught it and turned down the heat. Consequently, my stock is cloudy. Still just as flavourful, just not nice and clear. Next time I will endeavour to watch more closely and catch the stock just as it comes to the boil.

After 3-4 hours, turn off the heat and allow the stock to cool for an hour or so.

Once cool, use tongs and a slotted spoon to remove the chicken and vegetables to a colander sitting inside a large bowl to drain.

I will be using some of the chicken stock right now to make a chicken & cabbage casserole, but if you are not going to be using the stock immediately, strain it into another large pot to remove any remaining meat and vegetables, then portion it out into freezer containers and freeze, or prepare a pressure canner and jars and process for 20 minutes (for pint jars) or 25 minutes (for quart jars) at 11 pounds of pressure at altitudes up to 1000 feet.  Adjust for higher altitudes according to manufacturer's instructions.  Stocks CAN NOT be canned in a boiling water bath.

So, to start the casserole, I strain 2 quarts (8 cups) of my finished chicken stock into another large soup pot and set it over high heat to bring it to a boil.

While the stock is heating, thinly slice half a head of cabbage.

Once the stock is boiling, add the cabbage, cover, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 30 minutes or until the cabbage is soft.

Meanwhile, prepare the "gravy" for the casserole.  I'm using a Stage 1 recipe for onion soup as inspiration. Thinly slice 2 leeks, a white cooking onion, a red onion and 3 scallions.

Pour the accumulated juices from the chicken carcass and vegetables into a large soup pot.

Once the cabbage has finished cooking, pour through a colander into the soup pot and let the cabbage drain for a few minutes.

Turn the heat on under the soup pot to medium and add the sliced onions and leeks.

Tie up a bouquet garni (I used parsley, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves) and add it to the pot. Cover and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pick through the chicken carcass and vegetables.  Add the vegetables to the compost bin and pick the meat off the bones placing each in a separate bowl.  In the top photo, there is a freezer bag of chicken meat from a previous batch that I will be adding to this batch.  At the same time, put the chicken bones into another freezer bag and collect the bones from subsequent batches until you have enough to make a batch of bone broth.

Once the onions have cooked and are soft, puree with an immersion blender.

Add the reserved cabbage and chicken meat and mix well.

Spoon into a greased oven-proof casserole dish and bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

Cool, then portion out into freezer containers and freeze.

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