Tag Archives: Chickens

How to use a whole chicken: The Chicken Tortilla Soup Edition

ChickentortsoupIt’s kind of a dumb show, but have you watched Eureka? (Don’t run out and watch it if you missed it, this isn’t a show I’d recommend to normal people.) We watched a couple seasons of it, but probably only one episode sticks in my mind. The one where the whole town loses its sky high IQ because they’re eating cloned chicken breast.

Anyhoodles, with my freezer full of home grown chickens, boneless skinless chicken breasts are not on the docket. It’s made me realize how ubiquitous the boneless skinless chicken breast has become.

Whole chickens have a huge advantage; they taste better. Their only drawback is that they can be a little more trouble. They take a little planning, and very few modern recipes start out with the whole bird. This is my go to “recipe” it tastes delicious and it doesn’t take long to get started. It is a great company dish or a great weekend soup, I’ll make it Friday or Saturday and we’ll eat it all weekend, it tastes better the second day. This is a super forgiving dish, so start out here and see where it takes you. I don’t think I make it exactly the same way twice, but I paid attention and made notes just for this occasion.

Whole Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • Servings: makes 5- 7qts
  • Print

  • 1 whole chicken, skin removed
  • 2 cans (15oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can(15oz) diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 15 oz salsa (Yes, I hate dishes, use the tomato can.)
  • 2 cans black beans,
  • Water or chicken broth
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3 to 12 cloves of garlic, or just lots
  • 2 TB chili powder (I use mild.)
  • 2 TB oregano (or more)
  • Oil for sautéing      
  • Any or all of the following for garnish
  • Limes (must)
  • Cilantro (must)
  • Fried tortilla strips
  • Tortilla chips      
  • Cheese
  • Avocado
  • Sour cream or yogurt (Especially if you have kids around.)

Saute onions and garlic in oil, add chili powder and oregano.  Place in an eight quart crock pot.Add all tomatoes, salsa, and beans, and give it a stir. Add  the chicken with breast side down and add enough water to fill pot and cover chicken.  Cook on low 6 hours. Pull the chicken out of the pot carefully, it will probably come out in pieces. Allow chicken to cool enough to handle comfortably. Pick the meat of the bones, shred and salt the meat and return in to pot. Taste for seasonings. You can add heated chicken broth to the pot if you prefer a thinner soup.

Serve with garnishes on the side with warmed tortillas and chips.

Notes: Watch the heat, heat gets stronger in the crock pot, medium salsa works well and if I’m throwing in a stray jalapeno it needs to go in toward the end. I often use a cup of soaked dried black beans instead of canned beans, but they do add cooking time to the soup.

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One day I realized it. My chickens were cannibals. They started eating each other ALIVE. My gorgeous, red, full feathered, healthy flock became ugly, scruffy, and bald within days. Nothing I did seemed to completely stop it. We tried all recommended cures. It abated slightly in the summer but never fully stopped. Winter was heading in and several of the hens were pre-plucked. If you are a bird, and if you intend to survive a North Idaho winter, feathers are not optional.

Culling, it’s what separates the men from the mice, the profit from the loss, the real farmer from the pet owner. Being a modern girl, 9/10 pet owner type, decisions of a life and death magnitude require forced objectivity. This wee bit of an imaginary farm is barely hanging on to our few acres, thus I wish to cling to every little creature belonging to it, for fear that it will be culled out of existence. Sustainability, in regards to a particular limited green resource, requires otherwise. The day came when the egg laying just wasn’t paying for the feed. My repressed inner farmer recognizes the hypocrisy of feeding useless animals in the barn, while at the same time being responsible for the deaths of at least a hundred factory farmed chickens a year.

“Hmm… we need to cull chickens. ” This is the fifth Saturday in a row that I have made this observation. “You keep saying that” my husband replies. “Yeah, I know, but I keep hoping they’ll grow back their feathers.” The picture in my mind vacillates between the horror of going out to the chicken house and discovering dead frozen chicken bodies, and an odd vision of chickens running around with little polar fleece coats over their bare backs. ” I don’t like killing things” I say. “What do you mean YOU don’t like killing things?” My husband teases. ” I get stuck with all your executions.” They call me Lady Macbeth for a reason. The failure of not being a real North Idaho girl comes home to me- again. I know I should kill my own chickens, but I nurtured these babies from cute fluffy chicks. They love me… sort of… They follow me around and come running to me. The thought that they’d eat me if the roles were reversed somewhat comforts me, but I am sure to botch the deft swift stroke which is required in the act of actually killing chickens. No, I am not a real North Idaho girl. A real North Idaho girl can kill it, gut it, and eat the liver… raw.

“Let’s just get it done.” I finally have made the firm decision. We will butcher them, I will make them into stock, I will not cry.
The decision being made I wander out the pen to select the victims. Three are obvious, they’ll never survive the winter. One bird, who starts eating another, is subsequently given her one way ticket to the clothes line. We catch the culls, hang them up and my husband slits their throats, it is over pretty quickly, but I know that he doesn’t care for killing things any more than I do. Unlike me however, he’s man enough to do it.

I wonder if Lady Macbeth felt more guilt about the murder of Duncan, or about making the reluctant Macbeth do the fell deed. “Out damned spot.”


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The Repressed Farmer

A lot of people have a repressed desire to farm. I know this is true by the number of people who have virtual farms, you would not have virtual farm if you didn’t have some primeval urge to farm. We are all descended from people who tilled the earth by the sweat of their brow, it’s in our blood. People used to deal with it by farming, raising chickens, and pigs, planting enormous gardens and canning everything that was possibly cannable and many things that were only passably cannable. The world has changed, fast forward to the modern age and people still feed that repressed inner farmer, by using Facebook apps such as Farmville, buying cases of canned goods at Cost-co and growing mold in the refrigerator. They may not even be aware that they have repressed inner farmer.
Cursed with an inner farmer that was not satiated with such simple pleasures, she begged for chickens and got them. I am not passionate about chickens, they smell, they poop and many of them lack endearing qualities. My inner farmer loves chickens. She loves the way they make soft clucking noises when they’re happy and trumpet to the world when they’ve laid an egg. She loves the sight of a beautiful big bird scratching in the distance. She likes nurturing the flock. I do like the eggs, it’s all about the payoff, the difference between a day old egg, laid by a real chicken with access to dirt, bugs and sunshine, and a month old store bought egg is amazing.
Now my ‘farm’ has goats, two lovely girls, just dying to give lots and lots of fresh, creamy, sweet milk which I shall turn into mounds and mounds of glorious cheese. All will be happiness, sweetness and light. Odd, unrealistic things happen on the farm in my head. Ahh, dreams. I know that eight chickens and two goats do not a farm make, but they sure make my repressed farmer feel less… repressed.


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