When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade… and when life gives you fifty-cent-a-pound whole chickens, you make chicken stock.
This stock may not follow every rule of classical stockmaking. In fact, since it starts with a whole chicken instead of six pounds of chicken bones & carcasses, I'm pretty darn certain it doesn't. But it's simple as can be to put together and produces a prodigious amount of fragrant, all-natural liquid that tastes better than anything you'll get out of a can (or a jar of Better than Bouillon, which is usually my refuge in times of lack of homemade broth). And, as a bonus, you get lots of delicately poached shredded chicken meat to do with as you will.
Just make sure you have plenty of room in the freezer before you start. I'm thinking that the frozen turkey that's been taking up space since oh, Thanksgiving or so, will have to make way for the various & sundry containers of stock that now need a place to call their own.
Lazy Woman's Chicken Stock*
Makes about 1.5 gallons
Two medium onions, peeled and quartered
Three cloves garlic–no need to peel if you don't feel so inclined
Two medium carrots, cut into large chunks
Two ribs of celery, cut likewise into large chunks
One bouquet garni, consisting of a handful of flat-leaf parsley sprigs, several fresh thyme sprigs and a bay leaf, all wrapped or tied in a bit of cheesecloth
One chicken, three to four pounds, giblets and any other suspicious-looking bits hanging out in the cavity removed
One teaspoon salt
In a very large soup pot (I pull out the big mo-fo for this job), place vegetables and bouquet garni. Place whole chicken, breast side down, on top of vegetables. Fill pot with water to just cover chicken (I think this used about 6 quarts water in my case). Sprinkle in salt.
Cover and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn to heat just high enough to maintain a barest simmer. Skim frequently during first hour of cooking (my skimmer doesn't have a fine enough mesh, so I tied a bit of cheesecloth over it). After first hour, skim every twenty to thirty minutes, until chicken is completely cooked through and meat is starting to fall away from the bone. This will probably take about two to two-and-a-half hours.
Carefully (!) extract chicken from pot to a cutting board. The chicken is likely to break into two or three pieces during this process; that's fine. Set aside to cool slightly.
Line a large colander with cheesecloth. Set it into a very large bowl and carefully (!) pour remaining stock through it, stopping as necessary to scoop out pieces of veg that are impairing the stock's transit through the cheesecloth. Cool stock by setting it in a sink partially filled with ice water, then move to refrigerator to finish cooling. When completely cool, skim fat from surface of stock. Transfer skimmed stock to containers in two- or three-cup increments and freeze.
Meanwhile, when chicken is cool enough to handle, use your fingers to pull off skin and shred meat into small edible bits. Divide into increments as you like, wrap, refrigerate or freeze.
Look, stock and chicken! (And miscellaneous carcassy bits!)
* Since this is made with meat and not just a carcass, it's technically a "broth" rather than a "stock." But I think "stock" sounds better, so there it is.