Lou's Clues: Chicken on the cheap!

Besides saving money, I'm a freak for saving time. I know how difficult it is to work all day, then come home and cook yourself and your tribe a great dinner before you all waste away from starvation.

OK, that may be a little dramatic, but I know that when I get home I am famished, and I bet you are too! So let's blow the dust off that crock pot you got as an engagement/graduation/first-apartment gift many moons ago, and put it to good use.

Crock Pot Chicken and Fennel Stew

Here is a dish that is delicious, healthy, and so easy that it cooks itself -- and of course, it's cheap! At least once a month you can usually find whole chickens on sale at the supermarket for under a buck per pound. These are usually 2.5-pound to 3.5-pound yard birds, which are the perfect size for this dish.

Take one, defrost it and remove the little chicken sachet (that's the bag with the "spare parts," as I like to call them -- the gizzard, heart, liver, etc.), then rub it with kosher salt before rinsing it well.

Place it into the crock pot along with 6 to 8 cups of water, 2 cups of white wine, a few stalks of chopped celery, 2 chopped onions and 2 to 3 chopped carrots as well.

No need to be fancy, rustic chopped veggies work best. My favorite part is adding thin slices of fennel bulb -- the aroma and flavor are a knockout!

Season with salt, pepper, garlic and tarragon, and don't forget a few bay leaves (but remember to remove them before serving your stew). I always add a fat to the mix, and in my case it's always extra virgin olive oil -- about 2 tablespoons. Once everything is in the pot, set it to High and leave for work.

When you get home, you will immediately notice an aroma that you wished Airwick would bottle -- the smell of a mouthwatering chicken dinner that is almost ready!

To finish off this stew, go into the pantry and grab all those nearly-empty pasta boxes and that box of broken lasagna noodles you can never use, and throw them into the pot. In about 15 minutes, your noodles should be cooked to perfection and ready to eat!

To serve, cut the chicken into pieces (be generous, the bird only cost about $4) placing each piece onto a large soup bowl, then ladle out the veggies, fennel slices and noodles over the top.

Serve this with a loaf of crusty bread and run to the window to observe the singing parade members your family has summoned to your yard as a thank you!

Chef Louie hosts Good Day Food & Wine, a nationally syndicated weekend radio show. A culinary veteran, Chef Louie pledges to empower you in the kitchen, the supermarket, and help you eat better, entertain better and keep more of that hard-earned money close to home. Sign up for his free e-newsletter here.
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