Monday, April 11, 2011

Taking stock.....

How often do you use chicken stock? Think about it. You add a 1/2 cup here and there. Maybe a full can from time to time. You've probably even converted to the boxes of stock so you can keep the leftover in your fridge without having to dirty up any tupperware.

Now think about how great your meals come out with a good stock. So much better than when you just use water right? Now imagine if the stock you were using was a lot more flavorful. Chocked full of fresh (preferably organic) veggies that you hand picked. Imagine that chicken stock being cheaper than you can even buy it on sale with a coupon at the store. Imagine being able to use the chicken that simmered away with all those veggies.

Stock is so easy to make, yet so many people I know don't make their own. Why, when it's so easy to just grab a box at the store, right? Believe me, I'm guilty of that too. It's so easy to be out and about and decide that a big pot of soup sounds good. So, you hit the store and buy some stock. Easy. But believe me, anything you make will be so much better with a good, flavorful stock that you made at home.

And the best thing about stock is it's hard to screw up. I know it may seem difficult. And believe me, for the longest time I was certain it would surely taste better if someone else was being paid to make it for me. Or there had to be some magic trick to getting it to turn out right. But I was amazed at how easy it was to make. Literally by the second time I made it, I didn't even need to look up any tips or tricks. It was that simple. Chicken bones. Veggies. Seasoning. Cover it all with water. Cook it til the water doesn't taste like water anymore, but like a really good soup. That's it folks.

I know so many people want me to hand them a recipe for everything. And I promise, at the end of this post, I will. But believe me when I say that once you get the basics down, feel free to change it up as much as you like. There really isn't a veggie you can't put it in it. If you have veggies you want to use up, they'll only add more flavor to the stock. Stock starts with the basic mirepoix (onion, carrots & celery), but the possibilities really are endless.

And I want to present a challenge to each of you. Whether you follow my recipe or someone else's.....make you some stock. Or, fine, take the easy road and go buy yourself some from the store. But have some really good stock on hand. And have yourself a cooked chicken on hand too (a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store will work if you choose not to make my stock). Know why? Because my next few blog posts will be a series on what to do with your yummy homemade (yes, I'm still encouraging you to make you own!) stock. Like -- my enchiladas from the other night. You know that ancho-chile enchilada sauce so many of you have asked me for the recipe? And how does chicken & dumplings sound? Maybe some yummy soups? Many of those recipes I've talked about on facebook that so many of you have asked me for, but I just never got around to typing it out ----- they'll be showing up shortly.

Basic Chicken Stock

1 whole chicken, rinsed
1 large onion, peeled & quartered
4 carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
4 celery stalks, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 whole bulb of garlic, cloves peeled and smashed
10-12 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 tsp of dried thyme
water (amount will vary)

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Add enough water to completely cover the chicken & veggies. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to low, and keep at a simmer. Use a stainer to skim the "scum" that rises to the top every 10 minutes or so for the first hour. Cover the pot. Add water as necessary to keep the chicken and veggies covered. Skim any additional scum. Let cook another 2-3 hours.

Strain stock through a mesh strainer into another container. I usually use large tupperware bowls & containers and put the lids on after they are full. Put in fridge overnight. Remove the solidified fat from the surface. Can be stored in the fridge for a couple days or frozen for up to 3 months.

At this point in time I usually carefully measure the stock into freezer bags. I freeze it in 1 cup, 2 cup, and 4 cup portions. That way I have 1 cup if I just need it for a quick pan sauce, 2 cups for making rice, and 4 cups for a big pot of soup.

Let the chicken cool and remove the meat from the bones. You now have a bunch of cooked chicken ready for any recipe!

And other one of my "never waste anything" can save the veggies. I often take the carrots, celery, onions and garlic and put it in a freezer safe tupperware dish. These can be ran through the blender or food processor and added to your next spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, or any other recipe you desire. It's quick and easy flavor and hidden veggies!

And like I said, from there, the possibilities are endless. I often add bell pepper or leeks to my stock. Or anything else I may have on hand that I want to use up. And another trick I like to use for an even richer stock: next time you buy a rotisserie chicken at the store, freeze the carcass. You can use it AND your whole chicken in your pot of stock. All that rotisserie flavor makes your stock even better. And if you ever want to make stock but don't have a whole chicken on hand, you can follow the above recipe using just the carcass instead. Works like a charm.

So there you have it. A simply way to take a been-sitting-on-the-shelf-for-a-really-long-time pantry staple and turn it into a made-by-your-own-two-hands, fresh, healthy freezer staple that you can be proud to add to your next recipe.

And don't forget....stay tuned for several recipes to use up all that great stock!

1 comment:

  1. Homemade stock is so worth the trouble, and it's really no trouble at all! Another great addition to stock is parsnips, I never make it without them! I also don't peel my onion because the skin gives it a little bit more color.