Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lemons:Lemonade as Chickens:Stock

Last night's dinner menu was yet again inspired by that giant bag of Yukon Gold potatoes in my pantry (don't worry, it's getting smaller...only a few more potato posts to go!). This time we reached for the spuds for two reasons. First, the ubiquitous and ever-present "end of the pay period" syndrome.

But yesterday I had the added bonus of 3 fillings being replaced which also included a shiny new crown. My poor mouth was abused for 2 1/2 hours. There was all sorts of strange smokes and vapors, glowing lights, inner-mouth cameras, every variety of drill and presser-thingy's. When they released me from the torture chair, my dentist literally had to massage my jaw to get it to close correctly again.

Those couple of hours were super great for deep breathing practice (actually, shallow breathing...the rubber dam on my face for 2 hours did give me a little suffocation panic). However, after my third experience at childbirth, I was sort of hoping to be done with the need for finding a "happy place".

Needless to say, when I arrived home eating was not so appealing. My husband graciously offered to be in charge of dinner...he even suggested picking up a pizza, until he saw my tortured look, horrified at the thought of that chewy crust. How about something mashed potatoes! Okay, but mashed potatoes and what else. He saved the day by rushing to the store and carefully choosing a rotisserie chicken from the heated deli box.

Thankfully I was able to eat my dinner, albeit in a slow and fumbling manner. I removed the rest of the meat from the chicken carcass and threw the bony skeleton into my shiny new red Dutch oven. Have I mentioned how much I love my new pot? It's so great to have a pot that is wide and deep enough to fit a chicken carcass into! In fact, I had two additional carcasses (carci??) in the freezer and my pot is so big that I could pop those babies in as well.

I rooted around in my freezer for any other chicken parts waiting to be transformed into stock and found a little baggie of chicken necks---FYI never throw those out when you get a whole roaster because they have lots of collagen in them and contribute loads to your stock!

Now for a quartered onion, a peeled carrot, a head of garlic with the top chopped off, a bouquet of parsley and bay leaves, some pepper corns, etc etc etc....I was out of celery and didn't want to head out to my backyard for some fresh thyme, but they would've been good additions as well.

Covering all that goodness with a bunch of water, I put the pot on to simmer. If you've ever made stock, you've probably run into the problem of starting it after dinner. Truly great stock takes hours to simmer all that collagen and other good stuff out of the bones. Boiling your stock quickly doesn't really do the trick. But thanks to the heavy, even-heating power of a Dutch oven, I just left it on simmer all night long. And I'm not talking a bubbling simmer...more like one or two bubbles every now and then type of simmer.

Eleven hours later, I removed the lid to find liquid gold surrounding all the aromatics in the pot. Using tongs, I took out all of the large items...bones, vegetable, herbs, etc. Then, ladle-full after ladle-full, poured it through a clean towel (I was out of cheesecloth) to leave me with a super clean pot of stock.

The other problem with stock is that usually you decide to cool it off before bedtime and then forget about it all night. I don't know how many batches of stock I've had to throw out because it sat on the counter all night long! A good way to cool it down is to pour it into one or two large roasting pan type dishes. The large amount of surface area helps to cool it. Also, throw some ice cubes into a freezer type of zip top bag and float it in the stock.

Finally, I ladled the cool stock into smaller containers to freeze for my next culinary inspiration. Risotto, soup, and grains are so much tastier with homemade stock. Plus it makes you feel like a Native American using the "whole animal". And, I, for one, love feeling like a Native American--tapping into my Cherokee roots...satisfying 1/32 of myself (the hook on my nose trembled in joy).

Check out this New World Gold.


Maggie said...

I know it's time to make chicken stock when I open the freezer and ten carcasses fall at my feet. I'm getting into the habit of saving washed carrot peelings, ends of celery, onions, etc too for stock.

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