Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stock, make it or I mock you mercilessly

Hello again everyone,
I felt I needed to check in, it’s been a long while since I posted and I’m not giving up cheeseandolive, but I’ve had much much less inspiration to write.
I thought I was alone in this but I’ve been reading the lovely and talented Esther Walker’s blog reciperifle.blogspot.com. She’s recently announced her own knocked-uppedness and how her interest in food has waned.
She clearly regained her interest. Me on the other hand I’ve gotten lazy. No interest in retouching photos so that they’re not so blue or so that you can’t tell that I’m a total slob and my stovetop is filthy. But I’m trying.

In the meantime, I think I’ll rehash an issue that I frequently bitch about and that is food fear / food laziness. Maybe that’s not the right name for it either.
Let me tell you the story.
I used to take the train to work every day (I started taking my car in the last few weeks of the gestation), and there are 2 women that I often hear talking about food. The thing is, they’re both dreadfully obese and are always talking about using this or that out of a can. Pasta sauce, soups, and worst of all, chicken stock. I think they fancy themselves gourmets, but everything that they talk about starts out partially or completely prepared. Pasta sauce, soups, and worst of all, chicken stock. Their reasoning? “It’s too complicated”. I can understand if you want to buy frozen puff pastry because it’s too complicated, or jarred curry pastes, or even frozen dumplings, but chicken stock?!?!?
Now I admit, in a pinch, if I don’t have any already made, or if there’s no chicken carcass waiting for me in my freezer, I’ve used the canned / frozen / or boxed stuff. But NEVER tell me that it’s because it’s TOO COMPLICATED.
“It’s too hot out” for sure.
“I have no chicken pieces” valid.
“I don’t have time right now” it happens.

But It’s too complicated? Pull the other one!

Maybe I’m getting too worked up about this issue, but just to be on the safe side, I’ll give you all a little primer on how to make your own chicken stock. And if you’re ever out and chatting about how complicated something as simple as tomato sauce, or broth, or soup is, and you spot someone staring at you giving you the stink eye, come over and say hello, it’s surely me.

To start out, you’ll need one very crucial thing, chicken.
Whether it’s a stock chicken (will explain more about that one in a bit — it’s a traumatic story) or pieces / bones of a chicken that was used in a previous meal, cooked or raw, it will all work (just not rotten, fools). Turkeys and ducks also work.
I must say though, if you want to make pork or beef stock, you will need to roast the bones otherwise you won’t get a very rich flavour. I will not be touching on that in this post because I don’t have pictures of it. Google it if you care.

Onions are also pretty important, but in essence, my theory is “use what you’ve got”
When you’re cooking, there are invariably things that you will chop off of a vegetable. Such as the top of a pepper, the tops and bottoms of onions, the ribs from chard, the leafy parts of celery. All of this you don’t have to throw out right away. Store it in your freezer in a plastic bag (make sure it’s clean though, no amount of boiling will remove sand and/or DDT) and when it’s time to make stock, you have a wide assortment of vegetables to choose from. My only counsel would be to avoid broccoli, brussel sprouts, and rapini because you don’t want to add any bitterness.

The standard configuration is to use carrots, celery, and onions (I like to use garlic too), chop them into manageable pieces and throw them in a large pot. Put your chicken in, if it’s whole or full meaty pieces, it’s better to be thawed, but if it’s a carcass, it can go in frozen. Add herbs such as thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, peppercorns, nothing too delicate. Cover with water and turn the heat on.


I prefer to let it come to a boil because I feel like I’m killing off any nasty germies, but if you want a clear stock you’ll only let it simmer... Hell if you want a clear stock, you’ll probably know how to do this already and won’t be bothering with this read. What I’m trying to do here is get people to make their own stock not to get the clearest most perfect broth. Once you embrace the idea that it’s not hard, tastes good, and makes your house smell awesome, then you can refine your technique.


So let it simmer for an hour or 2 and strain out the liquid into re-sealable containers and freeze. If you see a foam form while it is simmering, you can skim that off, or you can leave it. It is impurities coming from the chicken, but it won’t kill you. And like I said before, make stock now, refine later.
If you have the patience and are so inclined, you can refrigerate them and when the fat solidifies you can skim it off (much faster than skimming it when it’s in its liquid state) or you can get super lazy like me and freeze it as is then when you’re defrosting it just pick or scrape off the frozen fat, which will melt faster than the stock itself.

It takes virtually no attention, minimal skill, and almost free (If using scraps or carcasses)
HOWEVER, if you have a chicken that is a stock chicken, it is traditionally smaller and more slender than your regular roasters and may still have the head on. It will be cheaper. USE THIS FOR STOCK ONLY! We bought one once and tried to roast it. Firstly, it wasn’t 100% clean (organpalooza), and then there were the flat, rubbery breasts that cooked to the thickness of and iphone. Oh and don’t let me forget the crop. The crop is a fatty mass at the neck/shoulder area of the chicken. It is part of the digestive system. It holds excess food to be digested. When I cut into it, it crackled. There were white chips in amongst the fat, which I can only assume were pieces of chicken feed (roasted from being in my oven). But at first I thought that they were bone chips.
It was awful, I cried, we threw it out in its entirety and only had side dishes for dinner. I was a domestic failure and an energy / food squanderer. So to save you all the trauma of roasting a chicken that was meant for the stock pot. I share with you my story. So read your labels and by all means, buy the boiling chicken but be careful, if it looks puny, and still has a crop, chuck it in the stock pot, don’t waste your tasty cilantro red curry based rub (or however you choose to season your chicken) on this beastie.

Thank you for reading again after a long hiatus. I am hoping to blog again very soon. I have an event that I am attending next week, and am very much looking forward to chronicling that. So don’t give up on me, I’m still alive. And if you're bored with me, at least take a look at Recipe Rifle, she's managed to work through the temporary inspiration void. I'm confident I'll be able to do the same, and soon I’ll have all the time in the world to write on my maternity leave *wink*
Oh and NEVER let me catch you saying that chicken broth is hard to make or I’ll out your laziness all over the internets.
That’s all for now.
Xoxoxox
-Candace.

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