27 March 2008

Taking (uh, I mean making) Stock

This weekend since I was sick, I asked my dear D. to buy me a roast chicken because 1. it's one of my favorite comfort foods, 2. it doesn't require a lot of energy to prepare (just cut off the pieces you want), 3. it makes more than one meal easily, and 4. chickens are roasting and smelling yummy at every corner butcher's, and D. was going right past my favorite (halal) butcher (I don't know what prayers he says over his meat but I'm 100% in favor because it's darn good!).

After cutting all the meat off the chicken, I was heading to the trash with the bones when I thought NO! STOP! Why waste? I can make chicken stock with them...never mind that I don't have a stock pot; never mind that my kitchen is the size of a (big) closet, and my freezer the size of a postage stamp, I'll just go ahead and do it. So, I made a small batch, and I might try roasting my vegetables first next time for a richer flavor, but it was not bad at all, all things considering.

The good thing about making your own stock is that it makes you feel very thrifty and if you're a New Englander born and bred (like me), you'll know how important that is! If you're well organized, you can use tons of stuff that you would throw away otherwise.

Thrift Tip: Wash your veggies before peeling them for cooking and save the peels, skins, ends, etc. in a freezer bag in the freezer for stock-making day.

Er, what's this picture Hopie's showing us? Her trash? Her compost bag? Nope, it's possible chicken or veggie stock additions to keep in the freezer, sillies.

So how to make stock? There are a million variations, but here's a place to start for the basics.

Chicken Stock

1 chicken carcass or a bunch of bones
water to cover (about 16 cups)
3 onions, roughly chopped
2-3 carrots, washed and roughly cut
2-3 stems celery (with leaves), ditto
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
5 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 branch rosemary
1 branch thyme
(you can use a bouquet garni for the herbs if you feel up to making one)

(Keep in mind, you can use scraps too, and the leaves of the celery, the carrots, etc. if you like. The gloves are off, go crazy! You're going to filter it afterwards. You just want about as much water as solids.)

Put the chicken bones in a large (stock) pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered 2-3 hours, skimming off impurities regularly.

See, this foamy stuff is an example of what to skim off.

Add vegetables and herbs, bring back to a boil, and simmer uncovered 2 hours, skimming off impurities once every hour. Once you're done simmering, strain the stock into another pot (Joy of Cooking, my personal bible in the kitchen says to strain it through cheesecloth. I didn't have any so I just used a strainer, but the stock came out cloudier as a result -- so if you do have cheesecloth, go for it!), and place the pot with strained stock in a sink filled with cold water and ice cubes (this allows the stock to cool down quickly so you can refrigerate it without raising the temperature of your fridge). This is important because it's not good to leave the stock out for too long to collect bacteria. Refrigerate a couple hours, skim the fat off the top and use your stock or freeze it.

Healthy Stock Tip: You can freeze some stock in ice cube trays and use a cube of stock instead of butter or oil to stir fry with, or add to sauces.

For Vegetable Stock:

-Omit the chicken. (Yea, you probably figured that out on your own.)
-Use the same vegetables as for chicken stock PLUS whatever other ones you want to add. (I'm a fan of leeks in stock, for example.)
-But you can also try: mushrooms, corn, squash, potatoes, etc.
-Watch out for: tomatoes (unless you want a very tomato-y broth), and relatives of the cabbage which are overpowering as well.
-Simmer your veggie stock for about 1 hour. Unlike meat stock, which needs to be reduced, veggie stock doesn't and doing so can make the stock bitter.
-Strain, cool, and freeze for later use!

If you're still worried, read this very helpful article by Camille.

To help you use your stock try this Chicken Soup recipe.


Mel said...

Haha I definetely empathize with the thrifty notion. Our pantry is full of dried beans and lentils!
PS- thank you thank you thank you for 1) the DVD suggestion and 2) the recipe link! it looks awesome and i can't wait to try it out :)

Hester Prynne said...

Wow, Hope, your cooking blog is amazing! I'm sure gonna use some of your recipes!
Love from Spain!

Hopie said...

Mel - ah dried beans and lentils - good pantry staples ;-) and you're welcome !

Hester - yay, I'm glad you like it. If you ever want to share the tortilla recipe you made for our tipping the velvet party, for example, I could have Spanish Day on my blog ;-)

Katharine said...

I've found celery root gives a great flavor in vegetable stock. Also fennel root, being careful not to add so much that it overpowers the flavor.


Katharine said...

Sorry, that's just the fennel bulb, not the root. That's not the root, is it? -K

Hopie said...

Hm, fennel (bulb/root), I'll have to try that. Yea, the only reason I don't use celery (most stock recipes do) is because D. doesn't like it so there's never any in the house...