Tag Archives: celery

Homemade is better. Part II

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Chicken stock is cheap and easy.

Okay. Go ahead. Get the jokes out of your system. I like my coffee black too*. Ready to move on?

Stock is the perfect weekend project. Hit the market in the morning for your ingredients – or pick them up on your way home Friday night. Saturday or Sunday you are going to be home for a few hours: working in the garden, cleaning house, or sitting on the couch watching an America’s Next Top Model marathon while recovering from Friday night happy hour, right? So, dump your ingredients in a pot, set it to a low simmer, and kick your feet up on the couch. Tell everyone not to bother you. You’re cooking.

*I’ll buy you a cup of coffee if you got the joke.

Homemade white chicken stock

“White” here refers to the fact that your ingredients go right into the pot without browning them first.

Ingredients:

  • 6 lbs chicken parts (see notes)
  • 1 large carrot (2″ diameter and 8″ long)
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 large onion (about the size of a baseball)
  • 1 leek, white parts only (optional)
  • 8-10 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6-8 parsley stems
  • 4-6 sprigs thyme
Directions:
  • Cut the chicken into 3 inch pieces. Better yet, have your butcher do it. Place them in an 8 quart stock pot and add water to cover the chicken by 2 inches.
  • Meanwhile, roughly chop the vegetables. This is not the time for fine knife skills.
  • Bring the pot to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat and hold at a slow simmer – just a few bubbles per second.
  • Cook the chicken for 15-20 minutes. Skim off the grey/brown foam that gathers on the surface, and discard.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to simmer for three hours.
  • At the end of three hours, remove and discard the solids.
  • Strain your stock through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth or a coffee filter.
  • Remove the fat from the stock. the easiest way to do this is to cool the stock to room temperature and cool it in the fridge overnight. The fat will congeal on the surface and is easily removed. If you need the stock right away, let the stock rest for 15-20 minutes. It will float to the surface of your stock. You can remove the liquid fat with a spoon.
  • If the stock is too thin, or bland, reduce your stock down to 8 cups over a gentle boil.
Notes:
  • Most grocery stores have their chicken delivered pre-butchered. Buy cheap meat with plenty of bones, like thighs and wings. You could also chop up an entire chicken. If your market or specialty grocery breaks down whole chickens into parts, ask them for chicken backs and have them cut them into 3″ pieces for you. You will pay about $.98 a pound.
  • Letting the chicken cook for 20 minutes first makes it easier to skim off the foam. Otherwise you are fighting with the veggies floating on the top of your pot.
  • Don’t let the stock boil until the end, after you have removed the solids and the fat. Otherwise your stock will get cloudy
  • You can test the level of flavor by putting a little in a small dish and adding a pinch of salt. Taste it. If it tastes to watery, reduce the stock further.
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Homemade is better

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You should make your own stock. Why? Not because it makes you better than that friend who always has better pots, pans or a more exclusive source of Humboldt Fog goat cheese than you do. While that may be a perfectly legitimate reason to make your own stock, there are far better ones.

Number one – your food will taste better. Much better. Sooooooooo much better.

Number two – salt. When you cook, your stock will invariably reduce. Even low-sodium stock can end up tasting too salty. I am not worried as much about your health here. In fact, you should salt your food. The real risk of high-sodium comes from packaged, processed and fast foods; not cooking from scratch in your kitchen.

Number three – your entire house will smell awesome! but please, plan on cooking something else at the same time. When stock is done you throw all the solids away. So while your family has been salivating over the rich smells wafting from the kitchen, you’ve got nothing ready for them to eat. On the other hand, they’ll be desperate and hungry. Get them to wash the dishes before you feed them.

Vegetable Stock

Your stock will cook in under 45 minutes. You can put it on the back burner while you go about cooking something else, or kicking your feet up on the couch. This stores well, so put some in the fridge or freezer. You can add lots of veggie scraps to flavor your stock, but avoid bitter and acidic foods like peppers, tomatoes and any member of the Brassica family – cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large carrot (2″ diameter and 8″ long)
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 large onion (about the size of a baseball)
  • 1 leek, white parts only (optional)
  • 8-10 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6-8 parsley stems
  • 4-6 sprigs thyme
Directions:
  • Roughly chop the vegetables. This is not the time for fine knife skills.
  • Add 10-12 cups water to a 6 quart stock pot. Add all of the ingredients.
  • Bring to a simmer over medium low heat and cook for 45 minutes or so.
  • Strain and discard all solids.
  • Boil stock and reduce to about 8 cups.
  • You can test the level of flavor by putting a little in a small dish and adding a pinch of salt. Taste it. If it tastes to watery, reduce the stock further.