Saturday, October 23, 2010

I just made this...

And it has totally blown. my. mind. Stay tuned to see what I do with it!!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Taking Stock, Making Stock

by Xani

Let me not waste time explaining why I haven't blogged in so long. Yes, I've eaten at wonderful restaurants and cooked fabulous foods, yet the blogging hasn't happened. I wish it had, but let's not dwell on the ancient past, let's look to the recent past/future! This weekend I cooked up a storm and I want to tell you all about it! This post will be light on the pics, but let's not let that keep me from blogging. Here we go!

The first thing I want to share with you is the awesome technique for making chicken stock that I discovered this weekend. I was feeling the need for a freezer-full of stock as so many cozy fall recipes for soups, stews, etc require stock or broth. While BCD mom raised us on a diet of College Inn chicken broth, hoarding dozens of cans in the pantry at all times, I've become sufficiently brainwashed to think that only homemade stock will do. But, we haven't been eating that much chicken at home lately, and we didn't have a stockpile of bones to make the base of the stock. So, I remembered
this recipe for chicken stock which starts with three whole chickens, and after reading the comments, decided I could modify this technique to serve my purposes. Here's how it went:

2 (5-pound) roasting chickens
2 large yellow onions, unpeeled and quartered
4 carrots, unpeeled and halved
3 stalks celery with leaves, cut into thirds
3 parsnips, unpeeled and cut in half
15 sprigs fresh parsley
10 sprigs fresh thyme
10 sprigs fresh dill
1 head garlic, unpeeled and cut in 1/2 crosswise
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

1. Wash chickens and remove and discard/find another use for the packet or innards. Put chickens in LARGE pot, cover with cold water. Bring to boil, reduce to a very slow simmer, simmer for 1 hour, skim scum/impurities off the surface periodically.
2. Carefully remove chickens from water. Let cool until they can be handled, then carefully pick the meat from the carcass (after 1 hour the meat should be mostly cooked, but not over-cooked. I harvested almost 3 pounds of meat from the chickens, which I separated into white and dark, and packaged and froze for later use such as chicken soup, enchiladas, or chicken pot pie).
3. Put all bones, skin, carcasses, etc back into the pot as you pick the meat (also pour back in any liquid that came out with the chickens). Continue to barely simmer (just a small bubble coming up here and there- if you cook too aggressively your stock will get cloudy) for another 2 hours.
4. Now it's time to add the veggies, herbs and seasonings. Many stock recipes have you add everything at the very beginning, but
Michael Ruhlman recommends adding them only for the last hour of cooking, and for good reason-- too much cooking and the veggies break down/get soggy. This can cloud your stock, plus the water-logged veggies soak up so much of your precious stock! So just add them for the last hour, and keep the pot at that bare simmer...
5. It's been four hours, the stock is (almost) done!. Remove all solids, using tongs and a slotted spoon/strainer, pressing the veggies gently on the side of the pot to press out absorbed stock. At this point, I chose to keep simmering my stock for a while to reduce and concentrate the flavor a bit. When it reaches your desired intensity, let cool a bit and strain through cheesecloth.
6. Put stock in the fridge for several hours or overnight. Any fat will congeal on the top and can be skimmed off easily (mine had almost no fat even though I started with whole chicken).
7. Now you should be left with a large quantity of rich, flavorful chicken stock! This can easily be frozen for future use.

So there it is, my best stock yet! Mine came out a beautiful brown color, completely clear, with a nice roasted flavor (even though i started with all raw ingredients), and good sweetness and aroma from the veggies. I have already used some for risotto and chicken pot pie, and I'm so excited to have all that "poached" meat reserved for later. This is a lot more cost effective than just throwing the meat away after stock-making, too.

I cooked up a bunch of other recipes this weekend, too. No time to blog about each in detail, but here are some links and notes, and I'm happy to discuss with you in the comments, if you have questions.

New Year's Eve eggnog: Why am I making eggnog for a party on December 31 in mid-October?? Because this aged eggnog is supposed to be a revelation, and needs weeks or months in the fridge to mature. We'll break it out to ring in the new year, and hopefully not give our guests food poisoning.

Angel Food cake: I had 12 egg whites leftover from the nog-making, and a brand new tube pan that just arrived in the mail this week. I HAD to attempt my first angel food cake-- and I think it came out pretty good!

Lobster-ish Risotto with shrimp: I had a bit of frozen lobster stock in the freezer (made from the remnants of one of BCD Dad's big lobster gorge-fests) and decided to supplement it with some of my freshly made chicken stock and make risotto. I served it with some large pan-seared shrimp on top, and Mom's Caesar salad on the side. While I thought the risotto texture was good, the lobster flavor was very mild.

Buttermilk Waffles with apple topping: We had 2 cups of buttermilk hanging out in the fridge, so we tried this recipe on Sunday morning. It was just ok, I think next time I'll go to the trouble of separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites, to try and achieve a lighter, fluffier waffle. I also made a warm cinnamon apple topping from some of the apples still lingering from our apple-picking trip 2 weeks ago. Cooked the sliced apples with a little water, brown sugar, and cinnamon until apples were soft and the liquid had mostly evaporated. Finished with some lemon juice, butter, and a touch of cream. So much better than plain old syrup!

Chicken pot pie: Perhaps the pièce de résistance of the entire weekend, I made this for Sunday dinner. I used Ina Garten's recipe for the filling, but used a baking powder biscuit recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Book as the topping (instead of doing a pastry topping). The filling was AMAZING-- loaded with veggies, and yes, delicious, moist meat from the stock-making. The sauce (which used 5 cups of my fab new stock) was SO rich, flavorful, and velvety. The biscuits were very simple, I added a bit of chopped thyme to the dough and also laminated the dough (folding it into thirds and rolling out, repeating, as in puff pastry) to make it extra flaky. I baked them right on top of the pot pie filling in my Le Crueset dutch oven. Perfect hearty fall dinner fare, with plenty of leftovers.

...And would you look at that, it's lunchtime, and I've got some of those leftovers waiting for me in the fridge! Hope you enjoyed my return to blogging, even though it was light on pictures. Now that I'm back in to the swing of things, it's time to dust off my camera again!

Happy cooking,

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