Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don't be a chicken -- making stock's easy

One chicken can go a long way.

I picked up a five-pound bird for little more than $4 at the supermarket and roasted it the other day. I’m pretty new to roasting chickens, but I try to swing by the store when they’ve got whole birds on sale. Practice makes perfect, right?

Normally I’ll pick over the chicken after dinner, saving all the meat and throwing the etcetera into the trash can. This time, I saved all the odds and ends for my first attempt at making chicken stock.

The following is what I came up with after reading about a dozen different recipes. Barbara Kafka’s “Soup: A Way of Life” and Jamie Oliver’s “The Naked Chef” were good resources.

I also factored in a couple tips from friends. Kimmy told me to reserve the post-roasting pan juices, which I did, pouring into a ceramic dish and refrigerating overnight. It was really easy, using a soup spoon, to scrape the solid layer of fat off the top. Everything else went into the pot when I was ready to start the stock. I also employed Colleen’s suggestion, encasing my herbs in four stalks of celery, kept together with kitchen string to create a sort of veggie baton that helped keep the herbs intact instead of floating around, creating less little floaters to strain out.

Chicken Stock
18 cups water
Carcass from a five-pound chicken (I picked as much meat off of the bones as I could)
2 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, washed and edges chopped
3 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs thyme
1 large white onion, cut into eighths
2 bay leaves
Salt, to taste

Throw everything but salt into a stock pot and bring to a boil, making sure you’ve got enough water to keep the carcass and vegetables submerged. Use spoon to skim fat and other residue off the top; discard. Lower heat and simmer gently, covered, for at least four hours. Remove from heat. Pour stock through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl or pot. Discard the solids. Salt stock to taste. Chill overnight. Remove fat from surface the next day.

I wanted to make something homey with my first batch of stock, to keep the homemade juju going in the kitchen. Chicken noodle soup sounded good, but no egg noodles in the pantry. So, I fudged my from-scratch aspirations slightly and make chicken and dumplings … with Bisquick.

Chicken and dumplings
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped carrots
3 cups chopped celery
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
10 cups chicken stock
4 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 cups Bisquick
2/3 cups milk
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Heat oil in a large pot over medium flame. Add garlic, stirring for about a minute before adding onion. Cook for a couple minutes, until fragrant and slightly translucent. Add carrots, celery and Herbes de Provence, cooking for a minute or two before adding stock and chicken to pot. Bring to a boil. Combine Bisquick, milk and thyme in a bowl. Use spoon to create walnut-sized dough balls. Drop dough into the boiling pot, cooking uncovered for 10 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

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