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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, February 23

Gapers Block

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Last week we roasted a chicken, and if you're the frugal reader that I hope you are, you put all those leftover little bites of chicken into a zipper bag and froze them and you put all the bones, skin, giblets, etc. into a separate bag and froze them as well. Now we're going to turn what most people throw away into a yummy stock, just in time for cold and flu season.

Before I get to the recipe, I thought I would explain what the difference is between a broth, a stock, and a consommé. Broth is what you get when you boil meat and/or vegetables in water. It is usually cloudy. Stock is what you get when you boil bones, fat, meat, etc. in water, it is also cloudy and often looks like gelatin when chilled. Consommé is what you get when you make broth and then clarify it, or run it through sieves and cheesecloth to make it clear and remove all the fat. It is usually then boiled down even further to make a more concentrated and flavorful liquid, and egg whites and a crushed eggshell are often added to make it look cleaner.

While I'll be describing how to make chicken stock, you could substitute any 1-2 pounds of meat bones for the chicken bones, or if you save all those vegetable bits that you'd normally throw away (carrot peels, limp celery, potato/onion/garlic peels, wrinkly beets, etc.) you can follow this recipe the same way.

If you want broth but don't normally buy meat on the bone, you can probably go to your friendly neighborhood butcher and purchase bones. One of the smallish, independent stores in my neighborhood gives me a three-inch slice of beef bone for free if I purchase any other meat.

To get the most flavor from these items you're going to want to roast them before you make your stock. Simply put a half inch or so of water in a baking pan, place your meat or vegetables in there and roast at 350 degrees for an hour. The water will just make it easier to clean the pan, so if you have a high-quality stick-resistant pan you can skip the water.

If you know you're going to be making a specific recipe with your stock, you can add seasonings now. If you're going to make a stock with plans on refrigerating it so you can use it whenever you need it, omit the seasonings listed below and season it when you make the final dish.

Since I know I'm going to make chicken noodle soup and then risotto from the same stock recipe, I'm providing basic and versatile flavorings. You can add any dried herbs or spices to this to suit your taste. Just remember that they need to match the herbs you used when you roasted the chicken.

1 chicken carcass (or assorted bones)
1 small onion cut in four pieces
1 clove of garlic
2 carrots cut in finger-length pieces
1 stalk of celery cut in half lengthwise and widthwise

Put all of these items into a stockpot (aha! the name becomes clear, eh?) and add water to about two inches above the stuff. There should be at least two quarts of water in your pot -- mine holds three quarts comfortably. Set the pan on high heat and bring to a boil. Once it boils, cover it with a lid, lower the heat to medium and cook for about an hour.

That's it? Almost. If you don't want to have to strain out the bones and other pieces which are going to come loose from the carcass, you can put everything into a piece of cheesecloth and tie a knot to keep it together. If you don't want to buy cheesecloth, you can simply strain the broth once it's cooled before you add it to containers for freezing or refrigerating.

This brings us to the tricky part. I like to put my stock into quart-sized zipper bags because most recipes call for 4 cups of liquid. But if I was to take my hot-off-the-stove stock and put it into the bags, I'd get a melted mess. I could put the entire pot into my freezer, but it would raise the temperature in my freezer and melt the ice cream, putting it in the refrigerator would take so long for it to cool that the little buggies that cause intestinal distress would have fun multiplying throughout my fridge. No thank you.

To cool the pot of stock, fill your sink with about four inches of cold water and add a couple trays of ice cubes. Put the pot in the sink and remove the lid. The ice will melt and if you stir the stock and the ice water every few minutes, the stock will cool evenly. (This is also the fastest way to chill a bottle of wine or beer.) After about 10-15 minutes your broth should be almost cool to the touch and you can transfer it to your containers and put it in your freezer. If you plan on using it in the next 2-3 days its okay to refrigerate it. If you're planning further ahead, freeze those bags.

If you're watching your fat intake you'll want to refrigerate the stock before cooking with it. The fat will rise to the top and create a disc which can be easily fished out and tossed. Because it is so easily removed, it's okay to add the chicken skin and fat to the pot. As unhealthy as they are, have a lot of flavor which is released by simmering.

You know you've made a very successful stock if your liquid resembles gelatin. This gelatin will liquify once it is warmed up again, but it will impart a silkiness that you can't get from canned stock. This gelatin is what truly differentiates a stock from a broth, and this gelatin is where it's at. I have no idea why those cans of chicken stock (which are usually packed with sodium and MSG) don't have gelatinous textures, and that's why I make my own.

If you're ready to make the chicken noodle soup I've been teasing you with, you're almost done. To make sure you have enough ingredients for next week's recipe save 8 cups of the liquid and 1 cup of chicken pieces. Most of the vegetables you put into the pot will be mushy, but if you're okay with mushy veggies you can save those and add them to your soup, too.

1/2 tsp. of butter or olive oil per serving
1/2 carrot per serving, chopped (6-8 baby carrots)
1/2 celery stalk or bell pepper per serving, chopped
1/4 yellow onion per serving, chopped
Homemade stock: about 4 cups per serving
1 small clove of garlic per serving, minced for stronger flavor or whole for milder flavor
1/4 cup of chicken pieces per serving, chopped
Large handful of thick pasta per serving
Salt and pepper to taste
If you like your soup spicy you can add some tabasco, a dried pepper, or a whole jalapeno to the stock while it simmers.
If you prefer a sweeter flavor you could add some fresh basil, ginger, and cilantro.

Add the butter or oil to your pan on medium-low heat. When it's melted, add your carrots, celery, and onion. Stir occasionally for about 5-7 minutes. This will make your vegetables softer, but they shouldn't burn. You want to add the least amount of butter or oil as possible, but if things start to stick, add just enough to prevent that. Now add your stock, garlic, chicken, salt, pepper, and hot pepper if desired. Cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes or until ingredients are heated through and noodles are al dente. Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread.

Next week: rich and creamy chicken risotto.

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paul / October 30, 2003 9:07 AM

Sounds like it would instantly cure the fall chills.

The roasting of the bones is the key step here.

I'd skip the water in the pan though, concentrating the flavor of the marrow and the bones would work better with dry heat, and the water might just steam them.


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