Homemade (Chicken) Stock!

This little lady is cute as a button, but she’s also gonna make some yuuuummy stock!

Like the sign of a good stock, it’s clear: you should be making your own stock! Homemade stock sets your food worlds apart from the food of other cooks, and it’s not as big of a production as you think – it’s great for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Get it going and put on a movie or clean the house. Once you get it in the pot, it just sits there on the stove for a few hours. And, in case you’re still using water (like some kind of fool)- you should be using stock for just about everything savory that calls for water: lentils, rice, beans, soup – all of it. It’ll triple the depth of flavor.

I do, though, know it can be confusing. It can be daunting. What parts of the chicken (sub: beef, or veggies, or whatever…) do I use? Well…use any parts…that’s kinda the point of stock….you can use new parts or you can use left overs that you’ve saved. Generally, its the discarded, post-butchery parts that are used for stock, so if you’re going to the market or the butcher for it, just say:

“Hello sir/madam. Do you per chance have any chicken (sub: veal, turkey, beef) parts for stock?”

and they’ll generally know what you want (they might think you talk funny, though). Necks, backs, left over bones from de-boned breasts, you can even use feet. All that business. Anything, really. Except for kidneys, livers and hearts and innards (aka offal) – The innards, generally get really bitter and gross when boiled.

You can also use legs, thighs, whole carcasses. Whatever you have around works fine. If you just roasted a chicken last night and you have all the left overs – that is the most perfect.

How I get it together:

1. I keep a big ole tupperware in the freezer that I fill up with veggie scraps from cooking and veggies from the fridge that have become less that super perfect, and then another ginormous tupperware of meat scraps (bones from dinner, carcasses from whole roasted bodies, etc). As an example, a friend of mine asked recently:

“Ally, I get fried chicked all the time from the place down the street, can I use those bones?”

“Totally you can!” I said.

Shove them in the freezer and save them up until you’re ready. You don’t have to do anything to them. Leave the left over fry on, whatever. Then, when you have enough, or you’re ready, get started. What I do – if I don’t have enough when I’m ready, I head to the market and I buy what I need. No biggie. It’s so simple, forgiving and versatile.

 2. The frozen items that I’ve (you’ve) saved are fine to go directly into the boiling bucket (the stock pot), but to really amp up the flavor in there, defrost a bit (doesn’t have to be too serious) and roast them at 450 in the oven until they get a little brown and they become veggies and bones again. Be sure to use two separate sheet pans (one for the veggies, one for the bones) because they’re going to be done at different times and you don’t want them to be “cooked” – not soft, not squishy – especially the vegetables! You just want to barely start smelling them, and then take them out. They should still be fairly hard, the bones should be just defrosted and smelling delish.

3. Here’s the loose recipe. Remember, this is stock, you can always add water, so you want it stronger if anything. An estimate for proportions should be about 2 parts chicken to 1 part veggies, and best is in a 5 gallon stock pot.

For 2 1/2 pounds or so chicken, add:

  • 2-3 celery, halved crosswise and halved again lengthwise (leaves included)2
  • a few carrots, halved crosswise and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 1/2 or so onions (yellow and/or white), peeled and quartered (root on, so it stays together)
  • 1-2 leeks, halved lengthwise and cleaned out of any dirt in the layers
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, just the dirty bottoms trimmed
  • 1 small palmfull whole black peppercorn
  • 1/2 bunch thyme (fresh)
  • 1/2 bunch oregano (fresh)
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • just a sprig or two of rosemary (fresh)
  • 2 whole flowers of garlic, top cut off and as much peel removed as possible

*most people tie herbs together and wrap them into cheese cloth, but my theory is that if you are simmering it at a low enough temperature and you strain it, it’s fine; throw everything in and make it easy on yourself. I’ve always done it that way and my stock is awesome.

Cram this all into your 5 gallon stock pot, and fill it to the brim with water. It should look like this:

Everything should be packed in there so that the liquid that comes out is rich – you can always water it down if you want it more bland, but you can’t make it more flavorful once it’s done.

Once you turn on the heat, start the chores around home, turn on a movie, whatever. Make sure it doesn’t turn up to a heavy boil. At most, you want a heavy simmer (NO boil!). Check it here and there, give it a stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom or sides.

Skim the impurities and some of the fat that will come off the chickies that rise the surface (it looks like wierd foam). Just use a big spoon, skim it off and throw it out; this is a huge boost in how to get a beautifully clear stock.

Keep peeking in, skimming and stirring here and there, salting it mildly as you go, and give it a taste in a couple hours.

Let it simmer for 3 hours, and start tasting. It should take 3-4, maybe 5 hours for really rich, good chicken stock. Taste along the way, salt along the way, skim along the way and when you like it, take it off the heat to cool and then strain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth into glass jars when done.

 

And look at how beautiful that stock is! Use it in everything now!

 

 

This Is How We Camp

This is how we wake up.

This is how we have lunch.

 

And here’s how you can have a bangin’ lunch too:

  • Dinner Rolls
  • Mayo
  • Spicy Mustard
  • Fresh Taragon leaves (not optional, it makes the sandwich incomprable!)
  • Mixed Greens
  • Very Thinly Sliced Onions
  • Avocado
  • Salami

 

  1. Put it all together into a sandwich, making sure to put the mayo into hearts.

 

This is how we follow up, with dinner on the fire:

Marinate your steak in a ziploc bag, grill it up on a fire that looks like this:

Get those grill marks, and serve it with some fennel potato salad:

You’ll be a happy camper, too.

Thanks to Amy Tso for photos

Spicy Pickled Slaw & the Mission Community Market

I was recently cursed with bout of the ugliest of stomach flus, spending a week of my life on and off of the couch, up and down at all hours of the night. It sucked. Seriously, sucked. There were, however, one or two breaks in the clouds where I thought I was feeling better and so ventured out, desperate for some fresh air and to avoid the atrophy that was setting in on my body. One such evening, I weakly stumbled upon the new Mission Community Farmer’s Market.
And by golly, what luck of the season (though I already knew), it was perfect timing. The market full of lovely purveyors, delicious pupusas and super scrumptious fruits and veggies. And, of course, as it’s that glorious season for all things canned, jammed, jellied and pickled with an adorable label, my heart let out a sweet giggle when I found this purveyor, Emmy’s Pickles and Jams:

I indulged myself in some quince butter (oh, mmmmmmm) and a jar of zesty pickles (double mmmmmm)…..

I’m going for the fig jam next time….

After chatting it up for a minute, I moseyed on for my own jarring (hah! oh, puns…) adventure. I was on the look out for some additions to cabbage, fennel, onion, and carrots…. that’s right. Some additions to…. SLAW!

Mmmmm!

Edging dangerously close to the end of pepper season, I didn’t know what I was gonna find – but I did know I was gonna snatch up and hoard what I could. I got lucky and crossed upon some beauties!

and these shishitos..

You might think they’re padrons, but they’re not! (They’re mostly the same, though. Think of them as the japanese version.)

The great thing about slaw / pickled items is that they’re incredibly versatile. You can use just about anything that’s available. Lately, I’ve been using a combination of some or all of the following:

    Cabbage
    Jalapenos (lots of ’em, some seeded, some not)
    Fennel
    Onions (white, red, yellow, shallots)
    Green Beans
    Yellow Wax Beans
    Carrots
    Padrons/Shishitos (stemmed and torn in half lengthwise)
    Red, Yellow, Orange Bells
    and these gorgeous purple heirloom peppers I got at the market:

This recipe is adapted from Charlie Kleinman’s (of Wexler’s) recipe for brining anaheim chiles. I use his ratios, but add a few ingredients and change the types of sugar and vinegars.

The recipe also works really well for jalapenos all by their lonesome. If you do that, though, I strongly recommend soaking them in ice water for a couple hours after you’ve cut them. The ice water mellows out some of that super intense heat they got. You also gotta decide whether to seed or not to seed – that is the question….(oh, I’m cracking myself up again…) Depends on how hot you want them. Remember, that’s where the majority of the heat comes from.

The basic ratio is:

    1/2 c. white vinegar
    1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
    3T white sugar
    3T brown sugar
    2t coarse grey sea salt (substitute regular salt if you can’t find coarse)
    2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
    2 bay leaves
    1T black peppercorns1c. water

To make the brine and slaw:

    1. Bring all ingredients to a boil, then pour immediately (while still boiling) over slaw.2. Let cool just a bit then seal with a screw top lid. It’s not necessary to do a proper canning seal for this quick pickle.

You can make as much or as little of this brine as you want, just make sure to keep the ratios the same – double it, triple it, half it, whatever – but is has to be one part vinegar to one part water, etc etc. You can adapt the types of vinegar and sugar you use depending on how sweet or hot or acidic you want it. I use a lot of jalapenos, which is why I use brown sugar and apple cider vinegar; the extra sweetness cuts some of the heat. You could play around using champagne vinegar or rice vinegar or even flavored vinegars like taragon vinegar, or with sugars like turbinado sugar – just KEEP THE RATIOS THE SAME!

To determine how much of if you’ll need:

Figure out how much it will take to completely cover the amount of slaw (or other pickled item) you’ll be making, then make just a little bit extra to compensate for whatever might evaporate when it boils.

To prep your slaw ingredients:

    1. Chop all the ingredients you chose to use into long strips that are about the same
    size. I assume you’ve seen slaw before and know what size it should be. You can
    leave the beans whole, just snap off the dirty ends
    2. Mix them together in a large bowl so they’re evenly distributed. It should look about
    like this:

    3. Evenly distribute the mix amongst the jars you have cleaned. Fill them just about to the top, leaving just enough room for a little bit of extra brine.

    4. Follow the instructions above to make the brine etc. etc.

    5. Let it sit for one to two days, and enjoy!

Fiddlehead Ferns – A Fun, but Short-lasting and Potentially Dangerous Novelty

A month and a half or so ago, fiddlehead ferns were in season. They’re awesome. I have to be honest though, their “awesomeness” is more in their novelty than their flavor. They’re OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive, as well as a bit hard to find. I read another blog claiming that they were available for $6/lb in Boston this past season – but I don’t believe it. I paid $20/lb for them (albeit at Bi-Rite – a store that I love, but is admittedly super expensive).

Regardless, however, the season is over so it doesn’t much matter their cost, does it? The season is two – maaaaaybe three – weeks long in the middle of May; they’re the unfurled fronds of the Ostrich Fern, which – once furled – is supposedly a supercarcinogen to the point of being almost poisonous. There’s another edible fern, as well, called the Bracken Fern that’s supposedly a lot more dangerous. You get mixed information depending on what you read. I’m not a botanist, so I don’t know the whole truth behind the “poisonous” Ostrich Fern, but I do know two things.

1. There was a series of accounts of wacky food poisoning in New York and Quebec because of “unidentified toxins” in the plant – these plants, though, are late harvest.

2. I have eaten them more than once and had no problem, and so have a grip of friends.

As far as I can tell, most of the toxins come out as they start to open. So get them while their hot, and forget the ones that are three weeks into the season. Unless you like blowing chunks and getting stomach cancer – in which case, I say go hunt some ferns down now, in July, and feast near strong and proper plumbing.

And now, back to the important part – the eating part. Like I said, I think their fame is for their novelty and less for their actual flavor. Raw (and even a little cooked) they’re bitter, funky and stringy. I hear people compare them to asparagus, and that’s a lie. Obviously I wouldn’t eat raw asparagus because that’s gross, but cooked it’s meaty, earthy and perfect. Ferns, when cooked, are still a little stringy, a little bitter but have a nice juicy crunchy bite – a little like biting into a crispy succulent. There is some spice, a little earthiness, but you end up getting most of your desired flavor from what you cook it in; and to do so, follow these quick and simple instructions and you’ll be on your way to a delicious fiddlehead fern salad:

    1. Trim off any brown part at the end and rinse them off in a colander.

    2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and blanch the ferns for 2 or so minutes (til bright green) then shock ’em in an ice bath.

    3. In a deep saute pan, heat up equal parts butter, duck fat and bacon fat. It’s ready when it’s bubbly, melted and starting to brown (but not yet brown).

    4. Add the cleaned ferns (careful, you don’t wanna get burned by greasy fat popping on you!) to the fat, add a super tiny pinch of salt (the bacon fat is gonna salt it up) a couple twists of fresh ground pepper, a clove or two of finely minced garlic, and a hefty pinch of heat – meaning cayenne, red pepper flakes, ground chili, or (my choice) korean red chili flakes and the juice of half a lemon. The heat from the cayenne/pepper flakes/chili whatever and the acid in the lemon will act to cut through the thickness of all the fats (which add some complexity to the bitterness) and balance out the bitterness even more.

    5. Fry it like this for a hot minute, till just a little browned (but don’t let the butter and fats burn!), then drain it like you would bacon – in paper towels or a fine colander. (save the left over renderings for another dish)

    6. Toss the still warm ferns with raw squash blossoms. While they’re cooling, fry up a couple of pieces of bacon, nice and crispy and dice ’em into bite sized bits; separately whisk together equal parts champagne vinegar and extra virgin olive oil with a little salt and pepper. While the bacon is still warm, toss it all together (ferns, blossoms and bacon) with some mixed greens, goat cheese with a teeny tiny bit of the vinaigrette (really light). Some delish additions could be some shaved pickled onions or diced calabrian chilis.

    7. Now eat it!

And just for fun, a fiddlehead wine recipe! (I can’t wait til next season to give it a shot!)

Roasted Tomato Soup with Bacon or Caprese Grilled Cheese

It’s probably fair to point out that in the middle of winter, any respectable culinary institution won’t be serving many tomatoes, seeing as how they’re out of season- pale, hard, bland and an over-all disgrace to the beauty a tomato can offer (to those that don’t find them generally repulsive, that is….). But every now and again you have to give in to desire and deal with what the fates of the season will offer. RoastedToms I’ve definitely seen worse.

That said, I offer you a hearty and warming winter lunchtime (or anytime) meal. Serve it up topped with grated cheddar cheese, bacon crumbles, and/or spicy buttered croutons (see below) and one (or both) of the grilled cheeses in the next post.

This soup is soooooo easy! Promise. And simple to clean up – a big plus for those of us in a teeny-tiny apartment without a dishwasher.
RoastedTomSoup
Roasted Tomato Soup

    6 ripe Roma tomatoes, quartered and cored
    4 small cloves of garlic, skin on, tips cut off
    1/2 yellow onion, cut in half again with the base in tact to hold it together; like this:quarteredonions
    1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and quartered

    few T’s of good extra virgin olive oil (for roasting)
    few pinches of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

    1t cayenne
    1t cumin
    1t hot mustard powder
    3-4 medium basil leaves, stemmed and chopped

    1. (Heat oven to 400) Toss tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes skin side down until soft and a little browned (about 10 min) and roast the rest until soft (about the same time). Make sure the onions are soft enough to the touch that they will easily puree – there shouldn’t be any crunch at all.

    2. Once roasted, let everything cool and then peel the tomatoes and bell peppers (it will be really easy); garlic should easily squish out of its skin; cut off the base of roasted onions and chop into small pieces.

    3. Combine all ingredients into a blender or high-sided bowl and puree with an immersion blender.

    4. Done!


Spicy Buttered Croutons

    1 small sweet baguette, crust removed and cut into small crouton-sized cubes
    2T melted butter (or earth balance)
    1/2t cayenne pepper
    1/2t minced garlic
    pinch of sea salt, fresh ground black pepper

    1. (Heat oven to 350) Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, adding butter slowly to keep the bread from getting soggy.

    2. Bake until browned, about 5 minutes.

    3. Use on soup, salads, mac n’ cheese….etc.