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!

 

 

Baked Eggs in Meat Cups! (or, how to wow your brunch guests…)

 

I made these baked egg meat cups for breaky last weekend, and was telling a co-worker about them. She seemed to think it was some kind of super fancy ordeal, but it’s really not. Simple as can be – only a few steps and little clean up, great for serving a lot of people. While they’re baking in the oven (bout 10 minutes or so), throw together a quick salad with a nice tart vinaigrette and a few slices of lightly buttered sourdough toast to serve with the egg cups. With salad and toast, one egg cup is usually enough per person. They can be pretty rich.

Ingredients:

You’ll need a non-stick muffin tin for this.

For each individual cup, you’ll also need:

  • A few slices (about 3, depending on the size) of very thin sliced cured meat (proscuitto recommended)
  • One egg 
  • 2-3 white button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2T butter
  • One medium-thick round slice of tomato
  • 1T grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 oven, preheated to 400

How-to:

1. Line the muffin cups with proscuitto. You can substitute the proscuitto for very thinly sliced bacon, or other cured meats. Just make sure whatever you use is as thin as can be!

2. Sautee your already chopped mushrooms in a small dollop of butter, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then, drop a slice of raw tomato into each cup, and top it with a few mushrooms.

3. Crack one egg carefully atop the mushroom-tomato cup, careful not to break the yolk and trying to keep it as close to the center as possible. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and a pinch of the parmesan cheese.

4. Bake in your preheated 400degree oven until the whites are juuuust set, the yolk still a tiny bit wobbly.  The yolk will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven, until you cut it open and let all the heat out. So poke the yolk ever-so-gently (without piercing it) to find the perfect time for your desired consistency. If serving with toast and salad, I recommend it nice and runny! MMmmmm….

5. After you pull it from the oven, and once it sets for a minute in the meaty-muffin cups, it will be easy to slide out using a couple of wooden or large spoons (be gentle!). Top it with the remaining parmesan cheese and serve with a simple salad of greens and vinaigrette to cut the richness of the meat and cheese and egg and toast to sop up the yolk.

 And don’t neglect all the options! This is just a base for beauty of a breakfast canvas…

  • Replace the parmesan with goat cheese or cheddar cheese. Instead of on top, put the cheese right under the egg, on top of the mushroom and tomato. Top the egg only with salt and pepper.
  • Replace the parmesan with a slice of fresh mozzarella, and replace the mushroom with 2 leaves of fresh basil for a caprese-ish meaty egg cup. Layer in this order: meat cup, tomato slice, basil leaves, mozzarella slice, salt and pepper, egg, salt and pepper.
  • Try adding spinach to the layer of tomato and mushrooms.
And, as always…. enjoy!

Roast Those Fall Veggies!

 

Previously, I was under the notion that everyone knew that one of the best ways to cook 96% of all vegetables was to oven roast them at a really high heat with olive oil, salt and pepper – and sometimes, a few herbs and spices. I mean, seriously. You name it, roasting is the tastiest.

  • Potatoes? Roasted, duh.  (rosemary and bacon)
  • Green beans? Hells yeah! Roast the shit outta those. (chili flakes or sesame seeds/oil)
  • Brussel sprouts? Of course! (lemon and chili flakes)
  • Carrots? Well, we already know that…

Bring it on, I dare you….give me a vegetable that isn’t delicious when roasted. Especially in the fall. I don’t think there’s a single one….

 

And for sure….

 

Cauliflower and Beets! (ahem…purple cauliflower and yellow beets…)

It was cauliflower, actually, that helped bring to my attention the sad fact that not every cook feels, in their soul, the value of roasting. I was reading an article in an old issue of Gourmet (RIP) that preached to the reader the glory of roasting, specifically for cauliflower. I’ll tell you – roasting cauliflower is the only way I cook it. It’s amazing. High heat, til it browns and it’s out of this world. Well, second to the breaded and fried cauliflower from Bar Bambino.

And, being fall and all … all the veggies that you want to roast anyways – they’re extra pretty. Purple cauliflower and yellow beets…


 

chioga beets…

purple and yellow wax beans…

romanesco (aka geometric broccoli)…

and so many more!

So here’s how you do it for a head of cauliflower and about 3 medium sized beets….

 

Cauliflower:

  • Trim it of leaves and the bottom stalk that hold most of the florets together, keep trimming down the stalks and the florets will naturally fall off into small pieces.
  • For the large ones, cut them in half down the middle so they’re about this size: 

Give or take… having some a little bigger, some a little smaller is fine. In fact, the smaller ones are crazy good because they get real crispy!)

For the beets:

  • Cut off the tops and greens (but save the greens, they’re delish!) and then slice them into rounds, about 1/2 inch thick, then cut those rounds like a waffle fry – crosswise, then the other way, so they end up being ’bout an inch square: 

  • Beets, too, are just a little bit “more of less” in size. Because they’re round, and because you’re not a restaurant that is willing to waste a little bit of beet in order to get them all the same size, they’re gonna vary just a tad.
  • Then, put both in a large bowl, toss with tasty olive oil, fresh ground black pepper and salt. I highly recommend using Alaea Hawaiian Red Salt – it’s great for roasting, because it naturally helps to retain moisture. Its iron content (what makes it red) and residual minerals also add great, but subtle, flavor.
  • After tossing it, lay it all out flat onto a baking sheet and drop into an oven preheated for 425 for 25-3o minutes, until there is good visible browning on both the beets and cauliflower, but not so long they’re mushy. Taste-test along the way.
  • Serve it up and eat it!

 

 

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

Choose Your Own Baking Adventure: Banana Walnut, Carrot, or Blackberry Cardamom Bread


I’m no master baker by any means; without a sweet tooth to call my own I generally stay on the savory end of the kitchen. Baking also requires a certain kind of attention to detail and scientific organization that after the daily patience my day job requires, I just can’t hang with. But I’ll tell you – you could be missing an arm and think a whisk is is some kind of sex toy and still be able to make this bread awesome! You can even get creative with it and use your savory skills to combine flavors without opening your oven door to yet another baking catasrophe.

Apart from being a quick simple recipe, the delicious secret to it is FRESH spices. If you’re using cinnamon and nutmeg, don’t use the janky stale powdered stuff that’s been sitting in your cabinet since three Thanksgiving’s ago when you made pumpkin pie. Get a zester or fine grater, some cinnamon sticks, and a hard nutmeg nut and make yourself sneeze with the freshness.
If you’re using cardamom, toast the fresh seeds quickly on the stovetop (not pods, but for extra freshness, you can get pods and crush them to extract the seeds) and grind them in a spice grinder (which you have already, right? It’s just a little coffee grinder that you use for spices instead of coffee….)

Get this together:

1 cup smashed banana, ¾ cup toasted chopped walnuts (or)
1 cup grated carrots (or)
1 cup semi-smashed blackberries , 3/4 cup oats

      (or….):

1 cup any fruit, veggie, etc (wet ingredient that you choose and up to 3/4 cup any nuts, oats, small chopped dried fruit, coconut, choco/butterscotch/peanut butter chip or combination thereof that your heart desires

And here’s how to do it:


1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease 9×5 pan or (2) 6×3 pans

2. Mix 1 ¾ flour ¾ c sugar 1t each baking powder and salt and ½ t baking soda cinnamon nutmeg in large bowl (except blackberry bread, replace with a couple pinches cardamom), add dry ingredients (nuts, oats, dried fruit, coconut etc)

3. In separate bowl whisk 2 eggs, 1/2 c cooled melted butter or vegetable oil, ½ c. yogurt or sour cream, 1t vanilla, stir in wet stuff and fold into dry mixture until nicely combined.

4. Spread batter in pans and bake until tooth pick comes out clean. Cool in pans on rack bout 30 min, then pop out to cool the rest of the way, on a rack.

5. Eat it!