I’m recovering from lots of tasty beer and fun at yesterday’s Autumn Brew Review, so today started with a hearty breakfast. A hash of red and green peppers, potatoes, and spinach, with bacon and scrambled eggs. And coffee, naturally. Now that I’m mostly over this cold I can actually *taste* the coffee again. It’s nice.
Breakfast conversation turned to soups and stock and I remembered the packages of chicken parts and bones in the freezer and my dwindling supply of frozen chicken stock. Yes! That’s the project for today.
The co-ops get packages of chicken backs, necks, and feet from their poultry suppliers, which they sell fairly cheaply (the backs & necks were $1.99/lb and the feet were $2.89/lb). I like to pick up a package from time to time and save them for stock. I also freeze mushroom and parsley stems and carrot and celery trimmings when I remember. All the frozen chicken parts and vegetable trimmings go into the pot, along with a few ribs of celery, a couple carrots, and a couple of onions. No need to be fussy with this step – just chop the carrots and celery into 1-2″ pieces and cut the onions into eighths. I don’t even bother peeling them when they’re organic – the peels add a nice bit of color to the stock, plus I’m sure there are vitamins and minerals that leach out of them. More nutrition is always good!
Next you add the bouquet garni, which is a fancy term for herbs and spices. I snipped some of the parsley and thyme off my plants and added bay leaves, peppercorns, and a couple whole cloves. One of the things I remember from the first quarter of cooking school, the part where they teach you all the basics, is the mnemonic the chef taught us to remember the bouquet garni ingredients: Peppy Pupils Better Cooks Tomorrow. PPBCT. Parsley, Peppercorns, Bay, Cloves, Thyme. I always have to add them in that order, since that’s the way my brain works. Well, I don’t make separate trips outside for the parsley and thyme (most of the time, anyhow), but it goes into the pan in that order.
Cover everything with cold water and bring it to a boil. Skim off the scum that floats to the top as it cooks – that’s from the proteins that leach out of the bones and it makes for a cloudy product if you leave it in. It won’t hurt anything if you do leave it, it just looks kind of gross. Reduce the heat so your stock is just barely simmering and leave it, partially covered, to cook for as long as possible. Strain and then portion it into your storage containers. Let the stock cool to room temperature, label, and then pop it into the freezer.
From there, use it wherever you’d use canned chicken stock – soups, pan sauces, pasta, rice dishes… The sky’s the limit!