This post could be a $50 Christmas gift to you...
Only a couple days till my Pom Party and party pondering is in full swing. Too early to actually cook anything, but setting the menu (my job), planning the decorations (a shared job with my wife) and watching Jackie clean every square inch of the house (hehehehehehe) has begun.
So, yesterday was chicken stock day for me. I am still pondering my soup choices (I think I have narrowed it down to a Cajun Artichoke cream soup that will have a Pomegranate-Garlic spiral swirl on the top). But, no matter what I chose to cook, I know I will need chicken stock. Either Sunday night or in the near future. Soups are being made every week around here. I use a LOT of stock.
Funny thing happened to me at the store yesterday. I was walking by the deli department and they actually had a sale on rotisserie chicken. Only $4.99 for an already cooked, fully seasoned chicken. I snapped up 2! Then, on the end cap of the very next aisle, I saw chicken stock on sale for $4.99 a quart. Really??? Ponder that for a moment. A fully cooked seasoned chicken is the same price as the stock you make from the bones??? Really??? I could get all philosophical on you, but really, what is wrong with this country? No wonder houses are being foreclosed on. Be cheap, be a cook, make your own stock and get 4 FREE chickens.
The holidays are coming up. Last year, I estimate I easily used 10 quarts of chicken stock (I did have 4 parties, plus Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's dinners, plus just general cooking for the week) between now and the first of the year. Now honestly, can you afford to throw away $50 between now and January?
It's just habit for me now, I make stock at least once a month. Between gravies, soups, rice (really, make your rice in chicken stock in place of water for deeper flavors) and what ever I think of, it always needs to be replaced. And, since we are empty nesters, we always seem to have vegetables left over that are close to going bad. Much better to make a stock than to toss in the garbage. be cheap, be a cook and be a good steward of the Earth.
Now, if I ran a restaurant, or was attending a prestigious cooking school, consistency would be very important. The exact same volume and variety of vegetables and bones would be used every day. the stock would be the same every day. Mine isn't. I use what I have...
Are in the stock I am showing. Next week, I will have some Asparagus and Artichokes. Just go through your veggie drawer and see what you have. Do a rough cut, they are there for flavoring, and will be strained out in the end.
As to the seasonings, I cook the stock with the bird, skin and all. Already seasoned. You want the stock flavorful, but you want to be able to add seasoning to whatever you are putting the stock into. So, just the seasoning on the chicken is plenty, no more.
Because I cook with so much of the fatty parts.
The fat does rise to the top.
I skim every few hours so the stock is not full of fat.
OK, the technique is painfully simple...
Fill a big pot with water.
Drop in the bird carcass
Add the veggies
Get the water simmering (simmering only, not a rapid boil)
Cover and check every few hours
The Stock is done when the bones break easily (the connective tissues have all rendered out). Takes about 8-10 hours.
Before Rachael Ray and even before Alton Brown... But after Julia Child... And somewhere around the time of Graham Kerr (But I am digressing with the foodie timeline), there was JEFF SMITH... THE Frugal Gourmet.
His catch phrase, "Frugal doesn't mean cheap. Frugal means that you don't waste anything." is becoming a way of life for me. I loved my time on the Virgin Isles, but it was not cheap. So, frugal to eat better became my new catch phrase. I don't mind paying for a premium ingredient, but I will use it all. And by stretching the food I do buy, I can fit more in my food budget.
This day, I made 4 quarts of stock. I put them in freezer bags, marked the date. 3 went in the freezer, one in the fridge. All from the carcass of one bird and leftover veggies. The equivalent cost of 4 FREE chickens.
Be a Cook
Get a free chicken (or 4)
And today, I am going to do party prep on the drinks I am going to serve at the Pom Party. Everything must be taste tested....