Monday, December 7, 2009

Homemade Makes The Difference

Oh blog, I've been remiss! I've neglected you so! I blame a hectic work schedule and traveling for the holidays, and Farmville, but I know excuses are meaningless to you. You've been on the edge of your microchip wondering what deliciousness came out of my kitchen the last few weeks. Well I plan to catch you up this week on everything you missed. Which was quite a bit, actually. Nothing but success from Chez Lo, lately. Starting with my own homemade chicken stock!
All the tv chefs always say, again and again, there is no comparison for homemade stocks. Since my mom never did homemade stocks, I could never agree or disagree. Well with my trusty Martha Tome in hand, I decided to give my own a try.

I had a couple of chicken carcasses in my freezer, since I've been cooking so many whole chickens lately. And in an effort to keep my freezer fuller for greater energy efficiency, and also in anticipation of my own stock making efforts, I had also kept a freezer bag full of carrot and celery tops that I had been saving for a few weeks. So I pretty much had everything I needed!

I threw the chicken carcass in a big pot of water, added the carrots and celery bits, added 2 onions, quartered, and let it gently boil for about an hour and a half. I tried Martha's fat-skimming technique, which was to boil it very gently and skim the fat periodically during cooking, but there was never any to skim, so I guess I just got a less fatty carcass. But here's the real trick. Something I never would have thought of on my own. It's not earth shattering. You might think of it. But if you did, you're smarter than me. Here's the thing. After the stock is all cooked up and delicious, after you strain out all the cooked bits of food particles, you let the stock sit. Let it sit and cool. And then. You skim it! In my ever-impatient state, I would throw that baby in the freezer as soon as it was strained, and then complain when my stock turned out heavy and fatty tasting. But if you're patient and let it cool at room temperature first, then throw it in the fridge overnight, all the fat will rise to the top and congeal and you can skim it off so it's gone! Voila! Fatty bits-less stock!

Of course, after I made the stock, I realized I had no way to freeze it. Or rather, no containers to hold 5 quarts of stock for a long period of time. I've since bought some more of those plastic freezer jam containers and ice cube trays to hold most of it. I've learned that freezing stock in too large a quantity makes it a pain to use later when you have to defrost it. Again, not an actual problem with a little forethought. But I barely have present-thought, let alone fore. So yeah, smaller is better for me.

I used the last of the stock last night, and I think I can safely stock is dang good! Sure my stock was good, but if anything, I think the chicken flavor in my stock was a bit too strong. And it's so much easier to just pop open a carton, use what I need, and throw the rest in the fridge for later use. I can't speak to the cheap stuff, but that free-range organic chicken stock they sell at most grocery stores is pretty darn good and really not that expensive. I'll definitely try a second attempt at making my own (if only because I still have a carcass in the freezer), and I'll try throwing in some other veggies like leeks and broccoli stems, and I'll try cooking the veggies a bit longer, but removing the carcass so it doesn't get too chicken-y tasting, but I'm definitely not recommending you run out and make your own if you're not feeling up to it. I didn't find it made all that big of a difference, personally. And I'm usually all about making as much in-house as you can.

That's my 2 cents! Have you made your own chicken stock before? What did you think? How did your cooking technique differ from mine?


Kelly said...

I use that free range organic chicken stock too, yum yum! I am not a fan of anything that takes a lot of effort w/o a huge payoff, so I probably won't try making my own stock. Ever. :) I am impressed that you did though, even if it did not turn out how you expected!

JuLo said...

Kelly, it actually was pretty simple. Just dump everything that I had in the freezer into a pot of water and let it boil for awhile while I ignored it. The biggest pain was just storing it, finding the containers and what not, I think. Even so, yeah, you're not missing much.

Freya's Human said...

Wow, I am quite impressed. I still haven't reached that level of cooking yet. I remember my mom making stocks when I was growing up and I think she only used drumsticks and whatever dark meat of chicken she had in the fridge. I don't remember her ever using any veggies though. The dogs usually love stock days cause that means they get the meat when it's all done. I'll have to look into that book--I need a lot of tips.