Sunday, November 2, 2014

Let's Talk About Stock

Well, it's here. Winter. Halloween was a perfect Fall day: all hard, bright sunlight and yellow leaves and purple shadows. And I didn't even have my camera. 

Now, the second of November, it's cold and rainy and the breeze is gusting from gentle to frantic every fifteen minutes. We are in the final season, and it's time to pare down, catch up on paperwork, and think about peace and quiet and this incredible view.

Or, you know, go dancing. 

Balkan style.

Occasionally everyone needs a good shake-up to jitter and jangle the cold-weather blues out of your bones. Sure, we'll be cozy and hibernating sometimes, but that's no reason to stop moving completely; you'll atrophy. 

Thanks to Oro! Orkestra (once again) and Winehardt (making their debut on this blog) for providing me an appropriate environment to throw my limbs everywhere, spin around in circles, and dance with complete strangers while getting a headache from smiling too much.

So, the stock talk. 

Remember Chicken Sofrito? Well, the inedible leftover bits have been in my freezer, just waiting for their moment. Never throw out the bones until they've given up every last molecule of flavour they possess. 

Chicken bits.*

*In the years since I originally posted this, I've started tossing these leftover chicken bits with cooking oil and roasting them at 400 for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring/flipping them halfway, just until they brown evenly. THEN they go in the stewpot.*

You can use this broth to make lots of things. If you're braising or stewing or making soup (souping?), this liquid is so much better to use than plain water. And a great thing about it is that you can personalize it. 

Below: juniper berries, salt, fennel seeds, coriander, peppercorns, mustard seeds. This is my preference. If you want, you could throw in chicken, onions, and salt and have done with it. However, I like a little spice. 

What flavours do you like? Pepper? Basil? Parsley? You can use those if you like them. I like fennel, and onion, and bay leaves. 

These are actually the leftovers of the veggies I used in the sofrito, frozen as well. It's good to add in a couple fresh veggies though, in case the frozen ones are just bits and pieces. 

Throw everything in the pot. 

Add water to cover.

Put this on the burner at medium heat, covered with the lid. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. This should ideally stay on the heat for three hours at least.

 If you have a slow cooker, this is a perfect recipe to throw together and leave on the counter all day on low heat. 

After simmering is done, and the broth tastes good to you (that's important!), strain the liquid using a  large colander and then a fine sieve, if you don't like particulates in your stock. 

You can freeze this in airtight containers, but I wouldn't recommend more than two months on ice. One thing you can also do is freeze the stock in ice cube trays overnight, and then dump the cubes into a ziplock bag, so you can have the stock on call in small amounts. 

You can also make vegetable stock, which is a little more complicated because you don't have bones to work from. But we'll get there another day. For now, pull on your warm socks and snuggle up to a woodstove (or go dancing); we've all earned it.

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