Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stocking Up

I came late to stock. I only started making my own about a year ago. I was somewhat skeptical. Would I really taste the difference? And it's just so easy to pop open a can of College chicken broth and dump the industrial goodness into whatever I'm cooking.

But after a couple of batches, I was converted. The difference is subtle, but significant. It's hard to quantify, but food cooked with homemade stock just tastes better. Maybe it's the natural MSG, which makes it fitting that I use it mostly in Asian stir fries.

At first, I experimented with several recipes, but I never seemed to get the tastiness I was seeking. Then, I added flat cut parsley and celery to the usual salt, pepper, onions, carrots, fresh thyme and chicken backs (I save them when I cut up a chicken, pop them in the freezer and make stock with I have two to three). It made a huge difference. The stock had an aromatic flavorfulness missing from my previous efforts.

Nearly out of stock, I set out to make more, this time using my newly acquired crock pot. I put the ingredients -- six cups of water, three carrots, two onions, two ribs of celery, all chopped into large pieces, a handful of parsley, fresh thyme and two chicken backs -- in the stock pot, set it on low and let it cook for eight hours.

I then drained the contents through a sieve (I use a simple, large sieve, not the fancy conical ones you see on cooking shows), pressing down to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. I then tasted and added a little salt. I find the seasoning of stock the trickiest part. You have to get it just right or it tastes too salty or too bland.

The result in this case was rich, deep brown, flavorful stock.

After letting the liquid cool, I covered the bowl with with wax paper and put it in the fridge for about 24 hours after which it looked like this:

Oooooo, how about that thick snow white crust of congealed chicken fat? As my friend Alice would say, it's so soooothing.

Using a slotted spoon and a potato masher (my daughter's suggestion; it worked well), I skimmed off the fat and threw it away (connoisseurs of Jewish cooking are crying right now at the waste of all that beautiful schmaltz).

Next, I ladled the stock into containers in two-, one-, half- and quarter-cup increments and put them in the freezer. I also filled an ice cube tray (just pop out a couple of cubes, microwave on "un-thaw" for three to four minutes and you have stock). This should last me at least six weeks, probably longer.

1 comment:

  1. I love making my own stock too. It's easy to do and tastes so much better than canned.