Friday, August 21, 2009

Rule #1: Save Dem Bones!
Right now, my freezer is loaded with chicken stock. The kids have trouble finding their ice cream and complain. But, they eat tasty stuff because of that stock and every cup of stock makes the chicken it came from that much cheaper.

Don't buy consomme or any of the other pre-packaged chicken stocks out there. I came to this conclusion in the grocery store one day when I literally had a chicken in one hand and two containers of chicken stock in the other. The chicken stock was going to cost me more than the chicken. But, it was loaded with salt, so it had that going for it.

Save Dem Bones and Use them! And don't worry that this sounds like it takes a long time. Your active participation in the process is only about 15 minutes or so.

Basic (Not sure there is any other kind) Chicken Stock
Chicken bones (preferably those not gnawed on by any males in the family)
A medium onion
A few cloves of garlic
2 or 3 regular-sized carrots
1 or 2 stalks of celery
Some dried thyme

Put the chicken bones in a stock pot. Try to include some breast bones as they usually have some meat that can be stripped later for yet another meal. Add water until the bones are covered by an inch or so (hey, you're gonna simmer it a long time). Bring it to a boil.
Turn the flame down to a simmer and add the other ingredients. Chop the carrots, onion and celery but you don't need to pulverize them. Do NOT salt the stock. Add any salt to taste when you actually use the stock to make something.

When I say "simmer," you're looking for a small bubble, like the chicken is relaxing in a spa. You're not boiling frogs here.

Now simmer the stock until the spousely person in your life asks, "Is this done yet?" a few times or three to four hours, whichever comes first. You're looking for it to reduce to less than half of what you started with. It should look like it's rich with flavor and any chicken meat still on the bones should look like the color of gray on the heel of a sweat sock (don't worry about "pretty" while you're still cooking; that's for presentation and that's another posting).

Let it cool, then pour it through a sieve, cheese cloth or other fine mesh gadget. Put that in the fridge overnight. Strip any meat off the bones and package that for a pasta or something.

The last step is to skim the fat off the surface with a slotted spoon, then package the stock in one-cup containers and freeze it. To use, pull it out of the freezer, thaw in the microwave and be sure to bring it to a boil first when you add it to whatever you're cooking.

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