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11/01/2011

~ It's National Chicken Stock Day: In Mel's Kitchen! ~

PICT3582Today is my own private holiday.  For some reason, for many, many years now, on November 1st, I make a huge pot of chicken stock.  I actually plan my week around this day.  It is a day just for me.  Once the stock is simmering, I make no attempt to be particularly productive.  I relax, read, write or watch a movie for a few hours.  Even my poodles snooze for hours in the etherial environment.  Perhaps I chose November 1st because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, at which time I'll need quite a bit of chicken stock.  The truth be told, I think it is that instinct we all have to "ready our nest" for Winter.  Birds fly South, squirrels collect acorns, I make chicken stock... and my world is a kinder, gentler place to live in today because of it.

PICT3608Meet my 24-quart stockpot.  This is the biggest stockpot I own and I have no idea what I would do without it on this holiday.  Of course, I have others, ranging in size from 8-, 12-, 16- to 18-quart, but this big-bad-boy brings a smile to my face.

A stockpot is a large, deep, straight-sided pot used for preparing stocks and simmering large quantities of liquid on the stovetop.  It has a wide, flat bottom, two handles on the sides and a lid with a handle on the top.  Stockpots are made from aluminum, stainless steel, copper and/or enamel, and have bottoms made of layers of different metals to enhance heat conductivity.  This one is restaurant-quality and is made of aluminum, which is a fantastic conductor of heat.  That being said, before purchasing an aluminum stockpot, know that while aluminum pots and pans are a top-knotch heat conductor, it is not recommended that food be stored in them for long periods of time. Aluminum will react with and discolor some foods containing eggs, wine or other acidic ingredients, like tomatoes.  While this discoloration is not harmful, it is unattractive.  Every cook needs a stockpot and I recommend choosing the biggest, bestest one(s) you can afford.

Vegetable Stock #8 (In Pyrex Containers Closeup)The definition of stock is:  A moderately seasoned, strained, clear liquid resulting from the simmering of water, bones and/or vegetables.  Stock is the basis for almost all soups and stews, and when reduced, is the basis for many sauces and gravies.  In order of versatility, beef, chicken and veal are the classic stocks, with seafood and vegetable coming in a close second and third.  The same basic guidelines apply to the preparation of all stocks:  minimal boiling, maximum simmering and moderate seasoning (unless the stock being prepared is going to become soup for tonights dinner, in which case it should be seasoned accordingly).    The single goal of all stocks is the same:  clarity.

Debate over the inclusion of meat (on bones) instead of just raw bones or roasted bones (in the case of brown stock) exists.  Unless you work in a restaurant, the quantity of bones necessary for the preparation, besides being cumbersome, can be prohibitive as:  specific bones are not always available at your butcher shop and/or can take months to accumulate in your freezer. While the inclusion of meat (on bones) is a little more expensive, it shortens the preparation time considerably, adds depth and sweetness to the flavor, and, provides poached meat/poultry for use in the end product:  soups, stews, sauces, gravies and even casseroles.  The following chicken stock recipe, my own recipe, represents the "put meat in the stock" mindset.

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3  4-pound frying chickens, preferably cut in half (Note:  I request my butcher do this.  Cutting the chickens in half makes them more manageable to work with after the stock is done.  Using whole chickens results in a perfect balance of fat, flavor and meat to eat.)

10  quarts cold water

2  pounds peeled yellow or sweet onions, left whole

1  pound peeled carrots, left whole

1  pound celery stalks, left whole

8-10 large, peeled garlic cloves

6-8  6"-8" fresh rosemary sprigs (about 1 ounce of fresh rosemary sprigs)

4  tablespoons sea salt

2  tablespoons white pepper 

PICT3586~ Step 1.  Place all of the ingredients in the stockpot, except for the white pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and using a skimmer, remove and discard all of the white foam as it collects on top of the the liquid.  This process will take about 10-12 minutes.  Note:  If you had added the white pepper, it would have collected in the foam and you'd be discarding it too.

PICT3592~ Step 2.  After you are done removing the foam, remove and discard the rosemary too.  It will be limp and losing its bright green color.  This herb has done its job. The result will be a stock that is lightly and pleasantly flavored by it, rather than overpowered by it if you'd have left it in any longer.

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~ Step 3.  Stir in the white pepper. Reduce heat to simmer gently, uncovered, for about 3-3 1/2 hours. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for about 3-3 1/2 hours.

~ Step 4.  Using a large slotted spoon, remove chicken to a platter or bowl.  Set aside.  Remove and discard the vegetables, with the exception of the carrots... I eat them with just a bit of salt and pepper.

PICT3627~ Step 5.  Ladle the stock into a fat/lean separator.  Pour the stock from the separator, through a mesh strainer, into the desired-sized food storage containers, leaving about 1/2" of headspace at the top of each container to allow for expansion if you are freezing the stock.  Discard fat from separator.  Repeat this process until all stock has been separated and strained.

Use as directed in specific recipe or refrigerate overnight and freeze.

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It's National Chicken Stock Day:  In Mel's Kitchen:  Recipe yields 8 1/2-9 quarts of stock and about 6-8 cups of succulent, shredded chicken for use in soups, stews or a casserole or two.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 24-quart stockpot w/lid; skimmer; soup ladle; fat/lean separator; fine mesh strainer;  desired-sized food storage containers, preferably glass 

Cook's Note:  Don't have a 24-quart stockpot?  Don't want a 24-quart stockpot?  I wrote this recipe so it could easily be halved or quartered.  That being said, this chicken stock is going to see me through my chicken stock requirements for about 6 months.  So, if you want to Winterize your nest's freezer with homemade chicken stock, I recommend you consider investing in at least a 12-quart stockpot.  You can thank me later.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

Comments

Marilyn: Plug in the words "It's National Chicken Stock Day". I will pop right up. I have no idea why it won't appear by narrowly searching "chicken stock". You will find it. Oh, PS: I don't want you to EVER have to purchase another cookbook! Stay warm -- it is BITTER COLD here in PA!!!

AND, in searching for it, I realized I never need to purchase another cookbook!
If I can't find it on KE, the hell with it! LOL!

Mel~ I can't seem to find your chicken soup recipe on KE!
I see Ann's. Making stock today. Am I going nuts, becoming stupid, or did you remove it? I know I made it before. Help!

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