One of my secret, very un-prepper-like joys is getting the call from my wife on the way home, stating that I need to pick something up.
Who knows the reason, but usually that means I’m going to stop by Costco to pick up one of their roasted chickens. Then again, we tend to pick up one of these pretty often. Getting a whole chicken works out well, giving us several meals already largely prepared.
But whether you are like us, and just addicted to that rotisserie chicken, or you like to cook your own. There lies the question of what do you do with the *rest* of the chicken that you don’t eat?
The chicken (turkey, any fowl, or any other bone) leftovers still contain a lot of nutrition just waiting to be tapped. But like most people my age, we’ve never really learned, or just stopped doing the work that it would take to extract the goodness lying within those leftovers.
Making a stock is really just the process of using water and heat to dissolve out special nutrients from whatever you decide to put in there, and keep just that liquefied flavor to use later. Many of us have used recipes that call for an occasional use of some brand of chicken or vegetable stock, or even stepping down to a bouillon cube, giving some form of flavor, and a lot of sodium to fit the general idea of what the finalized product should taste like. But what about making your own, just how hard is it, and how long does it take?
Well, it’s actually absolutely easy. At it’s heart, you really are just going to simmer your desired products until all the goodness comes out. How long is that? Well, from all the places I’ve read, you’re looking at about 4 hours simmering to get everything out of a pot with a chicken carcass and some veggies. Just look online at some of the possible examples for recipes describing the process of making stocks. How could something with that many examples be as easy as what I just described? Well, it is, and the reason there are so many variations, is that each small flavor you put in to your pot to start with will come through the end product giving subtle (or not so subtle if you add a lot) flavors to you stock, and thusly to whatever food you use it in.
As an example today I took one old chicken carcass, two onions, one small bunch of shallots, some parsley, bay leaves, black pepper, and three dried cayenne peppers. Added enough cold water to completely cover, brought it to a boil, then backed it down to a low simmer for 4 hours. At the end I strained it out with some cheesecloth, and now it’s in the fridge, ready to skim off any last fat that congeals on the top.
All I had to do was dump in the food, most of it was just some veggies left in the fridge, and a few herbs. Not much trouble at all. And how does it taste? Well it knocks the socks off anything you’d get in a commercial can, with that touch of spice it’ll go great with some of my food.
Just imagine in these rough economic times, if you’re laid off and having to eat that white rice stuffed in cans under your kids bed right now. After a few weeks you’ll be pretty desperate for some flavor. Why not cook that rice with a touch of this to give it a kick, and a bit of extra nutrition? Most anytime you go to cook something savory and it calls for water, use some of your stock instead, because as we all know, water doesn’t exactly bring a lot of flavor to the game. Not only that, it gives you the ability to get one more meal from your old bones and gristle.
Other ideas to help grow your ‘stock portfolio’. As a kid, I can always remember anytime we cooked veggies, especially any that were simply boiled, or heated from a can, that water was added to a freezer tub. Layer upon layer grew, on it’s own it could be used as a basic vegetable broth itself. But it could be combined with the above method to create some amazing stocks, usually the start of our mom’s stew.
Which really, to me is the best use for the stock. Stews and soups based off a stock such as this are the way old soups all started. Not only do they become thicker, and more flavorful, but they become far more nutritious.
And of course, a highlight of stocks from my favorite cooking instructor: