Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Recipe: Chicken Broth Cures Bad Days

Blurg. It has been gloriously pretty the last few days- crisp mornings, bright, warm afternoons- but that's all over now. Fall has.......fallen. Like a ton of soggy, smelly bricks.

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain on my window. Under other circumstances, this is a rather pleasant sound. It is a noise that murmurs promises of sleeping in, snuggled under a warm comforter, sitting by a fire drinking hot cider. Unfortunately, I have to go get intellectually browbeaten in Criminal Procedure today, the comforter reminds me that: "Hi! October! No job! Panic!", and there's a Mysterious Something living in our fireplace, which has forced Roommate and I to keep our hands and heads firmly out of the fireplace, and the fireplace itself barricaded by cardboard boxes (it is a creepy Something).

Still, it is getting to be the season for comfort food (and also, for food which is easily frozen and reheated, and does not come from the law school cafe). Since cooking is what I do when law school threatens to make me put my head in the oven,* I took a sanity break and make chicken stock over the weekend (like chicken broth, but tastier).

Chicken stock, you say? Nobody, you glorious, sarcastic, little Julia Child, you say? Believe me, I get that all the time. Really though- chicken stock is easy! It gets rid of leftovers! You can study while it cooks! It makes you better looking! And it keeps well in the freezer!

Things Chicken Stock is Good For:
Soup (Matzo, Chicken Noodle, Gumbo, etc)
Keeping chicken breasts moist in the pan while cooking
Mental Health
Self Esteem
Combating the Flu
Other: Choose your own adventure!

No really though- you should make it. I did, and I can barely be trusted to keep my head out of the oven. Ready? Ok.

First Things First: You will need some goodies. More goodies = better soup/stock. You'll need: onions (several), celery (bunch), carrots (large rabbit's supply), mushrooms (optional, handful), garlic (never optional, several heads, wards off vampires), chicken bones (mmmmm. Leftovers. Fun.), olive oil, great big pot of fun, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme (in sprinkling-while-looking-culinary amounts), pepper, and the ability to play fast and loose with directions. You will not need a measuring cup. Measuring cups are for sissies.

All set?

I took:
1. 3 or 4 garlic cloves, smashed, lightly sauteed in oil (mmmmmm. Now your kitchen smells like you know what you're doing)
2. 2 onions, roughly chopped (quarters- not just for laundry anymore!)
3. 5 celery stalks, roughly chopped (would have been six, one succumbed to the peanut butter and became "ants on a log")
3. 4 carrots, snapped into hunks (not the man-candy kind. Sorry.)
4. Handful of mushrooms, again, lightly chopped.

Throw all of the above goodies into a pot, and fill it with water until they are just covered. Get them boiling lightly. Ignore them harder than that impending memo deadline.

Next, it's chicken time!
1. Grab your chicken carcass. Oh, what's that you say? You don't have a chicken carcass just lying around? Me either- I bought mine at the grocery store under the guise of "rotisserie chicken." This is a great gig, because you have your chicken and eat it, too (cue laugh track). Other good ways of obtaining chicken bones:
- Cooking chicken thighs, bone-in
- Breaking up dog fights in the alley

2. Get rid of what meat you can from the remaining bones- if you haven't already eaten it, some of this meat is good for soup immediately after you've made your broth. Otherwise, grab bones, skin, and other shmeh bits of chicken, and throw them onto a cookie sheet or baking pan (with edges!). I like putting a little butter or olive oil on my pan, because I like fat, and not having to scrape my chicken-goodness off a hot cookie sheet.

3. Add to your cookie sheet:

- Another onion or two, roughly chopped
- Garlic
- Carrots
- Sprinkling of sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano- whatever other spice sounds chickeny and good is also appropriate. What's in your cupboard? Put that in.

4. Turn the oven to 350. Roast that badboy like the culinary genius you are. I like to poke at everything and push it around with a spatula after about 20 minutes or so. You are trying to roast the bones to a nice, rich, brown color. In our oven, this can take 40 minutes or more- you'll start to smell a change, so don't get too jumpy. It will get there. Do your reading! Your veggies should still be simmering. If they need more water to keep them covered, add it. Flouncing around in an apron and taste-testing will lend legitimacy to this endeavor.

5. Once your bones are browned, remove them from the oven, and dump the whole mess in your pot. For a little extra flavor, pour hot-to-boiling water on the pan, and scrape up all the leavings that are stuck there. Once you've combined your roasted chicken ensemble with the veggies, make sure they're covered in water, and turn down the heat. Let them sit on the stove and think about what they've done.

6. Keep simmering. The longer you leave it simmering, the stronger the flavor will be. I've left mine in anywhere from 3 hours to overnight- I am still standing. To my mind, 5 or 6 hours is ideal- this has more to do with my attention span and free time than it does with the broth.

7. When you've had about enough of that, remove from heat and let cool. This process goes much faster in a sink full of ice cubes or cold water. Once the broth is cooler, dump it through a colander to get all the big chunks out. If you are sans-strainer, this can also be done with a pasta serving utensil.

8. Ladle into containers for storage.
Chicken broth should be good in the fridge for several days- it keeps in the freezer for much, much, longer. I usually freeze several ice cube trays' worth to keep in a ziploc when I only want a little bit (sauteeing, keeping things moist, extra flavor), and one or two margarine tub-sized containers (soups, dropping on your toe and swearing prolifically).

9. Serve with aplomb anywhere "chicken broth" is called for, and some places it is not. Marvel in your culinary abilities.

See? Chicken broth. Don't you feel better now?

*Lets thank God and Sylvia Plath for that lovely little interlude, no? Be glad I'm not a baker.


(In)Sanity Gal said...

Okay, I'm inspired. As if I needed something else to distract me from law school. Yikes. Well, at least if I fail my exams, I'll have something yummy to eat.

adele said...

Heh. I started blogging about cooking when law school made me want to jump into the Charles and not resurface.

All rights reserved to my snotty and generally self-deprecating writing. And if your comments bother me, I'll delete them. That's right, pumpkin.
...How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one's name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!
-- Emily Dickinson