Monday, December 11, 2006

Back to the Basics

As my cooking skills have improved, my desire to have quality ingredients has increased and I find myself on the weekend not cooking gourmet items, but making the basics that make cooking easier and tastier for the rest of the week. I decided to share some of my favored recipes and the first one is about as basic as you can get, chicken stock. As I said before, the better the ingredients the better the final dish. Since most recipes require chicken stock, I thought I should tackle this one first. This version of chicken stock comes from Cook's Illustrated and their public TV show America's Test Kitchen. This makes a full flavor gelatinous stock that improves the flavor of every dish where it is used.

Chicken Stock


Ingredients:

4 lbs Chicken legs each hacked into two pieces
1 onion roughly chopped into big pieces (so they don't fall through a strainer)
2 bay leaves
2 quarts of boiling water

Process:

Put a large stock pot over medium heat with one to two tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and cook for about five minutes until soft and beginning to brown and remove onions to a bowl.

Add 1/2 of the chicken pieces and brown on all sides. Keep the heat high and turn after five minutes. The pieces will smoke and stick, just pry up and rotate or stir. Remove batch to the bowl with the onion and brown the second batch of legs. Once browned, add onion and first batch back to the pot, turn the flame to low, cover and sweat for 20 minutes.

Raise the heat to high, add boiling water, bay leaves and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot for all those chicken pieces that stuck to the pot during the browning. Bring to boil, then cover, lower the heat back to low and simmer for twenty more minutes. After 20 minutes, turn flame off, and let cool. Discard the big pieces and strain ( I use a mesh strainer then a finer mesh strainer) and then pour into plastic containers. I use some 2 cup and 1 cup sizes and freeze. The two cup is about the size of the can of stock, and the one cup is the size of those juice box stock boxes.

You can de-fat before you freeze or after you thaw, or just use the fat, its up to you. You can also add some salt when you add the water, but I would rather salt my final dish rather than the stock.

I will add some recipes later that I love that use this stock as an ingredient.
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