Taking Stock

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I make a lot of stocks and sauces in the fall. Fresh vegetables, a cool house, and freezer with room all say “make stock!” to me. Ok, the freezer never has room, but that doesn’t stop me. I grew up in a large household, and I remember helping my dad make broth from the leftover bones of roast chicken and turkey. These days, I pick up bone-in chicken breasts on $1/pound sales and fillet them myself, saving the bones and scraps for stock. Suck it, co-op.

I always start with a traditional base of browned carrots, onions and celery which a foodie might call “mirepoix”. I always hated cookbooks and cooks who call food by foreign names for no other reason than to sound fancy. You are not in France. Your dish is called “Eggplants and Zucchini”, not “Augberines et Courgette”. I find lawyers have a similar tendency, although “ex post facto” does sound quite a bit more interesting than “after the fact”.

Anyway. If I have spare time I might roast the veggies and chicken bones in the oven for an hour or so- it adds flavor, but it’s not necessary. I try to keep tasty kitchen scraps around for when I make stock- hard cheese rinds like Manchego or Parmesan go into the freezer, as do fresh herb stems like thyme or tarragon. There’s no “secret” to great stock. Don’t over season it- stock exists to be a base for the flavors of whatever you make with it, not to act as the last refuge of your kosher salt crystals.

Add everything to a pot and fill with water. I usually try to fill my 2 1/2 gallon pot about halfway with bones, scraps and veggies before filling it with water. Simmer the stock for a couple hours and set it aside to cool. I like to strain mine through wire mesh, then pick bits of meat off the bones for chicken noodle soup or chicken pot pie later. I freeze the stock in muffin trays. Once they freeze,dip the base of the tray in hot water. The cubes release easily, and you are left with easy-to-use  half- cup stock blocks.

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