By Riki Shore
It seems like everywhere I turn people are talking about money. The price of fuel is driving up the cost of food and suddenly eating out isn’t so feasible anymore. That grass-fed steak or wild fish filet you want to buy is going to cost more than $25 to feed a family of three or four. Even the weekly grocery items at Trader Joe’s are more than $50, and we go through them with alarming speed.
At the same time, people seem to be working more than ever. We spend long hours in the office or commuting, and the agreed-upon, and respected, dinner hour no longer seems to exist. I know several women who’ve told me, “I’m lucky, my husband gets up at 5:00 in the morning to go to work, but he’s always home by 6:00 at night”.
I find myself wondering what’s for dinner? What can you make from scratch if you’re working 60 hours a week and you don’t want to spend a fortune on food?
That’s where Kitchen Thrift comes in. Every month I’ll feature a recipe that attempts to answer that question. A recipe that doesn’t cost a fortune or require you to spend an entire afternoon in the kitchen. A recipe that packs a punch in nutrition.
These recipes do require planning and, in some cases, prepping. But they also deliver on taste. Because not every dinner has to be a gourmet meal, but it should always be appealing and delicious.
To kick off the new recipe column, where better to start than with stock?
Not that long ago, people bought chickens whole, with bones and giblets included. Buying chickens this way is still possible, and is, in fact, more affordable than feeding your family boneless chicken breasts. A whole chicken can be roasted and served with roasted root vegetables and a simple salad one night; the leftover meat can be shredded into a lunchtime salad the next day; and the bones and giblets can be made into a delicious and rich stock.
Why go to the trouble? Because stocks are some of the most nutritious and affordable foods you can serve. Sally Fallon has written extensively about the benefits of stock, and the gelatin it contains, in her fundamental cookbook Nourishing Traditions:
“Properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate….In folk wisdom, rich chicken broth – the famous Jewish penicillin – is a valued remedy for the flu….Modern research has confirmed that broth helps prevent and mitigate infectious diseases. The wise food provider, who uses gelatin-rich broth on a daily or frequent basis, provides continuous protection from many health problems.”
Aside from the health benefits, chicken stock is just plain delicious. The great British farmer and cookbook author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writes of stock:
“Call me old-fashioned – I’ll take it as a compliment anyway – but I think it a culinary crime to roast a whole chicken and not make a stock afterwards. A good chicken stock is any number of great meals waiting to happen. It takes fifteen minutes at the most to put together the stock, thirty seconds to strain it into a bowl at the end, and then it’s waiting in the fridge, pregnant with possibilities, ready to assuage family hunger in all kinds of elegant ways.”
All those velvety smooth sauces the French are so famous for? They start with a solid, homemade stock. The flavor in a vegetable side dish at your favorite Asian restaurant? That’s stock, be it fish, beef or chicken. Sauteeing mushrooms and they’re getting a little dry? Drizzle in some stock and you’ve added flavor and moisture, and, let’s not forget, nutrition.
In this column, I’ll start with a basic quick chicken stock and move on from there. Look forward to kombu dashi, the Japanese stock made from seaweed and dried fish flakes, beef broth, and a French fish fumet. Making stock is like riding a bicycle. Once you start doing it regularly, you’ll find it effortless and extremely beneficial to your health.
A quick note on ingredients: you’ll notice that there is no salt in the recipe. It’s good practice not to salt a stock, since you are very likely to add salt in the final recipe, of which the stock is a part. Salt can always be added later, but it can’t be taken away. Also, if you’re lucky enough to have the giblets, do add the heart, gizzard and neck to the stockpot. Don’t include the liver as it lends a bitter taste. Liver is extremely nutritious and you can saute it with olive oil and garlic and eat it separately.
QUICK CHICKEN STOCK
Bones from 1 roasted chicken, picked free of most meat
Heart, gizzard and neck from one chicken, if they came with your bird
1 small yellow onion
1 celery stalk
Small handful of parsley
5 whole black peppercorns
Cold water to cover by an inch
1. Peel the onion and cut it into quarters. Wash the carrot and celery and chop very coarsely. Rinse the parsley, leaves and stems.
2. Place everything in a stockpot or large heavy pot. Cover with cold water by an inch.
3. Place on the stove over medium heat. As the water begins to simmer, you’ll see any impurities rise to the surface. This will look like grayish scum. Skim this layer off using a large spoon or a flat mesh strainer. Rinse the utensil in clean cold water after each skim, then continue to “clean” the pot in this way. After about 15 minutes at a simmer, the broth will become clear and stay that way.
4. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to make sure it’s on a gentle, even simmer. Allow it to simmer for at least 45 – 60 minutes.
5. Allow the stock to cool, then strain out the solids, pushing on them to extract as much liquid as possible. I like to measure the stock into 2 cup increments and store them in Ziploc bags labeled with the date and type of stock. These keep in the fridge for about 5 days and in the freezer for several months. I also like to set aside about 1 cup of stock in a jar with a screw-top lid, one that pours easily and doesn’t leak. This I keep in the fridge to drizzle over the aforementioned mushrooms or greens or brussel sprouts or any other veg I’m sauteing.
A few more recipe ideas for your delicious chicken stock:
- Swiss Chard with Braised Leeks and Garlic
- Alice Waters’ Chicken Noodle Soup on Serious Eats – just omit the noodles if you’re eating gluten-free
- Winter Squash Soup with Porcini Cream from Jeremiah Tower on Food & Wine
- Sugar Snaps and Snow Peas with Fresh Grated Horseradish from David Chang on Food & Wine - make sure to use gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce