An UnFoodie Stocks Up on Stock

By Karen

To put Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Basics classes to use, I bought a rotisserie chicken and stock fixings.

OK, I didn’t go absolutely CRAZY and roast my own chicken.

Bourdain recommends roasting the bones for richer flavor and color, and my class partner tried it at home. She said they didn’t brown, so she followed Bourdain’s helpful suggestion to slather on a can of tomato paste, which just made a mess she ended up washing off. So I used my bones as they were.

Assembling the stock, I didn’t throw anything into the pot I wouldn’t eat, which means I peeled the onions. And I used dried rosemary and thyme. I couldn’t see blowing $7 on fresh herbs when all but a few sprigs were destined to rot.

It was fortunate I filled my biggest saucepan nearly to the brim because 3 hours into what was supposed to be an 8-hour gentle simmer, the pot was about 2 quarts low.

Next step: figuring out how to get rid of all the boiled yuck.

Maybe you cooks keep a few bolts of cheesecloth around your kitchen, but I don’t, so I fished out the bones and sodden veggies with my wok spider, then strained the liquid through a paper towel in a colander. No chunks or herbs got through, and the paper towels were loaded with beige sludge.

I know you guys are dying to see my stock, so here it is…

After refrigerating overnight, the thick layer of fat I expected on top failed to materialize, so skimming it became my new challenge and I dirtied several slotted utensils before digging out a handheld coffee strainer. Then I froze 2-cup portions in double Ziploc® bags…

Now, someone, please remind me WHY I did this. And DON’T say “chicken soup.” No way am I going to reinsert the veggies I just tossed, and I’ve never eaten chicken in soup that wasn’t dry and chewy — even my grandmother’s, and she considered it her signature dish.

By making stock from scratch, I realize I’ve boldly thrust a toe into foodie world, but I’m not convinced this stuff will add enough flavor to anything to make giving up freezer space to collect old bones and spend entire afternoons housebound to watch a simmering pot is worth it. And making stock in our class’s professional kitchen with a cleanup crew and destroying my own kitchen are 2 entirely different matters.

And the REAL kick in the ass was, after all that cooking, I still had to ask myself, “What’s for dinner?”

I’ll tell you what I had. Tyson Anytizers®. Chicken with no waste, no hassle.

I know Bourdain would be groaning, “After all these years of watching me, have you learned NOTHING, you useless screwhead?”

What can I say?

17 Responses to An UnFoodie Stocks Up on Stock

  1. Great post! You also evoked some fabulous images!! So glad you can say you HAVE made your own broth!

    Tip about “chewy” chicken in soup…use dark meat for the soup or cut the white meat (or shred) in really small pieces, won’t be chewy!)

    The broth you made makes a great substitute for water when making rice or couscous (you can add any seasoning you want to it while the rice or couscous is boiling)

  2. C from FL says:

    Congrats on making your own chicken stock! I think the “beige sludge” that remained on the paper towels probably contained a lot of fat so that is why you didn’t have a lot to skim off the cooled broth. Did you know that if you buy fresh herbs and can’t use them all you can dry them in the microwave (between layers of paper towels) and they will keep in a little baggie or jar?

  3. adele says:

    Don’t yell at me, but you’re now all set to make risotto, and despite Tre’s difficulties on Top Chef, it’s actually pretty easy to make. Take two of those baggies of stock; heat them up, keep the stock on a low flame, saute an small onion, in the pan with the onion put a cup of Arbrorio rice, stir it around until it becomes opaque, then adding a ladle full of stock at a time, stir until the stock is absorbed, add another ladle, repeat, and keep going until you get a nice creamy texture,taste for seasoning,maybe add a handful a freshly grated parmesan and you’re done. The adding of the stock only takes about twenty minutes or so. It’s a little labor intensive, but not as bad as people fear. I usually throw in some sauteed mushrooms, but if I might also add some asparagus cut in small pieces,or a pinch of saffron to make Risotto Milanese. Also, if you like brussels sprouts, cooking them in stock instead of water is a revelation.

    Congrats on your first stock! And the next time you have a rotisserie chicken (or you decide to roast one), put the carcass in the freezer. It will keep for at least 6 months, so you don’t need to make stock until you feel like it. And C is right, your straining the stock probably got rid of a lot of the fat.

  4. catsworking says:

    Here’s something I didn’t mention about my stock recipe: My friend Shelley, who is definitely a foodie but without the snobbishness, told me to put in the chicken skin for flavor, so I did. She was surprised that neither Bourdain nor Sue mentioned it, and that’s why I expected a lot more fat. But I guess my straining method took care of most of it. There was almost nothing to skim off once that stuff cooled.

    caren, I prefer dark chicken meat to white any day. I don’t care what they say about white meat being better for you. It’s always dry. I’ve been suckered in by the canned soup makers (Progresso and Healthy Choice in particular) who show mouth-watering pictures on the can, and then the chicken is always YUCK. Hmmm…. couscous. I’ve never made it, but I’m game to try.

    C, I didn’t realize that about the herbs. Thanks for the tip. Worth a try, but first I’ve got to run low on my dried stuff. Cooking for one, there are only so many herbs I can use. I can’t remember which one it was now, but I once nursed a bunch of something in the fridge in a glass of water for WEEKS until I’d used enough to feel it was worthwhile. And I once grew fresh catnip at work (when I went to an office), then brought the stalks home and dried them in the oven. Buying fresh herbs is a real Catch-22. They can’t just sell them a sprig at a time, but most people can’t use the big bunches.

    Adele, I’m not adverse to trying risotto again. Will have to get some arborio rice. It can’t be any worse than steel-cut oatmeal, the last batch of which I forgot was on the stove and dried out to the point where I thought I’d destroyed the pan it was in. I do make brown rice pretty regularly, too, and I will definitely use the stock for that. As for Brussels sprouts, I buy them every so often just to remind myself how much I HATE them. I guess they’re an acquired taste.

  5. adele says:

    I’m not crazy about brussels sprouts either, but cooking them in chicken stock definitely improves their flavor. And couscous is great — while you have your homemade stock, don’t buy any of the flavored kinds. Your delicious homemade stock will provide much better flavor. It’s unbelievably quick and easy. I usually throw some sauteed mushrooms and shallots in (I’m big on mushrooms and shallots though). If you don’t have shallots in the house some green onion or diced regular onion will do nicely.

  6. Imabear says:

    I guess my stomach is just too queasy for this kind of thing. I can’t even pick cooked chicken to the bone without getting a bit nauseous (I buy boneless now). The last time I bought fresh shrimp, by the time I’d de-veined it, the last thing I wanted to do was eat it. And you make a very good “what now?” point. I think to make it worth you while you not only need to cook from scratch on a regular basis – you also need to really, really enjoy doing it.

  7. MorganLF says:

    I’m with Imabear-I skeeve pulling the chicken flesh off the bones all slimy yecccch!

    I can tell you this, when I go to Trader Joe’s I stock up on their stock in a box. Organic and $1.99, I buy ten at a time.

    It can be used in anything. I am not sure what I did before but now along with wine, it’s in everything.

    I applaud your efforts though, you a bigger man than me Gunga Din, for it is certain I shall never try to make chicken stock from scratch. Roasting bones….as if!

  8. Imabear says:

    I know what you mean, Morgan. I’d go nuts without Trader Joe’s!

  9. catsworking says:

    Imabear and Morgan, you make me feel better. Unless what I made turns out to be ambrosia (I wouldn’t know — after smelling it all afternoon I didn’t even taste it) I’m feeling pretty sure I’ll never make stock from scratch again. I cropped the photos so you couldn’t see the wreck that was the rest of my kitchen. Not only did I make a mess cooking and straining, but it was all the BIGGEST pans and bowls I have. Not to mention the large bag of sodden garbage that’s now sitting in my freezer waiting for trash day (nothing makes a garbage can stink ranker than rotting chicken, so I freeze it until it’s almost time to go on the truck).

    I’m glad to hear that Trader Joe’s has good stock. Next time I’m there, I will definitely get some. I had been using Swanson’s, but never again.

  10. catsworking says:

    Side note: Why I’ll never read Zimmern’s books…

    Reading reviews on Amazon yesterday, one said Zimmern told a story about how he was told to bring a live guinea pig with him somewhere (Peru, maybe?). He did, and his host proceeded to kill it by beating it against Zimmern’s body, and then discarded the dead guinea pig on the ground on a pile of cigarette butts.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t give a SHIT about respecting a foreign culture when it comes to participating in brutalizing a small, innocent, helpless creature. Zimmern lost the little shred of respect I had for him with that.

  11. Imabear says:

    OMG! That guinea pig story is horrid! I’m with you – that is not something I’m going to respect! Indeed, I would not have had anything further to do with the people – after I told them what I thought of them, of course.

  12. zappa says:

    It’s Kitchen Basics for me! I remember my dad making stock,and it was an day long disgusting process.I never wanted to eat the soup he made,it was just too Old Country for me.Chicken feet,anyone? He was a butcher,so EVERYTHING went into his stock. When he made pasta on his mandolin,or sauce(which takes all day)you couldn’t get me out of the kitchen.
    PS I hated brussel sprouts forever until I roasted them in the oven with shallots,OO,S&P-delicious!
    PSS your stock looks elegant!


  13. adele says:

    ZM, you just brought back a memory for me. My mother, when she could get them, used chicken feet in her chicken soup (as in chicken soup with matzo balls. She claimed the feet made the soup richer, and she’d roast them first. Her soup was very good, but before she’d roast the feet she used to amuse herself by chasing my brother and me around with them. Never failed to amuse her.

    Roasting makes almost any vegetable better. Thanks to the Barefoot Contessa, I’ve been roasting asparagus — a little OO, S&P and maybe some parm. Roast at 400 between 7 and 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus — delish. And since I entertain a fair amount, I love that it frees up a burner on my stove.

  14. @adele yum about the asparagus! I do the same with asparagus as well as broccoli and cauliflower oh and also from Contessa, roasted carrots!!!

    Karen give couscous a try, I use the whole wheat kind…it is great!

  15. catsworking says:

    ZM, the stock did look nice in that big stainless steel bowl. But turn 90 degrees and my sink was a disaster!

    You remind me of my grandmother’s chicken soup. She’d make it with rice, celery, and carrots, the 3 blandest ingredients on earth. No seasonings that I’m aware of. Then I think she’d swish a chicken through the water and drop in some dry white meat and whatever they stick inside the carcass. And then cook the hell out of it. It was tasteless and nasty, and we kids would scream if we found a chicken heart or some other nasty bit floating in our bowl. She didn’t go so far as to put in beaks or feet in it. That would have sent me over the edge.

    Sounds like you guys are suggesting I give Brussels sprouts another try. What’s on tap this weekend is country-style ribs in the crockpot.

  16. catsworking says:

    OK, caren, couscous goes on the shopping list. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be one of those things that had to stay on the stove all day or it’s like eating gravel.

  17. adele says:

    Karen, couscous is really fast; depending on the size of the grain, you either put it right in the pot with the liquid, bring it up to boil, turn it off and let it sit covered for a few minutes, fluff it with a fork and you’re ready to go, or you add the couscous (there’s a large grain, which is like little pearls) to boiling liquid, turn down to simmer, and cook for ten minutes.

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