Sunday, April 5, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 5
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Hunker down and find control, satisfaction, and nourishment by making your own ultimate comfort food: chicken stock

ANDREA ROOKS


GATHER INGREDIENTS
Only eight ingredients plus chicken or beef bones are needed for a basic stock: celery, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and water.
PHOTO BY ANDREA ROOKS

It’s a gray, rainy afternoon, the day after a national emergency’s been declared because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’m seeking comfort in my kitchen. I’ve got the bones of two roasted chickens from earlier in the week, some fresh veggies, garlic, and a big pot. It’s time to make stock.

The creative act of cooking has a calming effect and helps me feel a little more in control, if not completely centered, no matter what’s going on in the world. Making stock also enables me to prepare for future meals—I divide it into containers and freeze it for several months.

Plus, stock contains nutrients that help keep the body healthy, which grandmas everywhere have always said and science is now better understanding. Stock and bone broth (which is technically stock) contain collagen protein, gelatin, and amino acids that are good for gut health, are anti-inflammatory, and help the immune system. 


ADD WATER
Making stock is more of a method than a recipe—chop the veggies, add to the pot with chicken or beef bones, cover with water, and simmer for two to four hours. There’s lots of room for creativity beyond that.
PHOTO BY ANDREA ROOKS

Here’s my basic recipe (it’s actually more of a method, which leaves room for improvisation), which I’ve adapted from The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook over many years:
Place the bones of a chicken (or two) in a big pot.

Gather and cut into quarters one to two carrots, four to five celery stalks, and one onion.

Peel and smash three garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife.

Place all ingredients into the pot with the bones and cover with water. Add a teaspoon or two of salt, a teaspoon of whole peppercorns, and a dried bay leaf or two. Sometimes I add a tablespoon of cider vinegar, which helps get more nutrients out of the bones and adds a nice tang.


STRAIN
Once the stock is cooked and cooled a bit, carefully strain out the solid ingredients. When it’s chilled, it should have a gelatin-like thickness—that means it’s full of nutrients from the bones.
PHOTO BY ANDREA ROOKS

Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil; turn the heat down, partially cover the pot, and simmer for two to four hours.

 

Use tongs to take out all the biggest chunks of veggies and bones and carefully strain the liquid into a big bowl.

After letting the stock cool to room temperature, skim the fat off the top, and divide the stock among freezable containers (if you’re not going to use it right away). I keep mine in the freezer for up to six months; it’ll last in the fridge for four days. For smaller portions of stock (good for sauces or sauteing veggies) freeze the cooled liquid in ice-cube trays; when frozen, move the cubes to a freezer-safe bag.

If I know I’m going to make soup soon, I’ll throw some frozen chicken breast tenderloins into the stock to cook—I take the meat out after about 30 minutes and set it aside till I make the soup.


SAVE FOR LATER
Homemade stock will keep in the fridge for about four days or in the freezer for up to six months. Use it not only as the base for soups but as a rich flavor in sauces and gravies, meat dishes, rice, stir-fries, etc.
PHOTO BY ANDREA ROOKS

Homemade stock adds a depth of flavor to all kinds of dishes besides soups—from ground turkey stroganoff to gravies and sauces to stir-fry.

Making other kinds of stock entails the same method—just use beef, pork, or lamb bones instead. Or for a veggie stock, add parsnips, leeks, and more herbs, such as thyme, basil, rosemary, and parsley.

Broth, stock, or bone broth?
According to tradition (and the experts at Bon Appétit), a stock is made with meat-stripped bones and gets thick because of the collagen that’s cooked out of the joints and bones during its long cooking time. A broth is thinner because it’s made with meat (or just veggies) and is cooked for less time. So what’s bone broth? Technically it’s stock, but with a twist. Bone broth is cooked for much longer than traditional stock, which simmers for two to four hours. Chicken bone broth takes roughly six hours, and a beef bone broth needs between 16 and 18 hours to simmer.

Right now, as our local, state, and national leaders continue ramping up the precautionary measures to slow the pandemic’s spread, a steamy, savory bowl of homemade chicken soup will go a long way to calm my growing concern and nourish my family.

To turn stock into a simple soup, I saute more chopped carrots, celery, and onion till not quite browned, throw in one or two minced garlic cloves, and add three cups of the homemade stock. Once it’s reached boiling, I add about a cup of uncooked pasta and the shredded, already-cooked chicken. Depending on how spicy I’m feeling, I’ll season the soup with Worcestershire sauce, salt, white pepper, dried mustard, and dried poultry seasoning. When the pasta is cooked, the soup is ready.

On this gray day, I’m going to enjoy my soup with some toasted sourdough bread and a hearty imperial stout. Or perhaps I’ll try one of those Quarantinis I’ve seen online: vodka and Emergen-C, straight up. m

Associate Editor Andrea Rooks just finished eating that bowl of homemade chicken soup. Send your most comforting food ideas to arooks@newtimesslo.com.








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