I love a good shortcut, and this is one of my favorites.
It's been a busy few months of travel and visitors, which meant I had one thing on my mind this weekend (okay, maybe two things, seeing as we were way behind on Don Draper's shenanigans) - stocking up on a few kitchen essentials.
The first thing on the list? Vegetable and chicken stock. See that empty space in the bottom of the freezer just begging for some stock?
I always think that homemade stock tastes infinitely better than store-bought, and it definitely saves money. But I like to make it myself because when we have a stash in the freezer, we are always just a step away from an easy soup or stew or Creamy Barley Risotto for dinner when inspiration or motivation is low. This stuff is delicious and has the added benefit of making the house smell like Thanksgiving while it's cooking. This afternoon, when I opened the oven to the smell of roasting mushrooms, onions, celery, and carrots, Frank and I simultaneously said - "Stuffing"!
Mmmm, had I thrown some bread and butter in there, stuffing is exactly what we would have had.
Even without stuffing, an hour of work and an afternoon of Thanksgiving smells in our apartment is well-worth the resulting healthy stash of homemade stock in the freezer.
What follows is a play-by-play of making my two favorite stocks.
Vegetable and Chicken Stock - Instructions
For ingredients, here's all it takes:
- olive oil, salt, and pepper (not shown)
- 3 bone-in chicken leg and thigh pieces (alternatively, you can use the meat and bones that remain after roasting and carving a whole chicken)
- 3 large carrots
- 1 head celery
- 3 yellow onions
- dried bay leaves
- 2 portobello mushrooms (any type of mushroom will work as long as they equal about 2 cups when cut into quarters)
- 2 leeks
- 3 carrots
- 1 large bunch parsley
Set a kitchen timer for 4 hours. As it counts down, here's what you do:
4:00 - Preheat the oven 400° F. (200° C). Set out your two largest soup pots (one must be oven-safe).
In a large soup pot on the stove (this one does not have to be oven-safe), heat a Tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken leg and thigh pieces to the hot pan, skin-side down, and cook, turning to brown on all sides. Add one onion, cut into quarters to the pan, stirring to allow it to brown with the chicken.
Meanwhile, into one large oven-safe pot (I use my Le Creuset), add the remaining two onions, cut into quarters. Quarter the mushrooms and add them to the pot. Cut the carrots and celery into 2-inch pieces, and add half to the oven-safe pot. Set the remaining half of the carrots and celery aside in a small bowl. Drizzle the vegetables in the oven-safe pot with olive oil, and put it in the oven to roast.
Prepare two small bowls for the remaining ingredients. Bowl 1 (shown on the left below) should contain 1 leek (sliced), half the parsley, and one bay leaf. Bowl 2 (on the right below) should contain the 2-inch pieces of carrot and celery that were set aside, 1 leek (sliced), the remaining half of the parsley, and one bay leaf.
3:45 - When the chicken is golden brown on both sides, pour the prepared bowl of vegetables (carrot, celery, leek, parsley, bay leaf) and 16 cups of water over the chicken. Turn the oven up to high heat, and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 3 hours.
3:15 - When the roasting vegetables are lightly golden, pull them out of the oven (carefully!) and place the pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the prepared vegetables (leek, parsley, bay leaf) and 12 cups of water. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 2.5 hours.
(The 2 hours during which those pans are bubbling gently on the stove are perfect for curling up on the couch and watching a movie...or catching up on missed episodes of Mad Men...anything to fully absorb the deliciousness emanating from the kitchen.)
0:45 - Add salt and pepper (about 2 teaspoons each) to the stocks. Taste and add additional salt if desired. I recommend going very easy on the salt and pepper at this point, as you can always add more salt and pepper when the stocks are added into a recipe later.
Working with one stock at a time, strain through a fine metal sieve, into a large pitcher. Pour the strained stocks into freezer-safe (I use Ball canning jars with about 1 and ½ inch of headspace left at the top to allow for expansion as the liquid freezes, but plastic storage containers would also work). Allow to cool to room temperature.
0:00 - Use a spoon to remove any solids that have risen to the top of the chicken stock. Put the stocks in the refrigerator (for use within a week) or into the freezer for use within a few months.
How's that for a happy, full freezer!?