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Monday, September 28, 2015

The Most Amazing Chicken Stock Recipe Ever, Poker Night Was Fun But Money Was Lost and Victor is the Most Adorable Cat on the Planet

One of my gifts for my birthday last month was a cookbook by Food and Wine, which is called "The Best of the Best". It is a collection of the most popular recipes from their magazine, and two of the recipes in the Italian section caught my eye: one is a Bolognese sauce that is made with a variety of ground meats including chicken livers and the other was Roasted Chicken Stock. I'm making the Bolognese tonight, so I can't comment on it yet, but I can say that the recipe for chicken stock was the most favourful I have ever tasted and uses a very small amount of salt. As usual I varied the recipe, and I used the leftover meat from the bones and the vegetables to make a most flavourful chicken salad, that in my opinion can stand on its own without mayonnaise. So if you are looking for a lower fat alternative, this may well be the recipe for you.

I didn't think to take pictures when I started this recipe so I don't have any until the point where the stock is finished. I decided to try the recipe because I wound up with the bones for about a dozen chicken legs after I made some Thai Barbecue Chicken for my poker game on Saturday. I had cut most of the meat off the legs for the skewers, but left quite a bit of meat on as well: generally anything too small to thread onto a skewer stayed on the bones.

Most of the time when you make stock, you fill a large pot with water, add your bones, celery, onion, salt, maybe some carrot (but not usually) bring to the boil and simmer until it is reduced to half or less of what you started with. You drain the stock to separate out the vegetables and bones and then you throw the bones and vegetables away. The result is usually not flavourful enough to eat on its own, but is a welcome addition to use in place of pure water, when boiling, making rice, or makin g sauces. However, in this recipe, we fully cook the ingredients by browning for almost half an hour and then we add the herbs and liquids. By the time you add the herbs and taste, you will not believe how flavourful it is.

You will need:

the bones of 8-12 chicken legs (both drumstick and thigh)
3 celery stalks finely chopped
1 medium onion finally chopped
1 large carrot finely chopped
1 clove of garlic finally chopped
1 sprig of fresh parseley
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 teaspoon coriander seed (ground)
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups of cooking wine - I like to use sherry cooking wine.

Start by chopping all the vegetables in the food processor together. Then heat the oil in a deep stock pot - at least 5-6 quarts, preferably larger if you have it, as the bones will take up a lot of space. Heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, brown the bones for 15 minutes turning several times to mix. Then add the diced vegetables and brown for another 10 minutes. After you have done this, add the cooking wine and boil until the wine is reduced by half. There will be other liquid before you add the wine, so you want to reduce the overall liquid by about one-quarter. Then add 2 litres of water, and the salt, bay leaves and coriander.

Simmer this for 1 hour over low heat. When done, add the fresh parsley and thyme. Your stock will look like this:


The next step is to separate the bones and ground vegetables from the actual stock so that it can be used in your recipes. I used one of those long, flat round slotted spoons with the small holes to scoop out the bones and vegetables, as I don't have a cheesecloth. But if you want to remove all the fine particulate matter than you would probably want to strain it through a cheesecloth. After doing this you should wind up with this:

You get about a litre of usable stock from this recipe. Now this is where I really depart from common practice. That bowl of bones and meat above, will form the basis for a really tasty chicken salad that can provide sandwiches for a week. I take a pair of tongs and hold the bones while I flake the meat off with a fork. One of the plus sides to making the stock this way is that the simmering time is much lower than it usually is. This means that the bones will still be strong enough not to splinter when you do this, so you can keep the small bones out of the mix. After this is done you will have a container of chicken meat and vegetables that looks like this:

I then put the whole lot into the food processor:

Then I add a whole bunch of green onions:

Then I blend the whole mixture on pulse until it looks like this:

 It looks just like chicken salad would if you used a ton of mayonnaise, but there is NO mayonnaise in this. The vegetables and the chicken fat from the stock are sufficient to make it creamy and smooth. Try it. You will never go back to buying chicken in a can.

The beauty of this whole recipe is that it is borne out of an attempt to save money on food for a party. Chicken legs are still very cheap. Wings are not and breasts are not, but a pack of three chicken legs can still be bought for under $5. All the chicken for my poker party (20 large skewers) cost $15 - less than a pizza. Out of the waste, I got stock to use for the week, which will make the rest of this weeks's food delicious, and sandwiches for lunch all at no extra cost, except a bit more time in the kitchen. Mind you, it isn't much extra time, as I'm already there making food for the party anyway.

The poker night was a lot of fun. All five of my old friends showed up and we played poker until the wee hours of the morning. The chicken was a hit as well. I wound up losing all $40 that I had set aside for the night - just got horrible cards. Oh well, can't win e'm all. But the most important thing was it allowed me to reconnect with friends and get some much needed relaxation and perspective.

Victor is the most adorable kitten on the planet! Yes I know - I'm just like all cat owners. But honestly, how can you not love an animal that does this:

He climbed up onto Steph's shoulder and curled up and went to sleep on her neck while she was sitting at the dining table. Later Steph got up carefully and came over to the living room, without disturbing Victor. He was still in the same position sound asleep. As I write this, he is curled up on my lap. At night he comes into our bed and curls up next to one of us and purrs until he falls asleep. When he is hungry he is voracious - I can't even get the can open before he jumps up on the counter and tries to get at the food, meowing outrageously before I can get it out of the can.

I think he will help keep me grounded, as he seems so happy with thee simplest of things: food, safety and a lots of love.

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