Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why Bother??? 2012 - Stocks

Welcome to the first post of the Why Bother??? 2012 challenge!  Have you had a look at the schedule of events for this year?  Do you have a post that you are already looking forward to?  I'm excited about this years challenge and I'm very happy that all of you were instrumental in creating it.  All of the challenges for this year were thought up and posted by you guys, whether it be here on the blog, on Facebook or through Twitter. 

While the challenges were set out by all of you, I took the liberty to choose when to complete each of these tasks.  Condiments and buns wound up in the weeks prior to Memorial day weekend so that you could make some for your own summer parties.  Jams are set to be prepared in the midst of the summer fruit season, when I can get the best produce from our local farmers market.  Stock was set for the first post of the year because we are in the midst of soup season, with months of winter left ahead of us.  Unfortunately, my friends in the southern hemisphere are on the opposite schedule as I am...  Maybe we can meet up in the middle, spring and fall?


Boyfriend and I spent this weekend at home in New Jersey.  We decided to relax at home and enjoy the nice weather in our town.  I spent much of last week reading my many cookbooks, researching stocks in all of their incarnations.  There are many options when it comes to making your own stock.  First you must choose what flavor you would like, chicken, beef, fish, vegetable?  Then you have to decide what your background notes will be, veggies, herbs, spices?

I decided to make the two stocks that I am always buying at the store, chicken and vegetable.  Once I completed all of my reading, I discovered that it is a very easy task to make stock.  Simply choose your flavors, cook them up in a big pot of water and strain to collect your stock.  Do you own an 8-quart pot?  Do you have some paper towels?  Can you purchase food at the grocery store?  If you said yes to those three questions, you can make stock.


The vegetable stock was beyond simple to make.  I chose a variety of vegetables and some of my favorite herbs to make a flavorful stock.  Fennel is used as the major flavor in this stock, with celery, onion and carrot as the milder flavors.  The house smelled of herbs and anise while this stock was simmering.  Boyfriend asked if I had spilled a jar of pepper on the floor.  After simmering for two hours, filtering of the stock gave a golden colored stock with a pleasant aroma.  I used this stock as the base for my cheese potato soup.


For the chicken stock, I decided to stick with classic flavors - celery, carrots, onions and parsely.  My only concern was simmering the stock long enough to cook the chicken and impart the right amount of flavor into the stock.  After averaging the times in each recipe, I decided that between 90 minutes and two hours was the right amount of time to cook the chicken and make good stock.  This stock needs to sit overnight to allow you to skim off the chicken fat, so make it one day ahead of time.  You'll see this stock in use this weekend in a tasty Thai-style soup.


Would I make stock at home again?  I definitely would, the flavor varieties offered by making your own stock has made me a convert.  However, I don't really need to make or buy more stock for a while.  Each pot of simmering ingredients gave me about ten cups of stock.  My freezer in now well stocked...



Vegetable Stock
Adapted from Vegetarean Times Cookbook

3 large carrots, sliced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 large bulb fennel, chopped (including fronds)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium red potatoes, quartered
1 bay leaf
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried basil

Combine all ingredients in an 8-quart stock pot.  Add 10 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low.  Allow the stock to simmer for 90 minutes.

Line a medium mesh sieve with a paper towel and strain stock into a large bowl.  Allow stock to come to room temperature and transfer to air-tight storage containers.  Keep stock in the fridge for up to three days or the freezer for up to six months.

Chicken Stock
Adapted from several sources

1 tbsp olive oil
chicken neck from the gizzard bag
1 whole chicken (3.5-4 pounds)
4 medium carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, quartered
2 tsp black peppercorns
5 stems parsley

Heat olive oil in an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat.  Cook chicken neck, browning on all sides, should take about 10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and 12 cups of water.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.  Cover pot with a lid and allow to simmer for 2 hours, flipping chicken halfway through the simmer time.

Remove chicken from the pot to a baking sheet and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Line a mesh sieve with paper towels and strain the stock.  Allow the stock to come to room temperature before covering with plastic wrap and setting in the fridge overnight.

The next day, skim the chicken fat from the top of the stock and transfer to storage containers.  The stock will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for 6 months.

Cheesey Potato Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

1 tbsp butter
1 red onion, diced
2 1/2 tbsp flour
3 cups potato, chopped (I used a mixture of russet & baby yukon)
1 1/4 cup skim milk
1 1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
green onion and extra cheese to garnish

Melt butter in a medium pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened.  Add flour and stir for 1 minute.  Add potato, milk and stock, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and allow to cook for 10 minutes.

Once potatoes are cooked, remove about half of the potatoes.  Using either a hand/stick blender or transfer to a blender and puree.  Return reserved potatoes to the soup and stir in the cheese and red pepper.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Ladle soup into bowls and top with a dash of red pepper, extra cheese and green onions.  Serves four.  Enjoy with some crusty bread, which I forgot, bummer.
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