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Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007 01:01 am

Taking stock

This time of year, it’s good to have plenty of chicken stock on hand

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Untitled Document Well, the holidays are over. As always, much as I’ve enjoyed the parties and celebrations, and the copious amounts of food and drink, I’m ready for it to end. Nothing sounds so good as a quiet evening at home and a simple meal. This time of year, I’m always glad I have a supply of chicken stock in the freezer. Actually, having good homemade stock, readily available, is one of the most valuable assets any cook can have at any time of the year. It’s easy to do, too. There are commercial stocks as good as homemade available through gourmet shops and online. They’re also, however, very expensive and as such not something that most of us can afford to keep on hand in any quantity. The canned broths generally available in the grocery stores are weak and have little flavor compared with anything you make at home. I said it was easy, and I meant it — especially if you have a slow cooker. Just dump in the ingredients, add water, turn the pot on, and let it burble away for two hours or two days. The result is culinary gold that has a thousand uses, not least of which is as the basis for that most comforting food of all: homemade chicken soup.

CHICKENSTOCK

This is a method rather than a specific recipe. Stock can be made with whole chickens or chicken parts — even the parts not normally eaten, such as wing tips and necks. It can be made from the bones when the meat, either cooked or raw, has been removed. Stock made from roasted chicken or chicken bones is called brown stock; when the chicken or bones are put in the pot uncooked, the resulting product, lighter in color and flavor, is called white stock. The aromatic vegetables and spices used in making stock may be varied according to what’s available, what the stock will be used for, and personal taste. Vegetable trimmings — the root ends of onions, small leafy stalks of celery, leek tops, tiny garlic cloves in the middle of a head of garlic, parsley stems — are great. Never add salt when making stock! If the stock is reduced or salty ingredients are part of a recipe calling for stock, the end product may be ruined.
Ingredients
Chicken, onions, leeks, celery, parsley, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, whole peppercorns, whole cloves, leaf thyme (dried or fresh)
Instructions
If making brown stock, roast the chicken (whole, parts, bones, or trimmings) in a 400-dgree oven until a rich brown color. Put the chicken into large pot or slow cooker. Place roasting pan on the stove, add 2 to 4 cups of water and deglaze the pan (stirring up all the browned bits on the bottom). Add to pot. Add aromatics to pot. Cover with water. Bring to a bare simmer. If using uncooked chicken, put it in the pot with the aromatics and proceed as instructed above, periodically skimming off the sediment that comes to the surface. Keep at a bare simmer — a lazy bubble. Do not allow stock to boil! Boiling results in a cloudy stock and allows sediment and fat to be emulsified into the liquid. For one chicken or chicken carcass, use some or all of the following: one carrot, one medium onion, one leek or leek top, one or two small stalks of celery, a few parsley stems, four to six unpeeled garlic cloves, one bay leaf, a teaspoon of peppercorns, one or two whole cloves, and a teaspoon of thyme. Add approximately one gallon of water. Simmer for at least two hours. If you’re using chicken with meat, remove the chicken after 45 minutes, let it cool until you can handle it, then bone the chicken and return the bones and skin to the pot. When the stock is finished, strain out the solids and then pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Then either put the stock into a fat separator, allow it to stand a few minutes, and pour off the stock or rapidly chill it by placing the pot in a sink of cold water, stirring the stock frequently and changing the water in the sink when it becomes warm. When the stock is cooled, refrigerate it until the fat (which will have come to the top) has hardened, and remove it. There are several ways to freeze stock — many people use ice-cube trays or small plastic containers. My preferred method is to put quarts of stock into gallon-size resealable plastic bags and squeeze out the air. They can lie flat in the freezer, and they’re stackable.
CHICKEN SOUP WITH SPAETZLE

Soup
6 cups chicken stock 1/2 cup diced celery 1/2 cup diced carrot 1/2 cup diced leek or onion (optional) 1 cup cooked chopped chicken 1/4 cup chopped parsley Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Spaetzle
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour One large egg, beaten 1/4 cup hot water 1/4 teaspoon salt
Bring stock to a simmer in a large pot. Add vegetables and cook just until tender. Make the spaetzle: Put the flour in a medium bowl and make a well in the center. Put the beaten egg, water, and salt in the well and stir to form a loose dough. You may need to add a little more water; the dough should not be stiff. Tip the bowl at a shallow angle over the pot of simmering soup and cut off ribbons of dough, as thin as possible, with a knife or spatula as the dough spills over the edge and falls into the soup. Dip the knife or spatula into the soup to help release the dough from it, if this is needed. Cut up any large pieces of spaetzle. Cook until the spaetzle have all risen to the top. Add chicken and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, add parsley. Serves four or more.

Send questions and comments to Julianne Glatz at realcuisine@insightbb.com.
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