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Culinarily Curious: Don't be scared of stock

Posted by Alex Pearlman  November 21, 2011 03:34 PM

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stock.jpgBy Anthony Howard

Ah, the ever-important chicken stock. It’s useful in so many recipes, from soups to risottos to sauces, but it’s also such a commitment. Who ever has whole chickens and a bunch of vegetables just chilling out in the fridge?

I have to admit, I, too, was afflicted with Stock Evasion Syndrome. I’ve never made chicken stock in my home kitchen before (although I’ve done it countless times for the restaurant) because it simply didn't seem worth the time and initial investment. Boy, was I wrong.

Inspired by a need to save money, I had an epiphany the other day: I called my local grocery store and discovered the cost-per-pound of a whole chicken was a whopping $3.29 less than a boneless, skinless chicken breast. That’s a lot of dough -- er, chicken. Plus, when you buy chickens whole, you get a lot more bang for your buck. Not only do you get breasts, and thighs, and legs, and wings, but you can also make chicken stock from the carcass! What’s not to love?

Oh yeah, there’s that whole, "buying a chicken and cutting it yourself" thing. Relax, it’s easy. After a few tries, you’ll be breaking down chickens like a pro. Since it’s really hard to do anything else while you’re touching raw chicken (ew, salmonella), I don’t have photos or a video to share with you guys. I guess that's why they have the interwebs (not to mention, this guy's also pretty entertaining).

After your chicken is butchered, all you need to do is rough chop some carrots, onions, and celery -- a.k.a., the mirepoix, but you should already know that -- in a large pot. Place your chicken bones on top of the vegetables. Fill the pot with cold water. Add some salt and place it on high heat, allowing it to boil. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down and let it simmer, uncovered, for hours. There may be some foam that floats to the surface; skim it away with a large spoon. Otherwise, just hang out around your house and enjoy the lovely smell emanating from your kitchen.

After about four or five hours, the liquid should be flavored nicely. Strain the liquid from your chicken and mirepoix and let it cool completely. I recommend you avoid skimming off the fat from your stock, as the fat helps protect it from airborne bacteria. Keep a little in your fridge for cooking during the week, and freeze the rest; it will keep for months.

But what do you do with all those cuts of chicken now? I got two large roasting chickens for my stock this week and was able to feed three of my friends with just two of the breasts. I have the rest of the parts labeled in my freezer. I think the thighs and legs will make excellent BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches one day, and I might cut the other breasts into tenders for fajitas.

And the wings -- oh, don’t even get me started. Once I've collected enough wings, my friend and I are having a wing competition to see who makes the better chicken wing. You’ll be sure to read about my glorious victory in time.

Are you making anything with chicken stock for Thanksgiving? What are some of your favorite recipes?

'Culinarily Curious' is TNGG Boston's column on all things food, written by Anthony Howard.

About Anthony -- I'm a 22-year-old Massachusetts native -- grew up in the 'burbs and now spend my young adult life in the city. I am passionate about cooking and currently assistant manage a restaurant kitchen in Kendall Square. Let's just say that when I invite friends over for dinner parties, no one ever turns me down.

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This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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