Monday, December 26, 2011

New Gravy Ideas

Here's another idea for your chicken gravy.  Recently, I needed to use up some chicken, but I was running low on interesting ingredients, so I cut up two pounds of chicken and sauteed it.  In the mean time, I put about 1 1/2 cups of rice in the microwave and started some gravy cooking.  Once the rice was cooked, I put in a healthy dose of frozen vegetables in to thaw (I had corn and peas - carrots, lima beans, and green beans, or anything you like would work).  By then, I had the oven preheating to 375.  I put all the chicken and veggies in a deep 9 x 12 casserole, added as much rice as I thought was needed (about 2/3, meaning that a cup of uncooked rice would have done the job), and then poured in the gravy.  You can top the end result with toasted bread crumbs or some panko cooked quickly in a bit of butter.  Cook 20-30 minutes and you have a chicken and rice casserole.  Or, if you want to save time on the last step, mix the chicken, gravy and vegetables, then serve over rice and you have chicken a la king.  It's not fancy, but the family really enjoys it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Taking Stock

First, please excuse the bad pun.  Many migraine authors speak of the virtue of making stock.  This typical recipe is one you might want to try.  For something this simple, you'd think that recipes are pretty similar.  Well, mostly.  I found a great ingredient that most recipes overlook, courtesy of Alton Brown:  leeks.   Then I found some good technique tips from Bobby Flay.

Here's what I learned from the experience:  1) You may not end up with nearly as much stock as you expect at the end.  I had to bring along a couple of boxes of store-bought stock to Thanksgiving in order to get everything prepared, and even that was almost not enough.  2) I prefer unsalted stock, so I can add salt to my dishes later.  This can be scary, because you work on this stuff and nurse it to perfection all day long, yet you can't really test it to see if it's perfect if you haven't salted it.  If that keeps you from sleeping at night, put a bit in a bowl, salt it, and taste that.  3)  Technique matters.  If you skim the stock as you go, you will get a lot of the smaller "yuck" out when it is still easy to do so.  If you refrigerate your end product and then skim the fat, it will be cleaner-tasting and healthier.  4) Carrots and leeks are powerful ingredients:  if you use them heavily, your stock will be noticeably sweet.  If you like that, great.  If you don't, be careful with those two items.  Personally, I loved it, but someone else tasted my gravy and seemed more puzzled than thrilled.  5) If you're really pinching pennies, you can throw your chicken bones and carcasses in a freezer back and collect them until you have enough to make the stock.  It works very well, but it can be touch to break apart large frozen blocks of chicken parts. 

My take on the entire experience:  I came out with surprisingly little product, and according to some chefs, it doesn't last, even if frozen.  It was really delicious in my gravy and I was happy to have tried it, but to have barely enough for two family meals, it was entirely too much trouble.  My recommendation is to try it when you plan to be stuck in the house anyway and be your own judge.  And don't feel bad if you decide that this route is not for you.  I'm glad to have the extra space in my freezer back (No more bones!) and I won't be trying this again for a long time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New Ingredient Alert

Here's a fun new ingredient to try.  Kitchen Basics is now selling its seafood stock at Kroger.  It's not quite as migraine-compliant as some of their stocks, but it is still one of the best options available short of making your own.  I used it in jambalaya with excellent results and could easily see using it in etouffee.  A bechamel made with this would go nicely on some fish.  In fact, any seafood dish that normally uses chicken stock would benefit from this alternative.  Check the ingredients and see if this might be something you could use.