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.

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