Saturday, May 30, 2009

Chicken Stock

With some fresh chicken backs from Springfield Farm, I decided that I really needed to make stock. Whether in cookbooks or on the Internet, you'll find a plethora of stock recipes. In fact, it's insane the number of stock recipes I've read over the years.

The very essence of stock is a long simmering of bones and water, with a variety of aromatics thrown in for good measure. The variations are infinite, which makes stock making very exciting or quite daunting. Give a great Vietnamese cook some time and that beef stock turns into an incredible Pho broth. Or the Japanese ramen chef who takes a base of pork to something balanced and exquisite.

Some people have very strict and rigid stock recipes. Some follow French tradition. Others eschew "major" ingredients for philosophical reasons. As for myself, I take the pirates approach and tend to toss in whatever I'm feeling at the moment. However, that's not to say there isn't some method to the madness. There is and I tend to stick with a traditional mire poix and a few choice elements thrown in for good measure.

This stock features eight free-range chicken backs, peeled and chopped organic carrots (hijacked from my Aunt Josie), sweet onions, celery, multi-peppercorn medley, bay leaves and leeks. Actually, this is the first time I've used leeks. I just happened to have some left over in the fridge and into the pot they went.

Since I didn't start the stock until nearly midnight, I wasn't prepared to stay up until 5am to watch it. Instead, I took the slow and low method (read: lazy), added 10 quarts of water to the stock pot, set the burner to low and went to bed.

Yes, I know one must slave for his labor, but I was tired. And I wanted to sleep. I knew the pot would heat to about 150F and hold there all night. Nothing to worry about. Time to dream - some baristas dream about coffee and the fabled God Shot, I dream about women.

Seven and a half hours later, the pot is heated and the water is slowly cycling under a thick layer of chicken fat. Lovely. Sure there's some scum particles floating about, otherwise, it's perfect. The stock is still brilliantly clear because it never reached a boil. My expert knowledge of cuisine (read: laziness) has been vindicated.

But I've got to run off to work, so there's no time to properly finish the stock. In a flash, I've decided that I would "Keller-ize" the chicken stock. That is, strain the current stock into a large Cambro, put the ingredients back in the pan, fill it with cold water and set it back on the burner for another round.

With the first batch of stock covered and chilling, I'm off to work for another busy day.

Fourteen hours later, after a variety of meetings, appointments, a bar shift, dinner and a cigar, I'm back home to check on the second stock. It's slowly reduced itself by half into a glistening yellow cauldron of chicken goodness. Strain it out and mix with the first batch (a la Keller), then run the stock through a chinois six times (estoy muy Keller) and chill once again. Put the stock back on the burner, reduce by one third (I am Keller) and the stock is ready for whatever dreams may come our way.

With over two gallons of stock, the larder is happy once more.