Stock Up

Use leftovers to make your own 'liquid gold'

November 26, 2008|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,susan.reimer@baltsun.com

Psssst! Here's a stock tip for you: Make your own.

Hot turkey sandwiches aren't the only option for Thanksgiving leftovers. Break up that turkey carcass, add some aromatic vegetables and perhaps a couple of uncooked chicken wings, cover with cold water and simmer.

In a couple of hours, you will have what cookbook author Lauren Groveman calls "liquid gold," a rich, deeply flavored poultry stock that can enhance the flavor of everything from rice and vegetables to homemade soups and rich sauces.

"I never use water alone to simmer anything, because I always have broth in my freezer," said Groveman, author of The I Love to Cook Book, in which she advocates for freezers and pantries well stocked with homemade ingredients.

Thanksgiving happens every Sunday in her house, where she cooks a turkey breast for a week's worth of sandwiches and then uses the bones to make quarts of stock, which she freezes in 2-cup portions for use any time.

"One of the problems with holiday cooking is that people limit the goodness associated with it and that's such a shame," she said.

Nigella Lawson, in How to Eat, confesses to scavenging for bones - even off the plates of others - and freezing them, along with carrot tops, celery hearts or other fresh vegetable scraps, so that she can pull them out on the odd Sunday afternoon to make stock.

"An actual recipe for stock would be hard to give with a straight face," she writes. "Boiling remains to make stock is as far from being a precise art as you can get."

But Christopher Kimball, host of America's Test Kitchen and editor of Cook's Illustrated magazine, laughs when you mention homemade stock.

"I have bags of vegetables and bones in the back of my freezer, and I find them months later. I have all these good intentions, but for 95 percent of what I do, I use canned chicken stock."

Kimball says the best stocks are made with fresh meat. "The best thing to use is ground chicken. The meat has the flavor, not the bones," he said.

The notion of making stock from scraps is a relic of a different time, he said. "Our grandmothers were being frugal because they had to be."

For some cooks, the notion of using boxed stock or canned stock or the bouillon cube is one more step away from an elemental part of cooking. The French call stocks fonds de cuisine, essential foundations of cooking.

Stock isn't something you make, says Ruth Reichl in The Gourmet Cookbook. "It is something you do."

So get to know your stockpot again, introduce it to your turkey carcass, add some aromatic vegetables and cold water. Put it on the back burner, tend to your Thanksgiving guests and come back later. Reichl says, "You'll reap the benefits for weeks to come."

Here are some tips for making great stock:

* Don't pick your turkey carcass clean before you make the stock. A little meat on the bones makes for better stock.

* Always begin with cold water.

* Never include the liver. But you can add other giblets.

* Freeze the bones from those store-bought rotisserie chickens. Chop carrots, celery and leeks and freeze them, too. You will be ready to make stock without making a trip to the grocery store.

* Roasting the aromatic vegetables and any uncooked chicken parts in a 450-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the ingredients are golden brown and caramelized, will result in what is called a "brown stock," which is richer in flavor. Be sure to deglaze the roasting pan with boiling water.

Starting with uncooked ingredients creates a "white stock," which is more lightly flavored.

* Consider leaving the skin on the onion for added flavor, but cut off the roots.

* Gently simmer stock; don't boil it. A hard boil causes fat droplets to be more finely dispersed in the stock, resulting in an unpleasant greasiness.

* You can clean out the fridge when making stock, using carrot tops or mushroom stems or limp celery. But think twice before using powerful vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli or turnips, which could dominate the stock.

* If you plan to make soup with your stock and you'd like to include meat, add a chicken breast at the beginning, but remove it when it is poached, in about 20 or 30 minutes, or it will taste tough and overcooked.

* Don't season the stock with salt and pepper until you know what you will be using the stock for.

* The longer the stock simmers, the richer and more concentrated it will be. Some recipes call for 3 to 4 hours.

* Freeze in ice cube trays (each cube is about 1/4 cup) or in 2-cup containers.

turkey stock

Makes about 3 quarts

1 turkey carcass, cut into 4 or 5 pieces

1 yellow onion, chopped coarsely

1 carrot, peeled and chopped coarsely

1 rib celery, chopped coarsely

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

3 quarts cold water

optional ingredients (see note)

Bring all of the ingredients to a simmer in a large stockpot and cook for at least 2 hours, skimming off any fat or foam. Strain the broth through a large mesh strainer, pressing on the solids to extract flavor. Remove any fat that forms as the broth cools.

Stock can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Note: : If you like, you can add any or all of the following: 3 to 6 uncooked chicken wings; 1 tablespoon peppercorns; 1 leek, chopped coarsely; 3 cloves unpeeled garlic; celery tops; fresh parsley. Or substitute whole Spanish onion, studded with 6 cloves, for yellow onion. Add enough cold water to cover solids by at least 2 inches.

Recipe courtesy of "The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook"

Per serving (1 cup): : 36 calories, 3 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 3 grams carbohydrate, trace fiber, 4 milligrams cholesterol, 113 milligrams sodium

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