A moment to sit.
It’s just been like that for me this past week or so. I’ve been playing catch up. My plate has been full of work and play and pre-travel jitters (Shannon and I are leaving for a two week vacation abroad in less than a week). Ultimately, nothing’s been harmed, but I’ve been a few minutes late and a little off kilter with everything I’ve set my mind to.
I wrestle with time. It’s my most type-A personality trait. I’m early for everything, and if I’m not, I unintentionally give myself hell. I can’t help it, it’s just part of who I am. In my life, I try to understand and then master things, and time… well, time has other plans.
One of the reasons I’m drawn to the kitchen is the meditative dance with time that you do while cooking. The choreography for that dance combines meticulous planning, structured execution, and most of all: instinct. Sometimes, my fears of getting cheated or burned by time throw my balance off, and I lose the instinctual connection I have with the food I’m cooking. It’s a fatal flaw, but one I think we all experience. Time is like money, as soon as you think you’ve got it all figured out, it shows you who’s boss. Every day, I try to spend more energy respecting time and money than controlling them. Some days I win, some days, not so much.
There are a few tasks in the kitchen that MAKE you stop and release control of time. Baking bread, for example, cannot be done quickly. It’s impossible for the yeast to ferment properly without time. Another job that is well worth the effort, is making homemade stock. Chicken stock is the base of so many sauces and recipes I use, that its quality became imperative. The day I started making chicken stock myself was the day that my food became exquisite and my business took off. It’s really that important.
I call this my lucky stock because every time I make it, I get a job. Literally, the phone has rung almost every time I have completed the task- and I make it every month or so. It freezes well, so I keep it in quart containers and take it out as needed. It’s also good to freeze it because any fat you missed while skimming, rises to the top and is a breeze to pop off before you defrost it.
Amassing the bones can be great fun. You can save the bones from chickens you have eaten and keep them in the freezer, or I have found a few stores that sell chicken necks, backs, wings and feet specifically for stock. You can also ask your butcher to put aside some bones for you. If you call early enough, they can have them packed up and ready to go by that afternoon.
Makes approximately 5 quarts
- 4 pounds chicken carcasses, including necks and backs
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 to 10 peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 7 quarts cold water
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 4 ribs celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 leek, white part only, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 10 white mushrooms, sliced
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
- 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
- Place chicken, onion and spices in 12-quart stockpot. Add water. Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer. Skim the scum from the stock with a spoon or fine mesh strainer every 10 to 15 minutes for the first hour of cooking and twice each hour for the next 2 hours. Add hot water as needed to keep bones. Simmer uncovered for 2 hours.
- Add aromatics (vegetables and fresh herbs) and simmer for another 2 hours, making sure the bones and vegetables stay submerged and adding more water if necessary.
- Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids. Cool immediately in large cooler of ice or a sink full of ice water to below 40 degrees. Place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months.