Stocking up for the New Year…Chicken, Beef and Vegetable Stock

Essentials for the new year...

Essentials for the new year…

Hola nerds!

How I have missed you! It has been a busy fall and winter, blah blah blah, excuses, blah, blah, travel, blah, unitentional hiatus…

Now that I have cleared that up, what’s new with you? I hope all has been well!

My brother recently said that I needed to post something asap, because he was really tired of looking at wings. I did not know that my brother was actually visiting the blog, but since he is, I certainly don’t want to cause fatigue and lose him as a reader, so here I am with a new post. This may not actually be what he had in mind, but beggars can’t be choosers.

This one is really more about technique, as there are myriad ways to make stock and pretty much all of them have already been documented on the interwebs, so instead of considering this a recipe, consider it a friendly reminder/suggestion. Make stock, put it in the freezer, use it until you run out, make stock again. Repeat ad infinitum. The work involved is minimal and the payoff is HUGE. The flavor is better than what you get in the store, your house will smell good while you make it, and people will be impressed. Actually, those three reasons pretty much make up the sum total of my rationale for cooking at all…

I value my “stock”pile (ahahahaha) so much that it is the only frozen item that made the move to my new place with me. I make the stock and let it cool and then measure two cup quantities in to quart-sized ziploc bags. Then each stock bag goes into a second ziploc bag to prevent freezer burn. Label with the type of stock, the quantity and the date, and there you go. This is not the most environmentally friendly storage method, but it is the best storage method, and if you label the INSIDE bag, you can use the outside bag again. (Label the bag before you add the stock. This is probably obvious to most, but in case it’s not, take it from me…) (Also, I know you are looking at the photo and saying “but Meghan, those don’t look like ziploc bags…” and you would be correct, but ziploc bags don’t photograph particularly well, so I dirtied some extra dishes for you. You are welcome…) Freezer bags are the best storage because they can be laid flat and stacked on top of each other in the freezer to maximize space. Two cups is a good amount because if you are making soup or risotto, two bags will typically do the trick, and if you need less than that, you will likely be able to use the rest of what you defrosted without it getting lost in the back of your refrigerator for many moons and going to waste…though maybe that kind of thing never happens to you, in which case, carry on.

the beginnings of beef stock

the beginnings of beef stock

Stock is pretty much the same regardless of type – the main ingredients, the aromatics and water get simmered together for enough time that the water becomes rich flavorful stock rather than boring, flavorless water. Which aromatics and vegetables you choose can depend on the stock you are making, but for the most part, if you have the holy trinity of cooking: onions, carrots and celery, and perhaps some garlic and herbs, you have what it takes. For chicken stock I like to make sure I add thyme, bay leaves, lots of peppercorns and, sometimes, ginger, to brighten it up. For lobster stock I like to add fennel and some tomato paste because they are so suited to lobster, and for vegetable stock I like to add mushrooms, because they deepen the flavor and add the umami-ness that is important when you aren’t including meat. The rules are the same: bring everything to a gentle boil, then reduce the temperature and let the goodness simmer for a couple hours until it’s stock. In the case of beef stock, you want to avoid boiling at all – you just want to bring it to and keep it at a simmer instead – but otherwise, the process is the same.

Make stock my darlings, if you’ve never done it before, it will revolutionize your cooking.

In other news…my 10 things:

I don’t like asking for things, but this one’s for Shania – I am so lucky to call her my homie: http://www.fundraiseforbcrf.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1021963&team=5354081

BostonGLOW: an amazing organization that I am proud to be a part of…small now, but I’m certain it won’t be small for long…

My album of the moment is really not an album at all, just a playlist of ridiculous Top 40 amazingness.

What I am reading: I just finished Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. Amazing and heartbreaking.

I want Tina and Amy to be my best friends. http://tv.yahoo.com/blogs/2013-golden-globes/tina-fey-amy-poehler-dazzle-hilarious-golden-globes-014640389.html

Pitch Perfect might be my new favorite movie. Best. Ever.

I guess I have to root for the 49ers in the Super Bowl? Not how I hoped that would go.

Resolutions are tricky, so I am setting goals instead. Because those will totally be easier. Financial, Work, Personal, Fitness, B&G, they’re all covered…we’ll see how it goes. Happy New Year!

It’s the beginning of free week at the casa! If you are new around here, free week is when I decide not to buy any groceries, and just fashion dinners out of what I have in the house. I did cheat and buy eggs today, but I figured that didn’t count, because you can practically buy eggs with pocket change. The menu for free week includes: Penne with fennel, tomatoes and olives inspired by this, cowboy beans from here, spaghetti carbonara (I think I might have figured out how to make this work every time! I will share) meatloaf, soy sesame noodles and sweet pea ravioli with pecorino romano. As you can see, it was high time for a free week. It will not be much of a sacrifice.

I guess that was only nine things…until next time, my lovelies…

Here’s to 2013. I have high hopes.

Be good to one another.

And to the recipes we go…

Beef Stock

Vegetable Stock

Basic Chicken Stock (makes about 3 quarts)

4-5 lbs chicken wings

2 medium onions, quartered

2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, peeled and roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled

Handful of fresh parsley

2 dried bay leaves

1 tsp peppercorns

Add all ingredients to a large pot with 4 quarts of water. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for two or two and a half hours. Strain the stock through cheese cloth, and store for future use.

Feel free to add leeks if you have them, ginger if you would like to add a little zip and bright flavor or thyme if you want a more herby flavor.