A prayer for the dying

Here’s the short version of my James Beard House experience: total success. The food turned out beautifully, and between the two of us we only drew blood once. Maine’s best chefs held our hands the whole way, and in turn we provided them with a few good laughs, I’m sure. Afterwards, we went to The Spotted Pig, ate pig’s ears and lamb’s tongue and delicious olive-oil soaked chicken liver toasts, and wondered whether Christina Aguilera, who sat next to us, was actually eating the same things.

Three days later, I still feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. My shoulders are actually bruised and tender in the spots where I ferried food- and equipment-laden bags between the JBH and various Manhattan parking garages.

I came home to find my husband had done just what he’d promised: he’d eaten his way through the fridge and the freezer like a forest fire, leaving only the things that required preparation. When I peered into the produce drawers, I found vegetables too dead to use beautifully but still too useful to throw out. Limp scallions, half-dead celery, and carrots beginning to sprout new, fine hairs from each crease reminded me of how tired I felt. (Which brings up the fact that “hairy carrot” sounds a little like hara-kiri.) Some of the onions were developing a healthy blue layer under their skins.

Major vegetable rescuscitation was necessary. I loaded all the sad specimens (minus the blue parts) into my biggest stockpot and added two frozen chicken carcasses, which I usually freeze and save (after roasting and demolishing) for making chicken stock on lazy, rainy days like yesterday. I think I was hoping that the deepy meaty smell and the warmth of the stove and the ritual of transforming nothing into something would infuse me with the same newness.

So now I have four containers of gorgeous golden stock, but truthfully, not much more energy.

I’ll tell the whole story soon.

Chicken Stock 1

Recipe for Chicken Stock
Recipe 84 of 365

Chicken stock recipes are a dime a dozen, which is a good thing; it’s one of the few things I believe everyone should know how to make. Soups and stews made with homemade stock taste better, period. And the tonic smell of stock bubbling away on the stove has curative powers for me.

I make my stock differently every time, depending on what I have in the fridge, but for economic reasons, I tend to use leftover roasted chicken carcasses (as opposed to whole new birds, which some cooks swear by). Think of this as a general guideline.

On the chicken: after roasting a bird, I pick away any edible meat, chop through the spine and each large bone once or twice with a big, heavy knife to expose the bone marrow (which helps give the stock a great mouthfeel), and freeze the chicken in zip-top bags until I’m ready to use it.

Try it.

TIME: 15 minutes to make, plus 5 hours cooking time
MAKES: 3 to 4 liters chicken stock

Carcasses from two (4- to 5-pound) roasted chickens
6 carrots, tops removed
1 small bunch celery
1 large onion
2 shallots
6 scallions (firm parts only)
2 bay leaves
Handful parsley, chopped
Small handful thyme, chopped
Water

Place the chicken carcasses in a large stock pot. Chop all the vegetables into roughly 2” pieces, leaving any skins (including onion skin) on for color. Add them to the pot, along with the herbs, and fill the pot almost to the top with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring every hour or so and working the chicken off the bones with a wooden spoon, for 5 hours.

Remove the stock from the heat and let cool for about an hour. Carefully pour the stock through a colander into a large bowl (or two), then through a fine-mesh strainer into smaller freezable containers. (Make sure the stock isn’t hot enough to melt the plastic.) Refrigerate the containers overnight, then skim off the fat, cover, label with the date, and freeze in the morning. Stock should last about 3 months in the freezer.

To use, take the stock out of the freezer and run the plastic container under warm water to release the sides, and melt over low heat in a small saucepan.

Note: for easier measuring, stock can also be made and refrigerated overnight in the big bowl, then skimmed and frozen in 1-cup portions in small zip-top bags. Lay the bags flat during freezing for easier storage.

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Filed under chicken, recipe, soup, travel

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