Homemade Chicken Stock

Appetizers and Starters, Food Life, Recipes, Side Dishes

Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving, Nom Nom Cat Readers! I hope you were able to partake in a gluttonous quantity of turkey (or chicken, or ham, or lamb) with all the fixin’s, and most importantly, spend quality time with loved ones. And for those who did carve into a whole poultry bird, I certainly hope that you kept the carcass… which brings me to today’s recipe — homemade chicken stock. Martin makes fun of me for it, but one of my favorite Sunday afternoon activities is bringing home a whole bird, butchering it into the assorted parts (breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings), and making a stock out of the remnants. I just use the raw chicken scraps as-is, but roasted chicken bones would impart even more flavor to your broth or stock, so keep that carcass!

Beautiful Stock

Beautiful Stock

The process is surprisingly simple, and once I used homemade stock in a recipe, I never turned back. Soups, sauces, and especially risotto benefit from a quality base that the canned and carton variety just cannot replicate. Making stock is also a relatively forgiving process. Short on time? You’ll get a nice clear broth. Leave it too long? You’ll end up with a concentrated demiglace that can be diluted later in cooking. But simmer it for just the right amount of time and you’ll yield a rich, full flavored stock that embodies the essence of chicken.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

Chicken: carcass, neck, 2 wings, excess fat

1 large onion

2 carrots

2-3 stalks celery

3 cloves of garlic

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme

3-4 dried bay leaves

3 quarts cold water

Egg shell, optional*

* If having a very clear stock is important for your next recipe, toss in an egg shell and/or egg white. The albumen will attract and trap the “junk” and you can just skim off the floating “raft” at the end.

Carcass

Carcass

Butcher the raw or roasted chicken carcass.

Mirepoix

Mirepoix

Roughly chop the mirepoix vegetables. The garlic can be left whole – just smash it a bit to release the oils.

Browning the Chicken

Browning the Chicken

I like to start my stock by browning the chicken first. The one I bought had a large flap of fat that I had trimmed off, so I started that first to render fat and then tossed in the whole carcass. I also added the neck and two wings. The wings have a great bone to meat to fat ratio for making stock. For a true stock, I do not season the chicken at all. Any seasoning will come from the next stage; the stock only harnesses the chicken flavor.

Add the Veggies

Add the Veggies

Add the mirepoix. You can also make a chicken stock with only chicken, but I like the flavors that the vegetables add to the final product.

Pour in the Water

Pour in the Water

Time to pour in the water, cold as starting with cold water will result in a less cloudy broth. Also toss in the aromatics. Bring to boil and simmer for 3 to 4 hours, less for a broth (but at least 1 hour so the chicken cooks through), more for a reduced demiglace.

Strain the Stock

Strain the Stock

Remove the boiled chicken. After about 4 hours of simmering, the chicken itself will probably be dry and bland. I toss it (there isn’t much meat left on the carcass anyway) but to prevent waste, you can pick the meat off the bones and use for a chicken salad or toss in nuoc cham and eat over rice. Using a sieve or even a skimmer (in the very first photo), strain out the vegetables and herbs. The recipe should yield about 1.5 to 2 quarts of stock.

Muffin Tin Storage

Muffin Tin Storage

I stored my latest batch of stock in a freezer safe plastic container, but I wish I had taken the extra step to make my “broth bullion” as Martin likes to call them. It’s so easy — just strain the broth or stock into a muffin tin, about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Freeze overnight.

Frozen Broth Bullion

Frozen Broth Bullion

Once frozen solid, just pop them out (dip the tray in a bit of warm water to loosen if it needs help) and store in a zip top bag. Whenever you need broth, just reheat in a small saucepan. I also love these little discs because they add just the right amount of oomph to my sauces. No need to defrost more than you’d use right away, and it’s just as easy as popping open a can of the store-bought stuff. And like I said earlier, nothing beats homemade!

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SPONSORED POST

Speaking of Black Friday, a little birdie told us that Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL) is participating with a Buy One Get One Free sale all weekend (November 29 through December 1) on their Kaldi and Americano machines. Not willing to brave the crazy crowds at your local mall? Have no fear — this sale is also taking place online with the promo code BOGOCBTL. Check out the website for more info and for the fine print. Enjoy!

13CBV_PS_BOGO_BlackFriday 11x17* Disclosure per FTC regulations: we were not paid for this post but expect to receive a CBTL machine from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the near future to try and review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely those of Nom Nom Cat authors Alice and Martin.

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We’ll Always Have Paris! at Elle A Cooking

Food Adventures, Food Life, Los Angeles

We received the most pleasant email last week — an invitation from Lilia at Elle A Cooking to check out her Thursday evening cooking class! The menu was French themed with the lovely title We’ll Always Have Paris, featuring salad niçoise, grilled lamb chops with celery root purée, and tarte au citron. After the fantastic experience we had in her croissant-making class, we were very excited to learn from her again.

But before the learning begins, we snack!

But before the learning begins, we snack!

I feel like the croissant class was relatively easier in that sense that we were able to make three different finished products once we got the hang of rolling out the buttery dough. Cooking a three-course menu from start to finish in just a few hours’ time, though, was a bigger challenge.

How does that saying go? Life’s too short, so eat dessert first? Well we didn’t quite get to eat dessert first (other than sampling Lilia’s newest vegan biscotti, pictured above), but we did start by making the tarte crust. Hint: the pastry dough used for the crust can double as shortbread cookies!

From sablage to fraisage - the tarte crust

From sablage to fraisage to rolling out to baking – the tarte crust

As the ball of dough rested in the refrigerator, we moved on to the lemon cream. Cooked over a double-boiler, the lemon cream was also affectionately referred to as a French lemon curd… the French part being the addition of two whole sticks of butter. This will make lots of lemon cream, Lilia said. Everything in moderation, Lilia said. Sigh, if only my cholesterol level and I saw eye-to-eye.

Perhaps Lilia timed it perfectly (or perhaps she heard my tummy growling) but as the tarte crust baked and lemon cream chilled, we moved on to the appetizer – a colorful salad packed with farmer’s market fresh vegetables. We learned the perfect timing for cooking an egg medium-boiled until the yolk is just barely set, similar to the ajitsuke tamago served as a topping for ramen. Butter lettuce piled high with boiled veggies, fresh veggies, canned tuna, and chervil (which totally looks like micro-parsley), and drizzled with a refreshing and simple lemon-based vinaigrette, the salad nicoise could be served as an entree on its own!

Such stunning colors!

Salad nicoise – such stunning colors!

We took a break to devour our salads before moving on to the main event – the lamb chops! After marinating in a beautifully fragrant blend of herbs, lemon juice, and olive oil, the single chops were seared on grill pan on the stove top before finishing in a 400 degree oven. (You could also do all-oven like we’ve done with full racks – we’re excited to try out her marinade recipe at home!) Meanwhile, we boiled the cubes of celery root and yukon gold potatoes in milk (a trade secret for keeping the celery root from discoloring) and made the puree/mash. Paired with the 2006 Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon that Martin had been aging, this was the perfect entree for date night.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Celery Root Puree

Grilled Lamb Chops with Celery Root Puree

Our stomachs were so full by the time we finished the last morsels of lamb, but as they say – there’s always room for dessert! Lilia skillfully filled the cooled tarte crust with the chilled lemon cream and served the slices with fresh blueberries for a picture-perfect dessert that paired well with my 2010 Robert Mondavi Moscato d’Asti. Despite all the butter, the lemon cream was refreshing and surprisingly light, a great way to finish our meal.

Tarte au Citron

Voila – Tarte au Citron!

As we mentioned before, if you’re thinking of taking a cooking class, definitely consider Elle A Cooking! Lilia and her “sous chef” Anthony are wonderfully friendly and really make you feel at ease while undertaking a new culinary adventure. Merci beaucoup for welcoming us into your home and kitchen for another exciting (and delicious!) experience.

À la prochaine!

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Check out Elle A Cooking here: http://www.elleacooking.com

Bacon Roses [Valentine’s Day 2013]

Food Adventures, Food Life

You may have seen this photo floating around on the internet… on our Facebook page, on our Twitter feed, my personal FB page, perhaps even by text message. In fact, so many people stopped by my desk to snap a photo that you can probably find it on Instagram, Pinterest, and more. Who knows, maybe it’ll go viral tomorrow! Yes, my friends, for Valentine’s Day, Martin made and surprised me at work with a bouquet of bacon roses. BACON ROSES. zOMG. Best boyfriend ever! Both my inner foodie and my inner geek squealed with joy.

Bacon Roses!!

Bacon Roses!!

Once merely a thing of legend, I had heard of the many crafty things one can do with bacon, but here it was, a bouquet of bacon roses sitting on my desk, the aroma of breakfast wafting through the air. Men and women alike were envious of Martin’s creativity… and of the bacon. (At Martin’s advice, I did not actually eat the bacon… though it did tempt me for a good seven hours.)

On each Valentine’s Day that Martin and I have celebrated together, Martin has made it a point to surprise me at work with a flower delivery. In 2011, he presented me with a dozen beautiful red roses. I was on the phone with a client at the time and he told me later that I sounded especially eager to hang up.

2011

2011

Last year (2012), he stopped by and proudly held out a stunning bouquet of a dozen long-stemmed red roses. I was glad that I remembered to ask him to pause for a picture so I could really capture the moment.

2012

2012

In retrospect, I probably should have foreseen that something like handmade bacon roses would be on their way, since he is always looking to outdo himself. They certainly were memorable; I’ll never forget that 2013 was the year of the bacon roses. What a pleasant and thoughtful and oh so amusing surprise!

[He would not tell me any details other than the fact that he baked the bacon strips to keep them pliable enough to roll into rosettes, and that he went to our local Dollar Tree to get fake flowers for their stems and plastic baby’s breath. For a how-to, try shooting him an email and see what insider info you can squeeze out of him!]

Croissant Making at Elle A Cooking

Food Adventures, Food Life, Los Angeles

That’s right, friends. Martin’s Christmas present to me was adding croissants to our culinary repertoire — best boyfriend ever! I was very pleasantly surprised when he proudly announced that we would be taking this class with Elle A Cooking.

Stunning, flaky butter croissants

Stunning, flaky butter croissants – a labor of love

We spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon covered in flour and butter at Lilia’s place. I had always wanted to take cooking classes and this was a perfect way to start! Lilia’s classes are small, intimate gatherings that move at a comfortable pace, are very hands-on, and encourage lots of picture-taking and question-asking.

The basic croissant dough. Yes, that's butter being wrapped up in dough.

The basic croissant dough. Yes, that’s butter being wrapped up in dough.

The croissant class menu consisted of croissant dough from start to finish, classic butter croissants, pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants), and quince danish topped with homemade orange marmalade. We worked backwards, using pre-made dough that Lilia had prepared in advance and rolling, cutting, and shaping into our pastries. While they baked, we whipped together a batch of dough from the beginning, let it proof, and wrapped it around a stick of butter.

Pain Au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) with Valhrona dark chocolate - yum!

Pain Au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) with Valhrona dark chocolate – yum!

Lilia herself has a very calm demeanor and it was a pleasure learning from her. She has a very interesting back story as an engineer who pursued her dreams and attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to focus on pastries. I really admire her passion and drive to take hold of her life and take that leap.

Quince Danish topped with homemade orange (well, satsuma tangerine) marmalade

Quince Danish topped with homemade orange (well, satsuma tangerine) marmalade

She even showed us how to make a quick & simple orange marmalade from Satsuma tangerines, intended as a topping for the danishes but nearly polished off with fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven butter croissants. Incredible. Bon Appétit!

We wish we could share the recipes with you, but they are not ours to share so you’ll just have to sign up for a class with Lilia to glean her baking secrets yourself. At the end of class, she provides each person with a full set of recipe cards that details the step-by-step process for the dishes prepared that day… super helpful for replicating the process at home!

What we are happy to share with you are these mouthwatering pictures of our experience, and perhaps, after a few practice rounds, our advice and findings as amateur pâtissiers. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make your own croissants (or macarons or other dishes on her Class Schedule), sign up for a class at Elle A Cooking! We highly recommend it.

——

Check out Elle A Cooking here: http://www.elleacooking.com

How to Store Leftover Tomato Paste

Food Life

Don’t you hate it when a recipe calls for a few teaspoons, or even just a small dollop, of tomato paste and suddenly even the dinky little 6 oz cans seem giant?  I mean, they’re already just about the smallest can in the canned food aisle, but what do you do with the rest of it? Leave it in the can and put it in the fridge? Scoop it into a tupperware container and put it in the fridge? Forget about it? Triple or quadruple the recipe in order to utilize the whole can? Throw it away?

I, too, used to have that dilemma. In the spirit of not wasting food, I would place a little square of plastic wrap over the top of the opened can, using a rubber band to hold it in place if needed, and gingerly place the leftover can in my fridge. Well-intentioned, of course, but over time, the can would make its way to a dark little corner of my refrigerator, long forgotten and definitely unusable. Until one day, I discovered by reading some online forums that you can indeed freeze tomato paste! And let me tell you, that little fact changed my culinary life.

Here’s my trick:

Spread out a sizable piece of plastic/saran wrap. Spoon out the remaining contents of the opened can of tomato paste.

Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the tomato paste so that it is no more than about a 1/2 inch thick.

Fold the plastic wrap so that everything is covered and with minimal air bubbles.

Place the wrapped bundle of paste into a ziploc bag and store in the freezer.

The next time a recipe calls for tomato paste, you don’t even have to thaw it. Because we spread it out in a fairly thin layer, you can just pull the brick out of the freezer, break off as much as you need, re-wrap, and put it back. Easy peasy and nothing wasted!

Need ideas on what to make with tomato paste? Might I suggest some com do or nui xao? (No, we’re not biased at all…)