Life has been more than hectic these past two months, what with Hubby D’s open-heart surgery and his subsequent ahead-of-schedule recovery. Our from-the-heart thanks goes to the amazing cardiothoracic team of physicians, nurses, and staff at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
So what if we missed one granddaughter’s graduation from Ol’ Miss, and another’s from Chicago Medical School. Or, an entire season of the offspring of Offspring #5’s high school baseball and soccer. Or time at the lake with Offspring #1 and his Wyoming family. It’s all about priorities and health tops that list.
And yes, I fell way behind on my blog so here’s one of my favorites from 2014.
Let Nothing Go to Waste
There’s something about the process of making soup that inspires my creative juices, much like starting a new work of fiction and not quite knowing where the story will eventually take me. Of course, no two stories I write are alike, nor any dish I prepare more than once. Or the humongous pots of soup, those potpourris I make after developing a sudden case of writer’s block. Need I say more? Our freezer is well stocked.
Culinary efforts I consider remarkable have been known to elicit an equally remarkable compliment from Hubby D, one that borders on the oxymoron of diplomatic innuendo, as in “Do you think you could duplicate this again?”
No, I cannot and even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t, so there. It’s a one-time enjoyment only to be surpassed by another I have yet to create. I’ve tried explaining this to D more than once but he has the mindset of a professional trained in the science and technology of baking; whereas I, who continue to find my way around the kitchen by trial and error, consider cooking to be an art and not a science.
My soup du jour, as the name implies, depends on what ingredients happen to be in the fridge on any given day; and, depending on the time of year, what herbs are thriving in the garden outside my kitchen door. However, the one constant in whatever soup begins with the stock. Since I am incredibly cheap … uh, make that frugal, I make my stock from scratch, as in chicken although turkey would work just as well. Beef too, but that’s a whole different animal for a different blog.
Anyway, my main ingredients come from those poultry parts that never make it to the Giacoletto table—the back, neck, tail, wing tips plus the heart, gizzard, and liver I have no desire to cook properly because I’d feel obliged to then eat them. Whole chickens and chicken quarters work well too, if not that entire section, the back portion and skin add lots of flavor. And should I feel extra ambitious, I will take a cleaver to the drumsticks and hack off the knuckles/ankles. What better use for the stockpot unless someone in the family enjoys sucking on bones.
Decision time: light or dark-colored stock.
For dark-colored stock, use a large pot with a thick bottom suitable for sautéing.
2T Olive oil, 2 T butter or margarine
Sauté chicken parts on all sides until parts turn the color of roasted chicken.
For light-colored stock, omit sauté step; instead place chicken parts in a large pot.
Cover chicken with cold water
Bring to boil
Skim off foam from top of liquid
Add essential scraps
Huh? You may ask.
Don’t get excited. Here’s my answer:
Within the freezer portion of my side-by-side fridge I keep a plastic storage bag filled with essentials (a.k.a. garbage, a.k.a. toss, a.k.a. get-rid-of-that-crap), a plastic storage/freezer receptacle for storing ever bit of veggie scraps that might otherwise get dispatched to the Insinkerator© or garbage can or compost heap we never got the hang of using. Below are examples of my freezer essentials but yours will probably differ from mine.
Onion ends and skins (for lighter broth don’t use dark skins)
Garlic ends and skins
Carrot shavings, tips and ends
Celery tips and ends
Asparagus tips and woody ends
Pepper stems and ends
Tomato skins and stems
Lettuce slightly past its prime
After adding essentials, again bring contents to boil.
Turn heat down to a slo-o-w simmer (bubble … one, two, three … bubble … one, two, three … bubble)
If using a whole chicken or leg quarters, after 45 minutes of simmering, remove some prime meat from the bones and reserve for soup or other dishes.
Allow contents in pot to continue simmering for another two or more hours, until solids have turned to mush.
Turn off heat and remove pot from burner.
Pour contents from pot into a colander placed over a large mixing bowl (stainless steel works well).
Pour liquid from container through a tight mesh strainer placed over a second bowl (again stainless steel).
Refrigerate second bowl overnight.
Next day, skim fat that has solidified on top of the contents. See Photo
What’s left in the container will have transformed into a gelatinous stock or a rich broth, depending on the amount of water used and the ratio of meat to bones. Either way, the results will bring tons of flavors to soup, risotto, sauces, gravy, or braised meats.
Use immediately or ladle contents into various sizes of freezer bags and containers. Freeze until needed. For proportional amounts, ladle into cupcake tins and freeze. When frozen solid, pop out, load into freezer bags and return to freezer until needed.
Soup’s On: Tune into a future blog (maybe my next one) for tips on making soup like your mom or grandma used to make, that is, if either of them could cook like mine did. If not, learn how to make soup that’ll keep you and yours going back for more. Yum!