Sunday, January 24, 2010

Homemade Stocks & Kitchen Experiments

Although we've always eaten well, I'm really enjoying the new inspiration we have and resulting creativity we are achieving in the kitchen by also trying to eat ethically. The Dandelion Organic Delivery service has helped us to keep produce costs down. One thing that has definitely gone up in price though are meat and other animal products. It's definitely worth the extra cost for us to know that the animals who gave their lives for our substinance were allowed to roam free in humane conditions. But still, it's not an easy time for us financially and in an effort to help curb some of those costs, Don and I have decided to start buying whole roasting chickens and butchering them ourselves. So far we've only done one and I think our internet instructions were a little faulty. We did end up with eight decent pieces of bird but a lot of meat still went to waste and we're sure there is a more efficient way to carve so more practice to come on that front. See previous entry on Maple Roasted Chicken with Yams for the finished results.

In addition to carving our own bird, the added benefit of buying bone in meat products is the ability to make your own stocks. This is a bit of a new experiment for us as well but again something that couldn't be easier. All I did was save the carcas and extra chicken parts that did not get carved up into usable material. I put the chicken parts in the crockpot along with some leftover vegetables from my pantry (onion, garlic, couple of varieties of potato, carrot, celery and parsnip.) I decided not to add much salt or other seasonings since these could always be added later and I would rather be able to control the flavorings in whatever recipe I decided to make later out of the stock. Add just enough water to the crockpot to cover chicken parts and vegetables. And brew on low overnight for 8 to 10 hours. This is a great way by the way to use up vegetables that have started to wilt but still have a lot of good flavor left in them. Although I'm still not an expert stock maker, I'm told that you should avoid adding leafy greens as they will turn bitter and other strong vegetables such as peppers and celery that will dominate the flavor. The celery seemed to be fine in mine though.

All together from my chicken bones and leftover vegetables I was able to produce about 6 to 8 cups of delicious homemade stock. Unfortunately, I tried to pour it out into a storage container a little too soon while the crockery was still hot and lost a fair chunk of it down the drain! I popped the airtight storage container into the freezer where it should keep for several weeks.

Last night I had the opportunity to use my stock for the first time and it was quite a fun adventure. I came up with the following soup recipe which was another delicious compilation of items in my pantry that needed to get eaten up. Unfortunately, the camera charger is lost so I was unable to get any photos which is too bad because the colors were amazing! Do no fret, a new one has been ordered and will be here shortly.

Tri-Color Potato Soup with Spicy Sausage and Kale

1 Yellow Onion Diced
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
6 Cups of Homemade Stock
1 Cup Chuckanut Ridge Chardonnay or other dry white wine
Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Salt to Taste
1 Purple Potato cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 Small German Potatoes cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 Yam (or Sweet Potato) cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 Fully Cooked Andouille Sausages sliced into 1/4 inch discs
3 Cups Red and Green Kale, roughly chopped
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

In large stock pot, stir onion in olive oil and red pepper flakes until they start to soften. Add stock, wine, seasonings, and potatoes and cook about 15 - 20 minutes until potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, heat sausages until lightly browned and carmelized on all sides. When potatoes are done cooking, add sausage and kale. Stir well and heat for another 2 minutes until kale is a vibrant color and slightly wilted. Serve in a bowl and top with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.

The finished product was delicious! Since our stock had turned out a little on the sweeter side due to the large parsnip we had added, it played well with the yams, which also were a great contrast to the spicy andouille sausage. The Kale both tasted great and added beautiful colors to the soup which made for an excellent presentation. I recommend serving with a hearty dark and slightly sweet bread on the side.

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