Monday, August 22, 2011

Stocking up

I've made a number of the soups in the Edmonds book, for which I generally used bought liquid stock, conveniently overlooking the fact that there are also several stock recipes to complete. This weekend, I decided to make chicken stock (p85) before I run out of recipes to use it in.

The recipe calls for one chicken carcass. I'd bought a pack of two chicken frames, not sure whether or not this was the same thing. Either way, the frames were suitable for stock-making, and since one was quite small, I put both of them in the pot instead of just one. Stocks I've made in the past have come out a bit flavourless, and I figured using extra chicken bones might improve the taste.

To the chicken frames I added a peeled onion, a carrot, a stick of celery, half a dozen white peppercorns and 1.5 litres of water. There was supposed to be a bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and bay leaf - I managed the parsley and bay leaf ok, but had to make do with a sprinkling of dried thyme instead of a fresh sprig.

With all the ingredients in the pot, I merely had to bring it to the boil, and set it on a gentle simmer for a couple of hours. A bit of scum came to the surface early on in the boiling, so I scooped that off, but apart from that, I just left it bubbling away on the stove.

After about an hour, the smell of chicken was wafting deliciously through the house, and I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't, in fact, looking forward to a nice chicken meal for dinner.

At the two-hour mark, I turned off the heat, strained the stock through a muslin-lined sieve, then allowed it to cool down a bit before setting it in the fridge overnight.

This evening I found a use for some of my chicken stock - and it wasn't even a soup recipe. Nope: I made pilaf (p106) as part of my dinner. It's essentially a rice dish, flavoured with onion and chicken stock.

Heating a flameproof casserole dish on the stovetop, I melted some butter and fried some chopped onion. Then I stirred in the rice and added some of my home-made chicken stock. After a little seasoning, I put the lid on and placed the dish in the oven.

In the twenty minutes it took to cook the pilaf, I busied myself with throwing together the rest of the meal. Before I knew it, the timer had gone off and the pilaf was almost finished - just a little more butter stirred through, and a sprinkling of chives, and it was ready.

I found the pilaf quite tasty. There was plenty of flavour from my freshly-made stock, and, while I try to avoid using much butter in cooking, it lends a nice buttery flavour to the rice. It would be interesting to see how much it would impact the flavour if you took away the butter. Maybe one of these days I'll try it and see!

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