Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chicken stock and staff meal

Restaurant cooking is so delicious because you don't cook with water.  You cook with flavored liquid - usually some kind of stock.  Make some stock and next time you cook add it to whatever your cooking instead of water; you'll taste the difference.  There are all kinds of stock you can make, AP (all purpose meat), chicken, vegetable, veal, duck, lobster, mushroom, etc.  The list goes on depending on what you are cooking.  However, all stocks share the same base: bones/meat (for meat stocks) and mirepoix - carrots, onion, celery - or leaks.  For meat stocks you want to have about 2 parts bones/meat 3 parts liquid.  The vegetables are supposed to make up about 20% of the stock, but you can eye-ball it.  So ideally after all the meat and vegetables are in the pot the water will  just cover it with room for evaporation.

Chicken stock:
1 fat carrot (2 small/med), peeled and cut into medium sized pieces
1 large onion, quartered
1 really fat leek, (2 small/med) cut and washed
1 whole medium chicken, washed and broken down into parts
Optional: bay leaf, parsley sprigs, herbs such as thyme, garlic, peppercorns, and more, depending on desired flavor.

Bring chicken up to a boil and simmer on low, removing all scum that floats to the top.  If it's boiling too hard the scum will mix with your stock and make it cloudy and give it a funny taste.  After about 30 minutes add the vegetables and any other ingredients. Simmer for 4-5 hours, continuing to skim the top periodically.  Strain through a very fine strainer (chinois).  Taste it - if it's too watery then put it back on the stove and reduce it to the desired flavor.  Cool the finished stock in an ice bath until it can be put into containers in the fridge or freezer.
This container was the whole yield from my small-batch stock.

What you can use stock for:
  • As the main ingredient in many fine sauces
  • To add moisture and flavor to cooking (instead of water)
  • As a soup base
  • With rice, cous cous, quinoa, etc - instead of water for more flavor or as cooking liquid for risotto.
  • As braising liquid

Staff meal:
In restaurants you should know the staff doesn't eat what you eat when you come in.  Surprisingly people in the restaurant industry don't eat very well or even regularly.  There have been many days when I didn't have time for dinner or when I scarfed it down in 3 minutes while continuing to work.  The most common staff meal I've encountered is white rice with chicken and veg.  After making stock, you have leftover chicken and vegetables that have been simmering for hours.  Shred the chicken, chop up the vegetables (or chop up some new vegetables), and sautee with garlic, ginger, red chili flakes, soy sauce or cumin, and other flavors on hand and you've got staff meal.  Needless to say, soy sauce and sriracha are a staple in many kitchens.

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