Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Beyond Chicken Noodle

An unreleased recipe from Soup: Jonathan Miller, Food Editor

It seems in recent weeks, I have been approached by many people about the trick to making the perfect soup. Many home cooks are faced with the challenge of creating soups beyond the basic chicken noodle. With so many ingredients available in today’s society, it is becoming increasingly easier for home cooks to create different variations off a single recipe.
Whenever you embark on the journey of soup making, a high quality stock is essential. Many products are available, such as low-sodium chicken bouillon and bouillon granules. Many of these products, however, even if low-sodium, may have other undesired ingredients such as monosodium glutamate known as MSG. Therefore, it is wise for the home cook to look into other possibilities. The thought of making your own stock is a daunting task, after all who else makes their own stock nowadays? But once properly made, it will be hard to acknowledge how you’ve ever managed without it. With superior flavor, and greater health benefits, it is hard to deny the positive implications to the perfect start of soups; homemade stock.
Stock: The Journey to the Perfect Soup
In the process of making stock, it is often difficult to write a concise recipe. There is not one recipe that will produce the same results every time. Instead, stock is an art form. One must trust his or her own judgment and discernment. There are only guidelines in making stock, not rules. Here I will make a set of guidelines that will set you on the path to success. I recommend you read all the guidelines before starting you first stock to avoid confusion.
Beginning Your First Stock
• The Bones: It is impossible to make stock without bones. Usually, after Thanksgiving I save the turkey carcass to make stock. You can save bones from beef to make beef stock. Bones from veal, turkey, chicken, and beef may all be used. Cut bones into 3 – 5 inch pieces with a sharp object. I use a meat cleaver, but you can use a hefty chef’s knife. It is okay for the bones to still have meat on them. I use whole legs, wings, even the skin of poultry. Freezing bones is a good way to preserve them for use at a later date.
•Water: Place the amount of bones using in a large stock pot. Fill with cold water until completely covering bones by 1” – 2”.
•Vegetables: Celery, carrot & onion. 4 oz. celery, 4 oz. carrots, and 8 oz. onion per 3 gallons of water used. Measurements do not have to be exact, however, should be used within close proximity. The onions do not have to be peeled; I even put the crinkly skins in. The carrots should be peeled.
•Flavor: 1 tsp. of thyme, dried or fresh, ¼ cup parsley & 2 tsp. fresh ground pepper. Again, this is for 3 gallons of water. If you only use 1 ½ gallons of water cut all measurements by half. DO NOT SALT YOUR STOCK. Only salt the stock when used in its final stage in a soup. The salt level will depend on other flavors added in a particular soup.
•Simmer: DO NOT BOIL. Boiling will cause impurities in the bones and meat to release into the water causing it to be cloudy. Cloudiness is okay, however, these impurities could taint the flavor slightly bitter or sour. Only a few bubbles should make it to the top every 30 seconds or so. Use your own judgment here. Simmer stock for at least 8 hours. Simmer time depends on the type of bones, the amount of water and other variables. Some stocks will take 8 hours, other 15 hours. How do you know when the stock is done? Scoop approximately ¼ cup of stock in a bowl, add 1 – 2 tsp. of salt and taste. It should taste like the broth for chicken noodle soup. If not, simmer longer. If too strong, add 1 cup of water at a time until desired flavor. Many times the deciding factor for making stock is the time factor. If this is the issue, you can make the stock in a slow cooker turned on low with equal results.
•Straining: Strain your stock through a colander into another container for storage.
•Cool: After your stock has been refrigerated, it should resemble the consistency of gelatin. At this stage, you will see a hardened film, yellow or white in color. This is fat that has hardened on the top. Scoop this off with a spoon.

Now your stock is ready to be used in a variety of ways. You can freeze this stock successfully for up to 1 year.

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