Look how deliciously, deeply brown it is! Chilling your stock makes it easy to remove the excess fat, which congeals on top.
Sometimes I make mistakes. And sometimes that turns out to be a good thing.
The other day, I pulled some chicken parts out of my overstuffed freezer and set them in the fridge to defrost overnight. The next morning they were fully defrosted—highly unusual, since that usually takes a full 24 hours. A closer look revealed the reason: Instead of the plump bone-in chicken breasts I thought I’d plucked from my freezer’s crowded depths, I’d actually taken down some meaty bones meant for making stock. Whoops.
For the life of me, I couldn’t think of a thing to do with those bones. My freezer, which did I mention, is quite full?, already held several quart-sized freezer bags of stock. Making more of the same seemed like a waste of what little space I had available. But other than stock, what the heck does one do with chicken bones?
Feeling somewhat stupid and wholly unimaginative, I asked “likers” of the blog’s Facebook page how they’d use them. Twitter too. The answer came so quickly, I felt even more foolish: Roast the bones and make brown stock. Yeah, it’s more chickeny liquid to fit in my freezer, but the pre-roasting brings out a deeper, richer flavor. Rather than using it for chicken noodle soup, for example, you might use it in risotto or a heartier, thicker soup.
So I did it—I quick-defrosted the chicken breasts in a pot of cold water, and roasted them in a 400°F oven on a bed of neatly chopped carrots, onions, potatoes, and butternut squash. At the same time, I roasted the bones in a cast-iron skillet along with some large chunks of carrots and onions. The breasts were done in about 45 minutes; I left the bones in for another 20 to 30 after that. And I’m so glad I did. Once they were done, I transferred them straight to the slow cooker, along with their roasted vegetables. I added some water to the skillet and gently scraped off the browned bits (so much flavor!), then into the cooker they went. Topped it off with cold water, some parsley sprigs, and about 10 peppercorns, and left it on LOW overnight. (It’s a variation on my Overnight Chicken Soup.)
Stephen had to wake up super-early the next morning to do some pre-work work (oy, don’t ask), and since I’m a fairly light sleeper I woke up too. From 4:30AM until 6:30, when I finally gave up, I lay in bed breathing in the bewitching aroma of an exceptionally rich stock. The downside of a bedroom right next to the kitchen, I suppose. But it was worth it—that stock had a depth unlike any I’ve made before. I’ve since used it for a Chicken Barley Soup (recipe to come, later this week I hope) whose intense flavors left Stephen raving. And yes, I froze a quart or two.
So yeah, I make mistakes. And I hope I always will.