Three easy meals that start with a good base

The humble chicken’s versatility has no end. From omelets to entrees to soups, these generous birds give us protein-packed potential at every stage of their lives, chicken and egg, after death and before they’re even born. Once a roasted bird is fully picked over, creating a stock from its unused scraps seems a natural next step, extending its gifts for weeks on end. Why waste?

I resisted homemade stock for some time. Simmering slowly overnight, stock fills every room in the house with a thick, savory scent that seems to stick to everything. This can bring on cravings for fried chicken at breakfast or, in my case, dramatic bouts of morning sickness during both of my pregnancies. A cursory glance at the glistening blobs of fat skimming its surface was, for me, not terribly appetizing. Let’s just say I was thankful for the tight proximity between stove and sink. Eight years later, my stomach still churns on the evenings my husband fills stock pot. “Can’t we use boxed?” I ask. But he harrumphs in reply — a chef knows the secret of well-made stock.

Two recent experiences inspired me to give it another go. I had just roasted my first whole chicken and it felt wasteful to drop the carcass in the trash. A recent farmers’ conference cooking class was fresh in my mind as well, and I recalled a bit of gleaned wisdom on the link between well-fed farmers and happy households, a little salty soup can go a long way toward re-hydrating a hot, sweaty farmer at the end of a summer day. And so, with the help of my sister-in-law (and kitchen mentor) Emily Haselbauer Bebenroth, I decided to give stock another try.

A good stock can be a foundation for a world of delicious recipes — but it all starts with a brimming pot.

Chicken Stock

(Adapted from Ina Garten.)

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs. chicken carcasses, including necks and backs
  • 3 large yellow onions, quartered
  • 6 carrots, unpeeled and cut in half
  • 4 ribs celery with leaves, cut into thirds
  • 1 leek, white part only
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 20 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half

Directions

Place all ingredients in a 16-20-quart stockpot. Add seven quarts of water and bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for four hours. Strain through a colander and discard the solids. Chill the stock overnight, and skim off the layer of fat that will form on the surface. (You can use this nutritious fat for cooking and frying, or discard it.) Voila! Just like that, you have a base for quick, nutritious meals.

Stock can be as simple as that, but feel free to get creative.

  • Save your veggie trimmings as you prepare other meals, collecting them in a freezer bag for the next time you’re ready to roast a chicken.
  • Garlic and onion peels — as long as they are mold-free — make for a richer, darker stock.
  • Chicken stock freezes well in any form. Ice cube trays are a great way to parcel out small amounts of stock to add to simmering rice, beans, or other dishes.

Everything and the Kitchen Sink Soup

This is a quick, healthy meal to make ahead of time and store. It’s a great “whatever’s in the fridge” recipe. Explore different herb combinations like fresh thyme and oregano, or add cooked ground beef or turkey to it for more substance (with a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce).

Ingredients

  • 4 small white onions, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, leaves included, chopped
  • 5 medium carrots, chopped
  • 3 big cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 48 oz. V8 original
  • 48 oz. chicken stock
  • 16 oz. packet frozen vegetables (I use Cascadian Farm Premium Organic carrots, corn, and peas)

Directions

Coat the bottom of a stock pot with olive oil. Sautée the fresh vegetables over medium-high heat until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add V8, stock, and bay leaves. Cover, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15–20 minutes until the veggies are soft.

Add frozen vegetables. You can also add fresh spinach and kale to bulk up the vitamin content. Your kids won’t even notice. Season with salt and pepper, and serve, refrigerate, or freeze until later.

Asian Noodles

This recipe can simmer all day but doesn’t have to! It’s a fast, easy way to infuse Asian flavors into your stock.

Ingredients

For the broth:

  • 2–3 star anise
  • 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2–3 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/4 C fish sauce
  • 1 T. miso paste
  • Rice wine vinegar or lime to taste
  • 48 oz chicken stock

For the chicken:

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 package white or shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 package ready-to-serve soba or udon noodles
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. sesame oil
  • Cilantro and bean sprouts for garnish

Directions

Add stock to a large wok or crock pot. (If you use a wok, note that some of your stock will evaporate during the cooking process.)

Bring to a rolling boil, add spices, and boil for 10–15 minutes, tasting throughout and adjusting seasoning as needed. Keep in mind that if it’s not salty enough, you can always add a spoonful of Hoisin at the end.

Once you’re satisfied with the flavor, strain out spices and add fish sauce, miso, and vinegar or lime juice. Lower to a simmer while you cook your chicken.

In a separate pan, sauté chicken breasts in olive oil and sesame oil.  After about three minutes, add mushrooms. After two more minutes, stir in noodles and stir fry for about two more minutes, breaking up the noodles as you go.

Combine broth and noodles. As you spoon into bowls, garnish with sprouts and cilantro.

Mushroom Risotto

Risotto does not warm well the next day — its glue-like texture hardens and is tough to re-heat, so only make as much as you’ll enjoy right away.

Ingredients

  • 4 Portobello tops, gills scraped out and chopped into 1/2-inch squares
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 C Arborio rice
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • 6 C stock
  • 1 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 T butter
  • 1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 T chives

Directions

Start by warming stock in a medium pot. While you’re waiting for the stock to heat up, heat olive oil and butter in a second pot.

Add mushrooms and shallots to oil and cook until soft, about three minutes. Remove mushrooms and shallots from pot, add garlic cloves, and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add rice and cook for about two minutes, until the rice turns golden. Then, add wine. Now it’s time for the stock!

Add stock, a half cup at a time, stirring with each addition until the rice absorbs the liquid. Be patient. This takes a while, maybe 20 minutes. The more effort you put into it, the creamier the result! Taste it along the way and drink the extra wine while you’re waiting. If you prefer a thicker risotto, leave out an extra cup of stock.

Add the mushrooms, shallots, Parmesan cheese, and chives. You can also add a touch of butter for creaminess. As with anything else, season with salt and pepper to taste. A small squeeze of lemon will add dimension to the flavor.

Note: Risotto pairs great with asparagus, which is common at many spring and summer farmers’ markets. Top your dish with sautéed asparagus and a few extra shavings of Parmesan for an upscale restaurant feel.

Read more:

Cheap Cheep: Chicken Liver Pasta recipe

The Chicken(s) and the Egg(s): Spice Acres’ Chicken Family

Source recipes:

Risotto

Smitten Kitchen

Ina Garten

Kitchen Advisor: Emily Haselbauer Bebenroth