Friday, 11 January 2013

Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is the first recipe in Professional Cooking by Wayne Gisslen (the textbook for the culinary program I attended), and for good reason: it's the base for so many sauces and soups, and can add flavour to almost any dish. It's also an economic way to use up kitchen scraps, and saves money on meat (a whole chicken is way cheaper than individual chicken cuts). There are many videos on YouTube showing how to process a whole chicken.

I don't really follow an exact recipe when making chicken stock. The basic formula is chicken bones plus a 2:1:1 ratio of onions to carrots to celery plus a sachet of seasoning.

Dried bay leaf
Dried thyme
Parsley stems
Whole cloves, at most two

Use these in any ratio. Wrap securely in a cheesecloth and tie with string, or alternately, stuff into an empty tea bag and secure tightly.
In a large pot (or two pots), add your chicken bones and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and skim off any scum that accumulates at the top of the water. Then, add your sachet and chopped onions, carrots, and celery. That's it! Simmer for about 4 hours, carefully strain through a cheesecloth, and you're done. Easy peasy lemon squeezey.

If you're experienced with canning, you might be able to can the stock for future use, or you can freeze it. I like to pour it into ice cube trays, freeze, then remove and place into a freezer bag. This way, I can add a cube or two to certain dishes, or defrost enough for a recipe (one cube is about 1 oz.).

As you're prepping your meals during the week, save up the little scraps of onion, the carrots peels, and the leafy and end parts of celery. You can also save unused parsley, and parsley stems. Throw this all into a freezer bag as you go, and when it's full, use it in your stock.

Remember to never add salt to stock! The point is to create a flavourful base, which you can add salt to later as you prepare your final dish.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Pescetarian Pasta

This is a really easy recipe to throw together quickly. It's also extremely versatile; you can substitute the clams for any seafood, or even meat. (If you're going to add meat, you should totally use bacon fat in step one!) Crush the tomatoes by hand instead of chopping them because it's easier, and obviously more fun. Add heavy cream to make a rose sauce.

Pescetarian Pasta Sauce

1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 or 3 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine, or water
1 can clams in their own juice
1 can whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzanos
2 tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
chili flakes to taste
1 to 2 bay leaves
2 tbsp grated parmesan (optional)

1. Set a large pot over medium heat. When it comes to temperature, add about 2 tbsp of whatever fat you like (I used canola oil, but butter or anything works) and your finely chopped celery, carrot, and shallot. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the garlic. Cook about 1 minute more. Deglaze with the white wine (or water).

2. Pour in the tomato juice, then add each tomato one by one, crushing it with your hand before dropping it in the pot. Add the clam juice, and reserve the clams until the last step. Add in the parsley, oregano, chili flakes, and bay leaves. (Remember how many bay leaves you add -- they need to be removed later!) You can add the parmesan too, if you're using it. Stir it all together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Let it simmer over medium low heat for at least half an hour. You can leave it for longer, but make sure you're checking on it and stirring every so often.

4. Now, at this point, you can leave it chunky and just reduce the liquid until it's saucier (not so soupy.) Or you can use an immersion blender (or regular blender or food processor) to break up the larger chunks, or blend it all the way down to a smooth consistency.

5. Add the clams and cook for just a minute or so. Add your favourite cooked pasta, and garnish with a bit more parsley and some parmesan.

This is my first recipe, so please let me know if you find any mistakes or if anything is confusing/unclear. If you make it, let me know what you think!