Every once in a while I try to do something that goes beyond mere cooking and is more in the realm of "culinary." Such was the case yesterday after Michael and I returned from the grocery store and I realized that I had utterly forgotten to buy broth.
I try to keep chicken broth and beef broth on hand because they come in handy for several dishes I cook on a regular basis.
For instance, if you make rice using chicken or beef broth, it makes the rice much more flavorful. I make real rice, and I make it the way my grandmother did - sticky. Not chewy. I think chewy rice is an abomination. No, I use Mahatma Jasmine rice, and I typically use 1 cup rice to 1 cup water and 2 cups chicken or beef broth. Add a spoonful of salt and a big pat of butter. Bring it to a boil. Cut it down to low, slap the lid on it and simmer it for 20 minutes.
I like to use beef broth when I make a beef roast, along with red wine, soy sauce, onions or onion powder, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Slow cook that in a 200 degree oven all day or throw it in the crock pot. Lots of salt and pepper, too. Yum.
I also like to make meatloaf with lots of beef broth added, until the meat is super moist. It just boosts the flavor.
So late yesterday afternoon, after giving it some thought, I decided to make my own chicken stock. I remembered seeing Ina Garten make stock, once, and it was a fascinating process, involving lots of ingredients and a pot that Ina probably could have bathed in.
I went online to research making chicken stock. I found How to Make Chicken Stock and Not Call It "Bone Broth," Ever. This made me laugh out loud, in many places. Among the pithy observations:
"Stock, like so many other slow-cooking techniques, originated as a way for very hungry people to wring some nutrition and flavor out of whatever sad, nigh-inedible shit—leftover bones and joints, fibrous vegetation, fragrant twigs, etc.—happened to be around. People who could choose, say, going and getting something else to eat over waiting for hours to see if a pot of hot water with a bunch of gnarled bones in it might magically transform into nutritive sustenance would never have come up with stock."
So I went rooting around in the kitchen and came up with a very large pot that Mother bought me years ago, much to my puzzlement at the time. I then went rooting around in the freezer, and came up with two chicken breast filets. [I also threw out a bunch of stuff that had freezer burn, but we don't need to discuss that...]
I had no carrots or celery, so I called my next door neighbor and she said she had plenty of carrots and celery, and very sweetly brought me over several of each.
[Thin people always have celery. This I learned long ago.]
I next grabbed my pot and filled it with: the chicken breast filets, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and entire package of frozen and chopped onions, salt and pepper, onion powder, and basil, oregano, and sage from the garden. I found a nice jar of peppercorns in the back of the spice cabinet and threw those in.
That was my fatal mistake.
A few peppercorns = good stock
20-30 = disaster
I didn't realize it until I had boiled the mixture for a while. Then I tasted it.
It wasn't too hot, as in spicy hot. It was simply too PEPPERY.
I then had to make a decision.
Throw out the entire pot? Or try to salvage the situation??
I opted for the latter. Soup. Soup is good.
So I painstakingly dipped out all the leaves and all the peppercorns. Took me half an hour. Why didn't you use a strainer? asked Mother. Well, I couldn't lift the enormously heavy pot of boiling hot liquid and I was afraid I'd spill it and make a huge mess. HUGE MESS. So I dipped out everything that didn't need to be in there.
I then shredded the chicken, and cut up the carrots and celery, and added them back in.
Then I got to thinking about the grody old bottle of lemon pepper I'd just thrown out when I spied it in the back of the spice cabinet.
Lemon + Pepper = yummy
So I juiced and entire lemon and put that in there.
Then I got to thinking about another very yummy thing - buttered noodles. So I found some spaghetti in the cupboard and threw it in there along with an entire stick of real butter.
Then I tasted.
It still didn't taste right. I added a teaspoon of sugar, out of desperation.
I know, I know, I know. You're thinking "Dee just lost her mind."
Yes, sort of. But here's the thing: I did NOT WANT TO ADMIT DEFEAT.
So my chicken stock was not to be. SOUP! Soup is a worthy thing.
Mother tasted some of it and said it was fine, just needed more salt.
I will try making stock again.
I will never admit defeat!
I will probably not put in ANY peppercorns, however.
One day I will make all my own broth, all my own stock, and it will all be excellent. I will revel in my culinary skills.
Of course by then it's quite likely I will be living alone again...