Saturday, February 4, 2012

Have you heard? There's gold in them chickens!

Yes corny, but oh so true. I use chicken stock in many of the dishes I make and I think it just makes things taste better. BUT oh my goodness so expensive! I happen to take a cooking class at my local gym in which they talked about how to break down your own chicken and how to make your own chicken stock. Which I promptly did, just to prove I could, but I honestly struggled with getting it just right.

After a bunch of searching and trying things I found that this is what worked for me:

In my crockpot I put:
1 whole chicken
onion, roughly chopped (whatever you have on hand)
carrots, roughly chopped (whatever you have on hand)
celery sticks, roughly chopped (whatever you have on hand)
parsley (if I have fresh I do one or two stems but if I don't I put enough dry in the palm of my hand until it gets to nickel size)
(if I happen to have mushrooms hanging out in the fridge they go in too)
I add salt & pepper too but I really don't know how much... I just go with my gut (if I had to guess I would say about a 1/4 teaspoon of each)

Cooking time... well I generally do this after the kids go to bed so I start it around 8:30pm and then I let it cook until about 5pm the following day. I pull out the chicken (or as much as I can without it all falling apart on me). I take a large bowl or stock pot and put a strainer on top of it... the very important thing is to line the strainer with cheese cloth. Then I pour the liquid into the strainer.

Now comes the fun part... storing the stock! The best method I have found is to let the liquid cool slightly and put it in freezer bags. A word of caution... Sandwich bags are not a good substitute unless you let your stock cool down a whole lot. I like to lay the bags flat when I freeze them... mainly because the first time I did this I put them in the side door and when they froze they sort of molded themselves to the space and it wasn't easy getting them out... let's just say it involved a blow dryer and a whole lot of swearing (in my head of course).

OK so now I have all this chicken too. We typically just shred it and put it in a container to use during the week in enchiladas, mix it with pesto and pasta, salads... etc. Again, I have to say I do not like chicken BUT it is a huge time saver during the week most of the time AND it keeps me from going through the drive thru!

Bacon & Leek Risotto

My hubby loves to make risotto and we love eating risotto! He made this wonderful risotto with some tweaks... for the original Bacon & Leek Risotto click on the link. The photo on the left is also of the original... it went so fast in our house that I didn't even get a chance to take a picture!

His version is below:

1 1/4 cup Abborio Rice
4 strips of bacon, cut up into small pieces & cooked
1 leek, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 green or red bell pepper, diced (or use smaller peppers and use a variety of colors)
3 1/2 cups chicken stock, hot (don't try to make risotto with cold chicken stock)
1/4 - 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 TBLS butter
1 TBLS olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Cut the top and bottom of the leek off. One tip we got from the recipe was to slice the leek in half lengthwise and then slice them, so as they cook they fall apart easier.

Fry the bacon pieces. As they cook add in the leeks, garlic and peppers. DRAIN... DRAIN!

In another pan, add olive oil & rice, let it cook for a minute on medium heat. Turn the heat down to low and add half of the chicken stock, cook until absorbed. Add the remainder of the stock over the next 15 - 20 minutes. Stop adding liquid when the rice is soft but has a bit of bite to it.

Add in the leek mixture, stir all of the ingredients together. Cook on medium heat for about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add in butter & Parmesan cheese, cover and let sit for 3 minutes. Serve and enjoy.