The morgue of my freezer has been begging for attention for weeks. Every time I open the door the onslaught of bagged chicken parts is almost too much to handle. Worse yet, I know it’s bothering the roommates which makes me feel terrible.
I have been putting off this activity for too long. Every time I carve a chicken I carefully file its organs, skin, fat and bones into their appropriately labeled bags in our freezer. Brenda, my favorite vegetarian, does not love the biggest bag, simply marked “Carcass.”
Brenda, like all my roommates, is in medical school and while the sight of a human body on the operating table is fascinating to him, chicken feet and slabs of beef do not have the same effect. I, however, am the opposite. Give me animal muscle and skin and offal and bones, I love them. But a paper cut? The smallest drop of human blood or raw personal flesh and I’m on the fast track to blacking out. Princess? Yes. Yes, indeed.
Thankfully I woke before Brenda this weekend, thus saving him from my disinterring of the freezer. However, his presence in the land of dreams dictated my every move in the kitchen. I tried to be quiet, I tried to make as little noise as possible (not easy for a giant weirdo). So, no iPod with show tunes in my ears for fear I would burst out singing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and my usual clumsiness would have to be replaced with ninja-like stealth as I rooted through the cabinets for pots and pans. I AM NOT A NINJA. Grod. Pots and pans make so much noise, particularly when you attempt to coax silence from them. They’re the crankiest of children, shifting about and clanging when all you want to do is ease them from their cages.
I took out the carcass bag and unloaded its bounty into my roasting pan. The brick of chicken wa unyielding to my attempts at separation so I slid the tray into my oven at 400 degrees. An hour later the brick had melted into identifiable chicken limbs that were nicely tanned from their time in the heat. It was time to set forth using Michael Ruhlman’s ratio for chicken stock: 2 pounds bones to 3 pounds water.
I will now admit that I was skeptical. I’ve tried to make Ruhlman’s stock twice before, both times with the same result- bland, colorless broth. This was my final test (every recipe deserves three attempts, no?) and my chance to convince myself that Ruhlman is every bit the genius we say he is. The results came back positive- Ruhlman ‘s stock ratio, as I’m sure he already knows, is brilliance. My first two attempts were riddles with mistakes of my own making and I can only say that when you follow his instructions word for word you will be gifted with a stock pot of golden hued chicken booze.
It is of note that in my research for stock making I came across a glorious article written by someone whose name I will never remember. The unknown chef left me with this advice: leave the skins on your onions. Pigment in the outside layers will bleed into your stock, lending its color to your brew. Whoever it was who typed this advice (likely it can be attributed to thousands), I thank you. Natural color is much more beautiful than an artificial dye job.
I will now parrot the advice of every chef around the world: MAKE YOUR OWN STOCK. It’s blasphemously easy and is the simplest action you can take to elevate your home cooking. 2 pounds bones to 3 pounds water, heat in an oven under 190 degrees for at least 4 hours, add onions, carrots, garlic, parsley and whatever you have on hand and cook for one more hour. Strain the soup and you’re done. Copying my sister I bought a silicone muffing sheet and froze my stock in the cups. I now have a bag of stock pucks, perfectly portioned for finishing sauces or starting a soup. Ruhlman, you have my epic thanks.
Brenda, you may come out of your room now. I won’t taunt you with chicken feet anymore.