chickenstock_feedmedearlyIf there ever was a discussion more fraught with angst and frustration in our household, it’s about chickens.

I’d say that I’m a bit thrifty when it comes to food. I touched on it briefly in my post about smart tactics for the kitchen, but truly, when it comes to throwing away perfectly good food, I just can’t do it. This of course doesn’t mean that I keep old food long past its prime. I’m a chucker once things run their course. But good food, perfectly usable? That’s a different story.

So our freezer is where good food goes to die. If there’s a leftover dish that we know we can’t eat because we’re out of town or we’ve eaten it for two days straight, into the freezer it goes.  Baguettes that were accidentally left out overnight? Freezer. And best of all, a chicken carcass or two, you know the drill.

The problem is that we live in New York City, so as much as I’d love to have a second freezer for all of my left over food, it ain’t gonna happen.

Our freezer runs out of space quickly, which results in chicken carcasses (carcii?) taking over whatever available space we have.

So we argue about bird bones.

Rodney, clearing the remains from a rotisserie chicken: “Are you done with this?”

Me: “I’m going to make a stock with it, stick it in the freezer.”

Rodney:  “We have 10 chickens in the freezer already.”

Me: “Put it in that little space where the ice comes out.”

Rodney: “You’re going to break the ice cube tray if you do that.”

Me: “That’s fine, I don’t use that thing.”

And truly, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t have ice cubes. For my Scotch-drinking husband, this is tantamount to losing power.

So the arguments continue: fresh stock vs. a broken fridge.

Which leads to guilt and remorse. I mean, really, is our worst argument really about chicken bones?

So I usually give in: I make a peace offering. I make stock. Chicken bones are swiftly reduced to a few golden quart containers. Everyone’s happy.

And it’s the easiest thing in the world, kind of ridiculous that we argue when the whole process takes 10 minutes of work and then simmers.

The trick, for me, is to use my slow cooker. I love my big stock pot, and for making turkey stock after Thanksgiving dinner, nothing beats it. I need the size. But when it’s just one or two chicken carcasses (I’ve even managed to jam 3 in there), my slow cooker fits the bill.

I have two slow cookers – a smaller crock, perfect for things like pork and beans or chili. And my gigantic 6.5 quart All Clad slow cooker – too big for cooking meals for fewer than 10 people, but just the right size for making a big pot of stock.

With my thawed chicken bones, and a small mountain of celery, carrot and onion, a few herb sprigs and some black peppercorns, I load up the cooker and fill it with water, and simmer gently all day, sometimes all night. I don’t even pay attention to measuring ingredients, just chop a bunch of veg – some people even freeze their peelings (carrots, turnips, etc) – combine with the chicken bones and water, and set to low for a minimum of 8 hours.

Although I’ve read that you can actually cook beef broth like this for days, chicken bones apparently break down too much after longer periods, so try to keep it to 24 hours max.

The result is liquid gold, Jewish medicine. It’s chickeny goodness, perfect to have on hand for soups and stews, broths, and risottos. Far better than the boxed or canned variety. Although manufactured broths can have a similar smell (and sometimes taste), they lack the body that comes with a good homemade stock. Stock should gel when it cools. It should be wobbly. Inner thigh wobbly.

So enough about wobbly thighs and chicken carcii. If you’re not doing it already, start saving those bones. Use your freezer. Say goodbye to your ice cube tray. And if you’re arguing with your spouse about the same issue, get on it, it’s the holidays, no better time to make stock. Happy holidays everyone.

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