Homemade Chicken Broth

You’ll never regret doing this.  Pick a day when you’re a little bored and have a lot of time.  Turn on some music, enter your kitchen and make broth!  A really wild and crazy cook with lots of big pans might make several kinds of broth (pork? vegetable? chicken?) all on the same day, but most of us aren’t quite that hard-working.  So pick chicken as your go-to (unless you’re a vegetarian, of course).  Our friend, David (married to Frankie, my roommate from my junior year at Colorado College – oh so many years ago), says he only cooks by looking in the refrigerator and using what’s there.  This is ideal for that.

Pick your biggest pot for the top of the stove.  My mother gave me mine, saying that everyone needs a really big pot, and I’m still using it, probably 45 years later (fyi – it’s 6″ deep and 12″ across, but a slightly smaller one would work too).  Once your chicken has cooked for hours and hours and has been cooled and strained, divide the broth into the perfect size (for you) freezer containers and freeze.  I think 4 cups is ideal for 2 people and 2 cups for 1 person.

Homemade Chicken Broth

  • Servings: depends
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I kid you not.  You don’t need a recipe for this.  If you have some cooked leftover chicken, add the bones and skin to the pot, if it doesn’t have any super-intense spices on it.  If you’re buying uncooked chicken, don’t bother with buying a whole one.  The white meat will be wasted and doesn’t add much, except dry meat.   Instead buy wings, backs, necks.  I don’t do feet, but maybe you do.  Buy as much as you can get into your really BIG (not little) pot, maybe 4-5 pounds?  You want lots of bones and skin.

The next step may be controversial.  I’ve adopted the Chinese way of putting the chicken in the pot (nothing else at this point), filling the pot with cold water, barely covering the chicken, bringing it all to a boil, letting it boil for about 2 minutes (it will get really nasty and foamy looking) and then dumping that all into a colander in the sink, rinsing everything, including the chicken and the pan, off, putting the cleansed chicken back into the cleansed pot, re-filling the pot with cold water until it barely covers the chicken, bringing the water back to a simmer, and  then starting the real broth-cooking, adding the vegetables, etc. at that time.  The only catch to this is that it’s very tricky and scary when you pour out the water, because the pan is heavy and hot.  The advantage to this approach is that the time-consuming, slightly-annoying task of skimming off the scum for about 10 minutes has pretty much been alleviated.

If you don’t want to risk scalding yourself (or your dog who is beneath your feet, watching you), do this instead:  barely cover the chicken with water, bring it all to a hardy boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, stir, and skim off the scum which comes to the surface until it quits coming.  My mother would even take a paper towel and go around the edge of the pot to remove scum, so, of course, I do that too, if I’m using the scum-removing approach.

In either case, once your broth has had the scum removed, add lots of what you’ve got on hand.  Parsley?  check.  Carrots?  check.  Celery? check.  Onion? check.  Same with garlic.  Thyme?  Oregano? perfect – about 1 tsp each.  A leek? fabulous.  Salt, of course.  Start with about 1 T of kosher salt.  Pepper – about 1 tsp.  Tony Chachere’s Seasoning? YES! to taste.  Bay leaves?  1 or 2. Or you could go the Asian route and add ginger, scallions, lemongrass, maybe some cilantro,  a few slices of a jalapeno pepper, fish sauce, and/or star anise.

Simmer everything – with no lid or with a lid just partially on – for as long as you are willing, hopefully about 3 hours or more.  Do NOT let it boil hard.  I did that recently and ended with very cloudy stock.  Add hot water, if necessary, to keep the chicken covered.

Then cool, strain, and freeze.  FYI – my 4# of chicken backs yielded about 10 cups of broth.

Once cooled you’ll want to remove the fat that has come to the surface.  If you do this after it’s been frozen, you’ll have to kind of scrape it off before it defrosts.  I usually divide my broth into freezer containers, refrigerate it over night, remove the fat, and then freeze.

Recipe provided by BigLittleMeals and Andy & Ann

Carrot Ginger Soup

So it’s going to be just us here for Easter, and we’ve been thinking about what we’ll have for dinner that will be properly celebratory, isn’t a pain in the butt to fix or clean up, serves just the two of us, and tastes great.  It’ll be a big little meal!
Andy first suggested that we have rabbit for dinner, but I managed to convince him of the impropriety of that.  But I thought that maybe something with carrots seemed appropriate.  Carrots and dip?   Too much work for just us. Carrot cake? Yum!  I have a fabulous recipe for that, should you ever want to try it, but it’s time-consuming to make.  Maybe carrot soup?  Yes!  It’s beautiful, it’s easy; it’s light, healthy, and delicious.  You can make it vegetarian (or not) by your choice of broth.  It’s gluten free (I think). The ingredients are easy to find.  Note: don’t think that you’ll just make half of it, cause it’s just you eating.  Fix the full recipe and you’ll have soup left for a lunch next week and some to freeze for another time.

Carrot Ginger Soup

  • Servings: 4
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adapted from Sara Deseran’s Asian Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1/4 c butter (4 T)
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 or 2 serrano chilies, seeds and membrane removed and chopped
  • 3 c vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into chunks – about 10 big (not little) ones
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 c half and half.

Directions

Using a medium-sized pot over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the ginger, garlic, and chili and cook and stir until the garlic and chili have softened and are fragrant – maybe a minute.  Add the broth and chunks of carrot, coriander, and salt; bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook until the carrots are very soft – about 25 minutes.  Now is the time to use your hand blender, if you have one.  We don’t – so we’ll put the carrot mixture into our food processor (a regular blender works here too) and puree it until it’s almost smooth.
At this point take note: if you’re freezing some, put it in your freezer dish now, because it will reheat better if you add the half & half after you defrost it.
Put the rest of the carrot mixture back in the pot, add the half and half, decreasing the amount a little, if you’ve frozen some. Return the soup to a simmer.  Put it into bowls and have a HAPPPY EASTER!
Recipe provided by Big Little Meals and Andy and Ann

Alton Brown’s French Toast

French toast1

Alton Brown’s recipe for french toast from the Food Network.

Andy and I have had some serious disagreements about French Toast.  Since Andy does all the breakfast cooking (well, I do dish up granola now and then), he gets the blame when the French Toast doesn’t turn out perfect.  After years – maybe decades – of imperfect FT, Andy discovered this Alton Brown recipe, and, if done precisely, is both easy and just right.  Things do get better.

One note here: we always use a sweet, as opposed to a sour dough, french bread (from the Basque Boulangerie, if you’re local) rather than the suggested challah or brioche, but I’m sure they would be wonderful too.

A second note: we tried freezing the leftover finished slices of French Toast, and they freeze well!  Just be sure they’re cool when you put them in the freezer and don’t pile them on top of each other – until they’re frozen.  To defrost and eat I simply popped a slice in the toaster and it turned out great (though you might have to adjust the length of the toasting).

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies

Brownie_icecream

 

If you haven’t already discovered this recipe, let me introduce you to the simplest, tastiest, fastest brownies ever.  Remember how I said I miss Ladies Home Journal?  Well this recipe first appeared in that magazine – in 1975.  I’ve tweaked it just a touch.

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies

  • Servings: 16 squares
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Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 squares of unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ c flour
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 c walnuts, chopped (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter an 8″ square pan. Melt the butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat.  Stir in the sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Stir in the flour and the salt and the walnuts, if you are using them.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Cool on a rack, then cut into 16 -20 squares.  The brownies will keep well-covered for several days and will freeze well.

Recipe provided by Big Little Meals and Andy and Ann

 

Cazuela de Arroz con Hongos

Cazuela de Arroz con HongosOkay.  I cannot tell a lie.  I borrowed much of this recipe from Pati Jinich’s recipe in the Washington Post.  How can you not be fascinated by the food choices of someone who grew up in Mexico City and whose Jewish grandparents immigrated there from Eastern Europe?

The casserole (does making a casserole sound dated?), which is vegetarian, reheats well,  freezes well and is delicious.  Serve it with a green salad.  Big flavors. Little effort.

Cazuela de Arroz con Hongos or Mushroom and Rice Casserole

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 3 T butter
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper with the membrane and seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 1 # mushrooms (your choice of type – but if you want to be quick, get ones that are already sliced)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 c Mexican crema – or heavy cream
  • 1/2 c queso fresca or Jack or Fontina, grated or crumbled
  • 1/2 c queso anejo or Parmigiano or Romano, grated
  • 2 1/2 c cooked rice.

Directions

 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8″x8″ baking dish. Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook and stir until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook until soft.  Add the sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir to combine all.  Cook until the mushrooms are soft and dark-ish brown and all their released liquid has evaporated – or almost evaporated.  Stir in the cilantro, the crema, and the queso fresca and cook and stir until the cheese has melted (you want the mixture kind of soupy at this point, so add a little crema, if it’s not).  Spoon the rice into the baking dish and then top the rice with the mushroom mixture.  Spread it to smooth the top.  Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
This casserole can be made a day ahead of time and refrigerated (covered) and baked later – or tightly covered and frozen.  When using the frozen dish, be sure to let it defrost for an hour or so before putting it into the oven.  I found that my partially-defrosted casserole took about 45 minutes to heat in the oven.  I added the parmesan the last 15 minutes.

Recipe provided by Big Little Meals and Andy and Ann

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