Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stocking Up

Portion control, not ingredient castration, is the key to happiness & good health.

Buying stock from specialty shops is crazy expensive, so I figured: why not make it? Chicken stock is too much trouble & having to endure the smell of fish for hours is a deal breaker, so Vegetable Stock wins.

Reading around, I concluded: cooks in one hour & save time by not peeling or cutting veggies. So I took a large pot & added 3 large carrots, 2 onions, 3 garlic bulbs, several celery stalks (5?), peppercorns, and a bay leaf. The bay leaf, louro, was THE most essential herb my parents used. I can’t imagine my mother cooking w/o it; it’s great for stews & soups & any other long-simmering food.

So, I washed the veggies, discarded the bottoms & tops & threw (unpeeled) veggies into the pot. Some Internet posters say you can add the tender inner stalk-less leaves of the celery, but ALL WARNED: DON’T ADD the tough leaves at the top of the celery stalks because they’ll turn the stock bitter.

I added water to the pot, and cooked for about an hour; after the water came to a boil, I turned heat down to low, but kept it covered. One hour later, I put a colander into a smaller pot, and poured the stock into it. That way all the solids would be retained (to be discarded), and only the liquid would be saved.

Since I had the water boiling w/ veggies, I thought: why not cook the chicken breasts in the fridge that were on the edge of spoiling?. I put breasts in stock for 20 mins (?) or so. OK, I’m totally guessing; I forgot to hit the start button on timer. Alas, I overcooked the chicken.

In the future, I’m going to check chicken pieces after 10 minutes, then 15 mins, etc. & take them out when they’re ALMOST cooked, but not fully cooked, so that I can cut them up & use them as an ingredient in another meal. That way the chicken still has a few minutes of “cooking life” left, and will be fully cooked, but not overcooked, for re-incarnation, say, as an ingredient in a chicken quesadilla or jambalaya, etc.

I know, I know. What about e coli & salmonella, etc.? Given germ-freakiness, I’d been prone to overcooking chicken, but I’ve decided to mend my ways. Overcooked chicken tastes terrible & I’d rather go vegetarian than eat any more linoleum chicken. I rarely order chicken when I eat out. Unless you’re at a multi-star restaurant, you can expect the chicken to be overcooked.

Also, I’m flummoxed by the American obsession w/ chicken breast. OK, it’s lower in fat, but that’s another way of saying: breasts are tougher & less juicy. Rule of thumb: Natural fat = yummy. Portion control, not ingredient castration, is the key to happiness & good health. I prefer chicken thighs, i.e., dark meat, which has enough fat to compensate for my under-zealousness. I happened to have breasts because they were on sale. You get what you pay for.

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