The magic ingredient

IMG_9046 (kitchen art, of the hanging kind.)

IMG_9045_2(counter at work)  IMG_8603 (not the counter. But the kitchen.)IMG_0830(counter in action)

January 15

My brain is scattering this morning, mostly because I want to write myself into a space where the combination of these topics make sense. These blogs are off-the-cuff, not painstakingly crafted, almost my version of a written message like might happen in a Quaker meeting. Let’s see how this works out.

This morning’s Tasty Thursday is about chicken stock. Homemade chicken stock is pure liquid gold, in my opinion, adding a level of MMMM to anything it goes into. Soups and stews, beans, gravies. It’s pretty easy to pull together and most of the work is done quietly on the stove as it simmers down to the basics of deliciousness. There’s no precision in timing, or in ingredients for that matter. That the whole house smells warm and blanket-wrappingly cozy is an extra bonus. I’ll put the ingredients and technique at the bottom of this blog.

The thing with stock is that it’s there. It’s not the star of the show, and if you just cracked open a can you might not really know something is missing. It’s easy enough to forget about. But when you remember? Ooh.

Like many of my recipes, it starts with chopping up an onion.

I chop on a maple butcher block counter top that is the workhorse of the kitchen. My grandfather had a table made of butcher block, scarred and bleached from years of use. I saw him grab knives and cut right on there. He’d knead bread dough and roll pasta too. About the only time he’d use a separate cutting board was for meat, but I can’t remember a time when that table was not in use as a work space. Work space that doubled as a place to sit and eat – space that served both utilitarian and pleasure. Plus I thought it looked amazing, this large expanse of wood that he oiled regularly, highlighting the cuts and scars created when he cooked. Kitchen art in the best sense of the word, like a battered copper pot or a gorgeous wooden salad bowl.

When we put this counter, people asked me if I was going to varnish the wood. “Because then it will look glorious,” they said to me. countertop

What could possibly be more glorious than an expanse of wood that invites companionship and sharing? That allows me to say to friends, “Sure, help me. Grab a knife and pick a spot. “

I oiled the counter on Tuesday, squeezing dollops of “wood moisturizing crème” on the surface and massaging it in with my hands. Extra goop went to the corner where I do most of the prep work. Normally when I oil, I wipe the excess off immediately. This time, though, I decided to let it soak in overnight and remove any extra in the morning. There was a little hassle of getting out a board to chop the broccoli that was the mainstay of the dinner, but it wasn’t such a big deal that I resented it.

The wood today feels silky and smooth. It glistens in spots, showing the grain and the stray cuts. It’s almost happy, rested, the way I feel after a particularly solid night’s sleep.

Sure, I could have done the normal thing, oiling and wiping. I could have forgotten to oil completely. The counter would have been there, doing its thing. I would not have known any different.

Homemade stock in a soup. A moisturized countertop in the kitchen. Background ingredients that, mostly, take some time to pull together.

Time is pretty much the magic ingredient.

Happy Thursday!

Want to reclaim time for you, to make stock or oil your counter? Contact me by leaving a message on this blog, or find me on Facebook or YouTube. Let’s make some magic.

Homemade chicken stock

Ingredients:

  • couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 lbs chicken parts (backs, wings, legs chopped up, necks.)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • bay leaf
  • water

Technique:

  1. Chop onion, skins and all, into rough pieces
  2. In a large soup pot, heat 1 tbs of oil, then sauté the onion pieces until brown. Remove to a medium/large bowl (you’ll be adding some chicken pieces to the same bowl, hence the size)
  3. Add a little more oil to the pot, then brown half of the chicken pieces. Remove those chicken pieces and repeat with more oil (if you need it) and the rest of the chicken.
  4. Remove the second batch of chicken.
  5. Pour in 2 quarts of water, stirring to scrape up the brown bits at the bottom of the pot. Then dump the chicken pieces and onions, plus any accumulated juice, to the pot. Add a bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Bring to a low boil then turn the heat down and simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 hours (if you go longer no worries – there will be less stock but it will be more concentrated.
  7. Strain out the stock, then cool. Remove any congealed fat from the top and store the stock in containers (I do 2 cup portions.)
  8. ENJOY!
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