Monday, June 2, 2008

Stock Piling

Chicken stock might be the most drastic change to my cooking repertoire in forever. I grew up using water or milk to make gravies, sauces, and the like, never knowing what I was missing. All the big TV chefs use chicken stock, which I likened to them using gourmet cheeses while everyone else used Colby-jack. Wrong. Chicken stock can add a lot of flavor and layers to your sauce or other cooking liquid. I use it in a lot of my dishes, from pasta sauces to chili to risotto, just to name a few.

Chicken stock comes in four varieties. The first if the kind you make yourself. I will not go into detail here, but my next post (The Three Way Chicken) will detail how to make and store the good stuff. Since I lack the large freezer to store all of my made stock, I usually opt for the second kind, boxed or canned. This stock is pre-made and is pretty much the best way to go. The third way is a flavor base, and the fourth is bullion cubes. As a rule I keep bullion cubes on hand (flavor base is perishable and a waste for me), but I try not to use them too often because they lack a lot of flavor and contain a lot of salt. But more on that in a minute.

There are two general rules I use when buying and using stock. First, use the low sodium stock if possible. You know how you like your food, salt it accordingly and do not let someone else do it for you. A lot of these stocks have heaps and heaps of salt, which can alter my final dish and get me a little peeved. Second, I will not put anything into my dish I would not drink out of hand. This means if you taste the chicken stock (and yes, you should) straight and it's nasty, don't use it! I really like the Swanson low sodium stock or their organic low sodium. Both are tasty and not too overpowering.

When using chicken stock, I like to spice it up a bit for some more flavors. When I make risotto, I add some onion, garlic, and ends of whatever veggies I use for some flavor. When I go Mexican, I add some cumin seeds and a chile pepper. You really cannot hurt your dish by doing this (it makes it a lot easier to season later); just remember to strain your stock before you add it.

Am I leaving out other types of stock? Most certainly. Chicken stock goes well in most dishes, but some will call for beef or fish depending on what you are doing. I tend to not make my own beef stock because a) I do not use it that often and b) it takes a little bit more time than chicken stock. That is not to say they are not useful. Follow the same guidelines when purchasing (low sodium, don’t buy it if you would not use as a soup by itself) and it should work out gloriously. For fish, just use shells and bodies if you want to make your own. Shrimp stock is especially good because you generate the ingredient you need, shells, every time you use shrimp! Vegetarian? Veggie stock has gotten a lot better, though it does not hurt to add a few more ingredients to it to punch the flavor.

So the next time you reach for the sink to thin out your sauce, ask yourself what you might be missing by not stocking your meal.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP