November 22, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken Stock

I'm going to guess what you're thinking. "It's the week before Thanksgiving. Why on earth is she posting a recipe for chicken stock? Why not turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes. Or even gravy, for the love of God?!"

I'll tell you why. Because chicken stock is going to be the backbone of nearly everything on your Thanksgiving table. It's going to moisten the bread in your stuffing. It'll be the foundation of your soup. And you'll reduce it down and add turkey drippings to it to make your gravy. Even my green bean recipe uses a cup of chicken stock.

To put it simply:

delicious chicken stock = delicious Thanksgiving spread

The recipe is here a bare bones, basic chicken stock. It's made with chicken wings (great bone/meat ratio), water, onion, garlic and salt. The flavor is pure chicken. It's a wonderful base for chicken noodle soup, gravy, or any other recipe in which you want the chicken flavor to really shine through.

You can modify this recipe to suit your needs. If you want a more intensely flavored stock, roast or saute the bones first. Or transfer the stock to a saucepan and reduce it down until it's strong enough. (A word of caution: if you think you might reduce the stock, be conservative when adding salt. As the stock reduces down, it will get more and more salty.)

There's also plenty of room to personalize. If you like a more complex stock, add celery, onion, peppercorns and/or a bay leaf. If the stock is destined for matzoh ball soup, throw in some dill. If you're going to use it for an Asian soup or curry, consider adding fresh ginger or star anise.

The recipe is as spare the list of ingredients. Put all the ingredients in a slow cooker and turn it on. Ten hours later, strain it. That's it. You're done. This recipe is perfect for the days before Thanksgiving when you're already running around like a chicken with it's head cut off (sorry -- couldn't resist)!

Oh, and in case you're wondering, we haven't finalized this year's Thanksgiving menu yet. But here's what we're thinking, a mix of old favorites and new recipes we're dying to try:

Sweet Potatoes TBD
Mashed Potatoes TBD

Place the chicken wings in your slow cooker.

Add onions, garlic and salt.

Add water and turn the machine on. I cooked the stock on low for 10 hours. And had to be very patient. After 5 hours, it didn't look all that different than it did at hour 1. I started to doubt. 

I shouldn't have. Because at hour 8, it suddenly started to look like this.

And by hour 10, it looked and smelled divine. Okay, I lied. It didn't look divine yet. But it did smell divine.

 Strain out the wings, onions, and "bits."

And you'll have this.

And if you're lucky, a bowl of this.

Slow Cooker Chicken Stock

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated

3 pounds uncooked chicken wings
2 1/2 quarts water
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tsp salt, or more to taste

1.    Place all ingredients in a slow-cooker. Cook on LOW for 10 hours or HIGH for 5 hours.

2.    Strain out chicken parts, onion and garlic. (I strained it twice. The first time, I used a "spider" to remove the chicken pieces and onion. The second time I poured the stock through a sieve lined with a paper towel to catch the little bits that I don't want floating around in my stock).

3.    Use right away, or freeze.

Yield: about 3 quarts

Notes: This stock is not very fatty. But if you'd like, you can refrigerate the stock for a few hours. The fat will congeal, and you can remove it. Also, you can portion the stock out into 1 quart zip loc bags, freeze them flat in your freezer, and use as needed.

November 5, 2013

Chicken Piccata Pasta

I love the flavors of chicken piccata. As far as I'm concerned, the chicken is an afterthought. It's the sauce I'm after. Rich with garlic and shallots, bright with lemon juice and capers.

Capers are the edible flower buds of the caper bush. When you bite into a caper, it releases a little burst of salty, pickle-flavored juice. The flavor of capers is the defining flavor of chicken piccata.

In addition to piccata dishes, you'll find capers in pasta puttanesca, remoulades and vinaigrettes. You might recognize them as the dark green, pea-size spheres you see next to the lox and cream cheese on a bagel spread. 

Traditionally, chicken piccata is served as a breaded cutlet topped with its defining lemon-caper sauce, and served on a bed of pasta.

This variation takes the essential components and turns them into a one-pot meal. It's lighter because rather than dipping the chicken in an egg wash and breadcrumbs, it's just lightly dusted with a bit of flour. I used mini penne, my son's current favorite pasta shape. But use any short pasta you like.

Gather your ingredients.

Set pasta to boil.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Toss lightly with flour.

Lightly brown chicken in hot butter/oil mixture. Remove chicken and set aside.

Add shallots (I used sliced red onion, but will use chopped shallots next time), garlic and thyme to the same pan. Cook until shallots are tender.

 Add flour, stir to coat shallot mixture, and cook for a minute or two until the flour is golden brown.

Whisk in lemon juice and chicken stock. Let simmer for a couple of minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.

Add the capers...


And pasta. 

Serve warm.

Chicken Piccata Pasta

Minimally adapted from A Spicy Perspective

1 lb chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces (you can also use breasts or tenders)
1 lb pasta
4 Tbsp flour, divided
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup chicken stock
3 ounces capers, drained

1.    Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.

2.    Meanwhile, salt and pepper the chicken liberally and toss with 2 tablespoons of the flour.

3.    Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and oil.

4.    Drop the pasta in the boiling water and cook as instructed on the package then drain.

5.    Once the butter is melted, place the chicken pieces in butter/oil mixture and saute for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and just cooked through. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to dry.

6.    Add the garlic, shallots and thyme to the same pan and saute for few minutes, until the shallots are tender. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons flour until it turns a light golden brown. sauce.

7.    Then whisk in the lemon juice and chicken stock.

8.    Once the sauce is simmering again, toss in the capers and chicken. Mix in the pasta and serve warm.

Serves 6.