15 July 2014

Making Chicken Stock

At least 10 times a year, I roast a chicken, usually on Sundays. Chicken was the dish of choice nearly every Sunday at Grandma Annie's house in Frenchtown, and I associate the aroma with the sensation of putting on my play clothes after church.

I also buy four-packs of chicken breasts still on the bone, and can get at least 6 servings from them, making chicken salads or casseroles for the first few meals of the week.

Always I save the carcasses and the bones for making chicken stock, usually adding onions, a carrot, celery some garlic, parsley and herbs de Provence. In doing so, I feel rather virtuous because I am making such complete use of the chicken.

I freeze the broth for cold-weather soup making. Store-bought stocks are no match for it: It is rich and full-bodied and savory. Usually I chill it first and skim the congealed fat off the top before freezing, but sometimes I skip this step.

Chicken stock has many uses, in addition to soups like this and this:
  • It adds flavor to rice, pasta, quinoa and couscous.
  • It can make frozen vegetables taste almost fresh.
  • It provides a sauce base for many French dishes.
  • It really enhances the flavor of mashed potatoes.
  • It is essential for making gravy.
  • It can be used to add richness to a cream cheese and onion potato chip dip or cracker spread.

Here are links to other ideas for using chicken stock:

This blogger calls it liquid gold and I agree. And this one calls it free food.

Here are a few more ideas.

If you are tossing out your chicken bones and carcasses instead of making stock, you're missing a gold mine of flavor!

13 July 2014

Road Food: Essentials for the Suitcase

We never travel without this kit.

Sampling local specialties is the best - and certainly the tastiest - part of travel. One of the easiest ways to do this is to visit a farm market. With that in mind, my husband and I usually travel with two string bags, both purchased 30 years ago at Tellus Mater in Madison, Wis.

We routinely travel with a few other essential items, including two Opinel folding knives purchased from La Vaissellerie in Paris, and a corkscrew from The Main Course in Fish Creek, Wis.

A cutting board, two small plates and a few spoons and forks round out our traveling food kit. We look for hotel rooms with microwaves and refrigerators; a wet bar is a bonus. Checking out a few local restaurants is fun, but dining en suite is cost-effective and after a long day, relaxing.

We not only enjoy outdoor and indoor markets, but also local grocery stores, especially Italian markets, like Fraboni's, and cheese shops, like Fromagination, both in Madison, Wis.

Many locally-owned specialty shops offer sandwiches or deli fare; this option is usually affordable and offers some imaginative pairings. One of my favorite places for sandwiches in Wisconsin is the Fish Creek Market in Door County.

When traveling in France, we often buy a sandwiche jambon (ham sandwich) and share it. Desperate once on a stormy night, we stumbled upon a wonderful veggie sandwich at Boulangerie Versavel (never mind the brusque counter staff), near the Bastille in Paris. We cut it in half and enjoyed it in our minuscule but charming hotel room a half block away.

I suppose a Swiss Army knife and a cutting board would offer us the same convenience when we travel, but this is the approach we've taken. It has enabled us to eat like locals and save money for more travels.

03 July 2014

Fast and Frugal: Summer Ham Sandwich Spread

Ham, Hard-Boiled Egg and Pickle Spread

Summer Mondays - the traditional closing day in the restaurant business - were often picnic days when we were kids. Early in the morning, my father would gas up the old Ford and shop for snacks while my mother made sandwiches from Sunday leftovers.

Here's my take on her Ham, Hard-Boiled Egg and Pickle Spread, which is perfect for a Fourth of July weekend meal or snack:

  • 1/4 pound ham, cubed
  • 4 hardboiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup bread-and-butter pickles
  • 1-3 teaspoons minced onions
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise

Place ham, eggs and pickles in a food processor and grind to a paste. Add minced onions and mayo. (I tossed in some pickled carrots when I made it recently.) No need to add salt.

Chill before serving. Makes a great sandwich or cracker spread.

This is a tasty way to use up ham or chicken. I love it on whole-grain bread, and it can be use on home-made sub sandwiches, too.

30 June 2014

Meatless Monday: Cubed Cold Beets with Sour Cream, Dill and Chives

I love borscht. I've never made it, you understand, but I will some winter day when I am seeking comfort. It has provided comfort for me from the start, and has never disappointed me, even though our interactions have been few and far between.