Clever Cooks

It was too hot to cook, so I bought a chook

chook bbqAfter what seemed like the gazillionth hot day in a row, I couldn’t face another session in front of the stove, so I picked up a roast chook from the supermarket. Buying premade goes against all things thrifty but I made sure every scrap of that chook was put to good use.

As soon as the groceries had been put away, I carved up the chook. The meat went into an airtight food container and was stored in the fridge; whatever we didn’t eat that night, we would slowly use up over the next few days in burritos, noodles, risotto, and chicken corn soup.

Cheap Geek and I got to snack on the stuffing and some chicken wings before dinner. Stuffing should never be put together with cooked meat as it cools at a different rate, increasing the chance of breeding nasties in food.

I wanted fresh stock so the carcass got popped into the Magic Cooker* with some frozen previous-roast counterparts. Our gnawed chicken wings also went in. To paraphrase Frugavore’s Arabella Forge, bacteria don’t survive the protracted boiling/simmering of the stock-making process, so any bones that have been (wo)manhandled should be sterilised by the end of the process.

Bones and carcasses got a Jamie Oliver dousing of olive oil and were caramelised over a medium to high heat. According to Urban Pantry’s Amy Pennington, ‘It is important to re-roast the bones to get a nice brown caramel on the bottom of your stockpot. This adds much more flavour than if you were to simply cover them with water, as you would if making stock from a fresh bird.’

Water was next. I added enough to generously cover the carcasses. Some people like to chuck in ginger, garlic or a bouquet garni at this point but this will bias their chicken stock towards a particular type of cuisine. Instead, make a neutral stock à la Poh Ling Yeow. This allows for versatility, resulting in a faster turnover of your stock and a smaller chance of it going off. If you really want to bulk up your chicken stock, add your saved up carrot peel or your surplus of onions.

Once the water started to boil, I skimmed off the impurities** to create a clearer stock and then reduced the heat to a gentle simmer. Thirty minutes later, I took the Magic Cooker off the stove and popped it into its thermal skin, leaving it to simmer for four more hours. For those who don’t have a Magic Cooker, put the lid on the stock pot, reduce the heat further and leave on the stove for a couple of hours or until the carcass bones collapse when agitated.

Once the stock is made, strain it through a sieve and store in the fridge***. I usually store mine in wine bottles but any food-grade container will do. It should keep for a few days. If you don’t want to use your stock straight away, freeze it and store for up to four months. Some thrifty cooks like to freeze stock in ice trays for single-serve convenience.

Add your homemade stock to soups, risottos, casseroles, anything that requires a boost of flavour.

*The Magic Cooker (yes, that is actually its trade name) is a Japanese invention that requires very little stove time, relying instead on thermal insulation to keep things cooking.

**The impurities usually look like dirty sea-foam.

***I usually don’t bother straining through a sieve. Decanting will do just fine if you’re feeling lazy like Nigella.

Theoretically, you could also pulverise the bones and turn them into blood and bone mix for the garden if you wanted to use up every part of your chook, but that’s a little bit too hardcore for me. Plus cooked meat tends to attract vermin. Go for the butcher’s bone shavings option. It’s less ratty.

5 thoughts on “It was too hot to cook, so I bought a chook

  1. My electric pressure cooker also makes a quick and cheap stock. 25 minutes on medium and I leave it to sit until it’s equalised naturally, instead of releasing the pressure. Always forget to preroast the frames, though! Have to give that a try.

      1. Sure, but I think the idea is that you can preroast the frames for a darker, stronger stock or just simmer them for a lighter, more delicate one. You could use the first for chicken gravy or risotto, and the second for a more traditional clear wonton soup.

        I’ve got a 160L freezer (which, along with the pressure cooker, are my two thrifty go-to items in the kitchen – I’ll make the purchase price and running costs of each back in terms of grocery savings inside the first year), so I have the luxury of space for multiple tubs of stock.

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