Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Roasted Chicken and Homemade Stock

The farmer's market in my neighborhood is technically year round, but I guess we at the time of year when the farmers just have nothing to sell. There were no produce stands at the market last week, which was very disappointing. Next Saturday I'm going to try the market in the next neighborhood over to see if maybe they have more to offer. Anyway, the meat vendor from Smith Meadows Farm showed up, so my trip was not in vain. I bought some eggs and because I was feeling adventurous I also got a whole chicken and an oxtail. More on the oxtail later.

Although I roasted a duck for Thanksgiving, I've never done a whole chicken before. For some reason I found the idea really intimidating and kept putting it off. Man, was I being silly. Roasting a chicken is SO EASY and SO GOOD. Since this was my first time doing it, I decided to stick with a recipe which is uncharacteristic for me. I used Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken recipe and followed it almost to the letter. The only things I did differently were to omit the onions (because I hate them) and to put some fennel fronds in the chicken cavity just because I had them and why not. Since my bird was a little smaller, around 4 pounds, my cooking time was closer to an hour. Here is the finished product:
Golden brown and delicious!
In addition to roasting chicken for the first time, this was also the first time I've cooked fennel. My husband and I both liked it. It has a subtle sweetness and I think it's great for these kinds of applications. Since I dislike onions so much I think I might start using fennel as a substitute for things like roasts, and maybe stews. It isn't my new favorite thing (like cauliflower was, haha) but I'm happy to add something new to my repertoire.

The hardest part of cooking a whole bird is carving it, but I think we managed to do that without butchering it too badly. We each had a breast and a drumstick for dinner.

In addition to providing us with a wonderful Sunday night dinner, I also got enough meat off the chicken to use in four lunch salads and I was able to use the carcass to make stock. After thanksgiving I made duck stock with our leftovers and I did that on the stove top since I was home from work and had the time to babysit it. This time I decided to try the crock pot, however, and it worked beautifully. Basically I just threw a bunch of stuff in and left it alone. First I added the carcass, and I left the aromatics inside the cavity. I figured they couldn't hurt. Then I added spices, mostly red pepper flake, bay leaf, thyme, and rosemary. I think I also added additional salt. I threw in the leftover roasted fennel and carrots, then added more carrots and two stalks of celery in addition to more fennel tops. Recently I read that putting acid in a stock helps leach the nutrients out of the bones and into the stock, which is where you want it, so I also put in a few dashes of apple cider vinegar. I covered it with water and left it on low for 20 hours. The result was beautiful, I got over two quarts of lovely, rich, dark brown stock.
I forgot to take a picture before I strained it, sorry!

I strained it into a pitcher so I could just pour it into whatever I want to use it for later in the week. I'm just obsessed with the color. It's so much darker than the store bought stocks or broths. Even Kitchen Basics, which was my preferred brand, is a few shades lighter than this. Making the stock was so easy I really have no excuse to ever buy it again. 

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