Monthly Archives: October 2011

Quick Apple Galette

This was just way too easy. I ran across a frozen sheet of pie dough in the freezer. I don’t usually buy pre-made dough, but for some reason, I had caved and bought a two-pack, then froze the other one. I decided it was time to use it up. I must say, this recipe is one I’ll keep in my back pocket for anytime I need a last-minute dessert.

I didn’t bother with a recipe. I just laid out the crust, peeled a large gala apple and sliced it, then spread the apple slices around the interior of the crust, leaving about a 2″ margin. I then sprinkled the apples with brown sugar (2 tbsp) and cinnamon (1 tsp), and dotted the surface with bits of butter (2 tbsp). I folded the sides up over the apples, then brushed the edges with an egg white. I finished by sprinkling the whole thing with raw sugar. The entire process took about 5 minutes. I didn’t even think to take pictures, as it didn’t seem like anything special.

I baked the galette in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. When it came out, I was amazed at how good it looked, after so little effort. And it was delicious! I must say, this is something I’ll need to explore more, especially with homemade crust. I have a few pears from my farmshare that would be perfect. I’ll post the pear version with more photos as soon as I get it made!

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Chicken soup for now and later

After making chicken stock recently, I wanted to use some of the leftovers to make a quick soup. After the second round of heating the stock, I strained out the veggies (carrots, celery, onion and garlic), then pureed them in the food processor. I added in some of the leftover stock (I was only able to pressure can 8 pints, and had another two pints or so left).

I grabbed a bag of frozen shredded chicken from the freezer, threw in a cup of frozen cranberry beans, and then raided the fridge for fresh veggies to toss in. I cut the corn off a couple of cobs, diced a red bell pepper, and then headed outside and picked a few kale leaves, which I cut into ribbons and threw in as well. One of the best things about soup is that it is so versatile!

This soup is fantastic! It is really flavorful–I love the texture of the pureed vegetables–it makes the soup so hearty and rich. Though I encourage you to experiment on your own, here’s the basic recipe I made:

  • 1 quart chicken stock (4 cups)
  • Veggies from stock making (2 large carrots, 4 ribs of celery, 4 cloves garlic, 1 large yellow onion) either softened from making stock or cooked until tender, then pureed
  • 2 cups shredded chicken (already cooked–feel free to use rotisserie chicken if you have none made)
  • 1 cup cooked cranberry beans
  • 2 corn cobs, kernels removed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced finely
  • 1 bunch kale (about 10 leaves), stems removed and cut into ribbons
  • salt and pepper to taste

The soup was rich and hearty, super healthy, and after eating my dinner, I had about 3 pints of soup left. I filled three pint jars with the leftover soup, and decided to freeze them for later use, as my fridge was pretty full. So now I have at least three more meals ready to take to work, and the whole process took less than 30 minutes, due to the work I put in making the raw materials in advance.

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Pressure Canning Chicken Stock

As you saw in my last post, I recently made Chicken Stock. Right now, my freezer is pretty full, so I’ve finally decided to give something a try that will allow me to preserve a larger amount of stock for future use. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I’m finally going to give pressure canning a try. I have spent years preserving using the more common method of water bath canning. For anyone who isn’t familiar with canning techniques, here’s a brief overview:

Water bath canning involves boiling jars with specially constructed two-part lids in a large pot of water, to both sterilize the contents and seal the jars and make them shelf stable. This is only safely done with high-acid foods, like jam, pickles, and some tomato preserves.

For lower acid foods, like vegetables, soups, and meats, the only safe way to can them for shelf storage is to use a pressure canner. This takes the same principle as water bath canning, but uses the mechanics of a pressure-cooker to allow for higher heat processing, to render the contents safe for storage at room temperature.

I recently bought a pressure canner on Craigslist. They are pretty expensive new, but while I was buying a few cases of used jars from a guy, he mentioned he was looking to sell his pressure canner, and I jumped at the chance. It has been sitting around getting dusty, and I finally got up the courage to give it a try. I guess the challenge is that I’ve never even used a pressure cooker, and all that super-heated steam seemed a bit scary…and the thought of poisoning myself is also frightening. But this was as good a time as any, and I have to tell you, there’s nothing to it. Just follow trusted instructions for timing and pressure, and you’re good to go. Check out this site for more details.

For the chicken stock, I used pint jars. You can definitely use quart jars, but my stock was very concentrated, and I wanted to have the flexibility to use small amounts at a time, for making sauces and adding to dishes (not just for big batches of soup). The process is pretty simple.

  • Fill the canner with at least 3 inches of water and start it heating. It should be at least simmering when you place the jars in it. You don’t want to cover the jars with water, as it is steam, not water, that causes the pressure canning process to work
  • Heat the lids and rings in simmering water (to soften the rubber). Feel free to use the heating water in the canner
  • Clean and sterilize your jars (I usually boil them in water, but you can also heat them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes)
  • Fill the jars with the stock, and then screw on the tops loosely (just finger-tight)
  • Load up the canner with the jars. Mine holds 8 pint jars, and based on the amount of time involved, I definitely always plan to fill it to capacity
  • Next you lock on the lid and turn up the heat to high. Each pressure canner has a unique process for locking on the lid. Mine has screws to tighten

The key to a pressure canner is that there is a steam vent in the lid, and a weight is placed on top of the vent to allow pressure to build up to a specified level, which lets the water inside heat beyond the normal maximum boiling point of water, 212 degrees. This super-heats the contents of the jars, ensuring that the contents are sterile and will not spoil or carry harmful bacteria. This is a basic review of the process, though it varies a bit by manufacturer.

  • Seal the lid, which in the case of my canner involves lifting up the screws and tightening them until they are all firmly sealed. The best strategy to ensure a good seal is to tighten the screws across from each other at the same time
  • Turn the heat to high, watch for the steam to begin to escape, and let the steam vent for at least 2-3 minutes
  • Then add the weight to the vent. For chicken stock, the proper weight is 10 lbs of pressure at my altitude (near sea level)
  • Watch the dial on the canner, and begin counting processing time when it reaches at least 10 lbs of pressure. Mine ended up at 11, which is fine. Then time the appropriate processing time. For stock, it is 20 minutes for pints, and 25 minutes for quarts
  • After the time has elapsed, turn off the heat, and leave the canner alone for at least 30 minutes. Then remove the weight, and see if there is any pressure released. If so, give it another 15-20 minutes to completely remove pressure.
  • Then unscrew the tabs on the lid and remove it. EVERYTHING WILL STILL BE REALLY HOT! Using a jar lifter and being careful, place the jars on a cloth to completely cool. You can always wait longer if you would rather not deal with the hot jars. I always tend to be doing these things at night, and am impatient to get finished…
  • After the jars are completely cool, check the buttons on top for a seal. When you press, they should not bounce back. If any jars do not seal, store in the fridge until use (1 week max)

Then find great ways to use your amazing chicken stock! Beyond soups, you can use it as part of your liquid when making rice or quinoa, use it as a base for making meat sauces, or whip up a fantastic risotto.

FYI, don’t worry if there is a bit of sediment on the bottom of the jar, and an off-white cloudy layer on the top, as in the picture. The sediment is harmless, but can be strained out if you like when you use the stock, and the white layer is separated chicken fat–it will re-incorporate when you heat the stock.

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That’s a lot of Chicken Stock!

As I mentioned recently, one of the best parts about roasting chickens is using the leftover bones to make chicken stock. Making stock can be as simple as roasting a chicken or buying a rotisserie chicken, using the meat, and then boiling the leftover bones in some water for an hour or two (with whatever veggies I might have around), then straining it. That’s how I often make stock. I use it right away, or freeze it for later use. However, I occasionally want to sock away a larger amount, and buy the raw materials to make a big batch of stock from scratch.

So what is the difference between stock and broth? Though it is mildly controversial, the definition I’ve always understood is that stock is made primarily from bones, and that it very mildly seasoned. Broth is usually more seasoned, and made with both meat and bones. Broth is generally ready to serve, while stock is more concentrated and used as an ingredient or base (and is therefore more versatile). This is why I don’t add salt to stock–if it is reduced, it can often become too salty.

One of the most important parts of a good stock is to roast the bones before making the stock. This adds to the depth of flavor, and also allows the bones to better break down in the liquid. I started with the remains of the two chickens I roasted in my last post. Since I wanted to make a lot, I also bought about 5 lbs of raw chicken necks and backs. They are very inexpensive (even for organic), and they have a high ratio of bones to meat, which is perfect for stock.

Yes, those are chicken feet. I also roasted about 3 lbs of chicken feet. They are totally optional, but they are a fantastic source of natural gelatin, which causes your stock to be rich and have a great mouthfeel. I get mine from a local Mexican grocery store, and I’ve also found them at Asian grocery stores around Oakland. I have heard that butcher shops can be a source, but you wont find them at chain stores like Safeway.

As you may have noticed, much of what I cook is pretty loose in the recipe department. I’m certainly the type of cook who likes to throw things together, and have found that in most cases, everything works out fine. Stock is a perfect example of that. Buy some meat and bones. Roast them till they get brown and crispy. How long? It doesn’t really matter, because you will be cooking them again in the water. How hot? I think I used 400 degrees, but it’s not very important.

After you roast the meat, get out a pot that will be filled about 2/3 with your roasted bones. I used a 12 quart stock pot, and had 5 lbs of backs and necks, 3 lbs of feet, and the bones from two large roasted chickens. You certainly don’t need to make as much. I then added some vegetable scraps. I often freeze trimmings for later use, so happened to have some fennel tops and the top 1/2 of a leek in the freezer, so I added them. I also had just cut some corn off the cob, so threw in the cobs as well. At this stage, you don’t want to use good veggies–they will be boiled to death anyway, so don’t bother with your good stuff (that is phase 2).

Then fill up the pot with filtered water, and put it on to boil. Once it comes to a boil (it takes a long time in a big pot like mine), reduce to medium-low and leave it alone. For a long time. Like 6-10 hours. Did I mention this is a good Saturday project? The time is key, because you want the bones and other goodies to really break down, to give off all of their goodness into the stock. My goal is to have stock that really thickens in the fridge. You see this ?

The stock on the spoon had spent the night in the refrigerator. When it came out, it was the consistency of one of those jello jigglers, or a jello shot if you were that kind of college kid. This means it’s a really great stock, ready to be transformed into sauces, soups, and used as a base for many other kitchen adventures.

So anyway, let it cook for a long time. Poke around in there occasionally to take inventory, and don’t be afraid to nudge apart big chunks of things. Once it looks like everything is loose and broken down, turn off the heat and let it cool for a bit. Once the stock is warm but not going to burn you, strain it through a strainer and throw away all of the chunky stuff. At this point, you have a choice. You can decide you’re done and store the stock then. If so, you will want to strain it again through a finer mesh strainer, or even better, through cheesecloth or a dishtowel. This isn’t necessary, but does ensure the stock is really clear.

The other option is to store it overnight in a bowl in the fridge, then re-heat it to flavor and clarify it the next day. That is what I did this time. The next morning, I scraped off the accumulated fat from the top of the bowl (sorry–forgot to take pics of this stage…no coffee yet), then put it back into a pan to finish. I switched to my 6-quart stock pot at this point, as you lose a significant amount of volume due to evaporation and removing all the solids. Of course, you could add more water at this point, but there’s really no need. I’d rather let my stock concentrate and get really strong, so that it takes up less space. Then when I use it, I can dilute it at least 1-1 with fresh water.

I melted the stock down, then added some fresh veggies. I added a couple of sliced carrots, 3-4 stalks of sliced celery, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a sliced onion. I let it cook for about an hour to impart the flavor of the veggies, then lifted them out with a slotted spoon and transferred them to my food processor. Though they are a bit mushy to use for soup, they make a fantastic soup base as a puree (more on that coming soon!)

I then strain as described above to get rid of smaller bits, and am ready to store the heavily reduced stock. This time, I used the pressure-canner, which I’ll describe in my next post. But that’s definitely not necessary. You can certainly freeze any stock you wont use in the next few days.

I know this is a long post, but I hope it’s been helpful. The same process works with beef, veal, pork, or a combination (but have the butcher slice any larger bones to expose the marrow). Fish or shrimp stock and veggie stock are much faster and simpler, so we’ll save those for another day!

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Quick Chicken Salad

After making a roast chicken, one of the easiest ways to use up the meat is making a cold chicken salad. I don’t really have a recipe–this is definitely one of those “clean out the refrigerator/garden” meals.

There was a beautiful tomato waiting from my garden, and I rounded up some fresh corn and lettuce from the fridge. I usually keep some marinated beets ready for salads, so tossed in a few of those as well. Marinated beets are easy to make–just roast the beets in the oven, slice, then toss in equal parts wine vinegar and olive oil and store in a glass jar in the fridge. Just be sure to keep red beets separate from other colors, or they’ll all be red soon!

Out in the garden, my basil is still thriving in the Indian summer weather we’ve been having, so I picked some basil to add as well.

Roughly chop the basil, and add to the mix. Toss in a vinaigrette you have on hand, and you’re ready to eat! If you are looking for a good vinaigrette recipe, I’ve shared my favorite below.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey (or pomegranate molasses if you have it)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • a few grinds of fresh pepper

Place everything in a screw-top bottle and shake until well mixed and the salt has dissolved.

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