Stock It To Me
Did you ever start a simple project and end up instead going down a long endless trail until you circled back to the thing you were going to do in the first place?
Like, let’s say you finally have a chance to sit down and read your book for book club, but you notice that your glasses need cleaning, so you go to the sink to wash them and then discover that you used the last paper towel, so you check the supply in your pantry to find another roll, but then realize that you forgot to put it on your shopping list last week, so you sit down to write this week’s list and it includes other things you need like toothpaste and you wonder if you have any drain cleaner because the shower seemed to be running slowly this morning which leads you upstairs to check the supplies in your bathroom cabinet and while rummaging around, you see a package of light bulbs which makes you realize that you don’t have any 100 watt bulbs and you wonder if they still make them or do you have to buy the CF bulbs, which really stinks because the incandescent are so much better to read by, and speaking of reading, you really should finish your book club book because book review is tomorrow night and you have to bring a dessert, and so you are back downstairs flipping through cookbooks for a recipe and, man, your glasses are really dirty…
True story. Welcome to my middle aged brain.
On a related note, I was doing some gardening last Sunday morning and realized that my swiss chard (which has thus far escaped the attention of the family of bunnies in our yard) was ready for harvesting. So I picked a bunch and stuck the stems in a glass of water while I figured out what to do with them. I had been running a recipe idea for a soup with sausage, chickpeas and chard around in my head ever since I planted it and decided to experiment a bit.
My pantry is usually stocked well with chicken stock/broth, but for some reason, I only had one small 14 oz can. So, I scrubbed off the garden dirt and ran to the grocery store. I knew for this recipe to work, I would need the BIG carton, but as I reached for it to blindly plunk it into my cart, I saw that it cost almost four dollars. Now, I had just walked past the chicken section and noted that I could buy a package of 6 chicken leg quarters for about three dollars. Does that make any sense? So, as frugal is my middle name, I came home with the chicken and a plan. I could play with my soup recipe, AND have meat for lunch sandwiches this week.
Once home, I set my oven at 400 degrees and, after washing and then drying the chicken with paper towels, I laid the leg quarters out on a cookie sheet. I added a large onion cut in quarters, two carrots cut in big chunks, and about 6 cloves of garlic. I didn’t even bother to peel any of the vegetables-- they were just a flavor base which would be strained out later. I drizzled some olive oil on the lot and salted generously. Into the oven it went for about 50 minutes.
Back to the garden.
When the buzzer went off, I removed the chicken to a plate, and tipped the pan, to let the fat settle down at one end away from the vegetables, so I could drain it easier. If you recall, last weekend was really hot. Our oven is insulated really well and it doesn’t heat up the house, so I had no qualms about using it. However, I didn’t want to have a burner on the stove bubbling away for a couple of hours, so I decided to use the slow cooker.
With the pan still warm, I scraped the vegetables into the crock pot, picking up as much of the lovely carmelized browned bits as I could. Then when the chicken was cool enough to handle, I stripped the bones of most of their meat (leaving some of the ugly bits attached for extra flavoring for the stock), and tossed the bones and skin into pot with the veg. I added about 10 whole black peppercorns, a bayleaf and some fresh herbs from my garden (parsley, a sprig of rosemary and a good handful of thyme). I poured in enough filtered water to cover everything by about an inch and a half and set it on high.
Back to the garden.
Four hours later after straining out the solid bits, I had about two quarts of the most amazing and intensely flavored brown chicken stock. I let it get to room temp, and then chilled it to get the remaining fat off. I then made my soup (see recipe below). So what started as a leisurely Sunday in the garden, ended with a nice supper about ten hours later. Yes, it was an involved process, but when you get down to it, really not a lot of work.
Sometimes it is good to take the long way around.
Have you ever started a project and gotten sidetracked by something completely different? Or…do you make your own chicken stock? Let us know!
Soup with Sausage, Chick Peas and Swiss Chard
½ lb link Italian sausage
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped, and leaves sliced.
2 carrots, diced to ¼ inch
1 onion, diced to ¼ inch
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup dry vermouth
6 cups chicken stock
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced ½ inch
1 14 oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Salt and Pepper
Slice the sausage into ¼ inch “coins”. (This works best if the sausage is partially frozen.) Brown the sausage in a large dutch oven or other pan with a heavy bottom. Add a drizzle of olive oil if they seem to be sticking. Once both sides of the sausage coins are brown, remove from the pan and set aside to be used later.
Add the chard stems, carrots and onions to the pot with a pinch of salt. Sweat the vegetables until almost tender. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Add the vermouth and cook until almost evaporated, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add the stock, potato, chickpeas, and rosemary. Cook until the potatoes are almost tender, 12-15 minutes. Add the reserved sausage and the chard leaves. Cook until the leaves are tender, about 5-10 minutes. Remove the rosemary stem and taste for seasonings. Adjust with salt and pepper if necessary and serve.