Sunday, March 11, 2012
Bones. What’s left when the meat is gone. All that remains when the energy is seemingly spent. But bones are still capable of providing sustenance and a tasty round at that. Now imagine my delight on a recent grocery trip when I found a 7 pound hen priced at $5.50 USD! The bird’s freshness was set to expire a scant 2 days from my date of purchase, and would have frozen well for later use, but I had more immediate plans for it. The temperatures were frigid and I had no homemade chicken soup on hand - a must in this household. My point here is not the meat on that chicken...nor the soup I eventually made from it. It’s the bones and what I did with them that matters and how my food dollars stretched their legs like a thoroughbred.
I’m relatively sure that a few readers at this point may deem my frugality in cooking a bit overzealous and simple. If you’re a “foodie”, then will you give me a bit more credit if I tell you that Saveur Magazine’s March 2012 issue features an article on bones and what to do with them? Bones make stock. Stock is the backbone of countless recipes - not just soup. I keep quart-sized plastic containers on hand precisely for the purpose of freezing various kinds of broth for future use.
To begin, always roast bones before tossing them into a stockpot. Rub them with a bit of oil before putting them into a roasting pan and then into a hot oven (400 degrees F/roughly 204 degrees C) unless you’re using duck bones which are fatty enough on their own. If you’d like for your stock to have a roasted garlic flavor, remove as much paper as possible from a garlic head, trim the pointed end of each clove with a paring knife, and throw it into the roasting pan along with the bones. The longer you roast the bones, the darker your resulting stock will be. When bones look a bit charred and dark, remove all from the oven and deglaze your pan with some water, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove the clingy brown bits. Transfer all contents to a stockpot, squeezing the now molten garlic cloves into the mix (discard papery garlic remains) and cover everything with water. Bring the pot and its contents to medium-high heat slowly, skimming off any foam and reduce the heat to simmer for a few hours. If you want to salt your stock, now’s the time to do it or to add herbs if you want. If desired, one can add chopped vegetables. Simmer for another hour or so, then ladle stock into containers, avoiding sediment at the bottom of the pot. If you have cheese cloth on hand, lining a large colander with it and capturing the broth without the sediment makes the task easier. Fat in the stock will rise to the top of your containers once frozen, and is easy to remove with a paring knife should you prefer a low-fat version.
Here is a senryu by fellow Frugal Poet, Curtis Dunlap.
All Hallows’ Eve
a blues man dances
to the rhythm of bones
Curtis was inspired to write his short poem after watching Dom Flemons, a musician with The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Flemons often employs the use of bones in his music.