Sunday, August 21, 2011

How to use every part of the chicken but the feathers, part 2

Yesterday was all about chicken fat. Today we're going to use up all of those bones. And again, if you're not in the habit of using just about every scrap of an animal, please check this out, because you are missing out on something really delicious!

When I break down a chicken for, say, a stir-fry plus a braise, I cut both breasts off of the bird and then remove the wings, thighs, and legs. I then have the white meat (breasts) for stir-fries and poaching, and the moister dark meat (wings, thighs, and legs) for braises, deep frying, smoking, and so forth.

But, I'm left with the back, neck, feet (if I'm lucky enough to find such a bird), and the breast bones. This makes me really, really happy, because all of those bones are pretty much all I need for perfect stock.

There are two ways of going about this. Well, actually three.

The first way is to make the soup as directed below, simply blanching the bones before proceeding with the soup; this gives you a pale broth that takes just like poached chicken. If you want a golden, heartier stock, you should roast the chicken bones at 350 degrees F (a toaster oven comes in handy for this), tossing them every few minutes, until they are browned and smell heavenly; at this point just proceed to Step 2 in the recipe below.

And finally, the third way is to save up your bones in the freezer for a big pot of soup. As the weather cools down, this will be your favorite secret weapon for staying warm and well-fed!

In addition to making soups with this spectacular ingredient, start to view stock as an important seasoning. Stir-fries and braises get a great dose of extra flavor if stock is used wherever water is usually indicated. So, when you stir-fry a vegetable, add a dash of stock toward the very end and taste the extra meaty layer to the flavors.

Stock can be frozen in ice cube trays and then stored in Ziploc freezers for easy access. Be sure to remove a couple of cubes as you start prepping, and you can then microwave them or heat them slowly in a saucepan until they melt.

Below I've included a couple of recipes for really easy home-style soups that will make your life easy and your dinners look warm and inviting. If you've never tasted cooked cucumbers before, try the second soup, and you'll look at this little squash differently from then on. This is a great way, too, to use up any older cucumbers at the end of the season that are too huge or seedy to eat raw. Just peel these mammoths, remove the seeds, and enjoy them as the Chinese do!


Simple chicken stock 

Ji gaotang  雞高湯 
All over China
About 2 cups stock

Chicken parts like backs, necks, feet, wing tips from 1 organic, free range fryer
A few slices of fresh ginger
A couple of green onions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
Shaoxing rice wine, optional
2 cups boiling filtered water
Sea salt or light soy sauce to taste
1. Rinse off the chicken parts and put them in a saucepan. Cover the chicken parts with water and bring the pot to a boil. As soon as the water boils, pour out the water and rinse the scum off of the chicken parts. Clean out the pan and return the chicken parts to the saucepan.


2. Add the ginger and onions to the pan, pour in a glug of the rice wine, if you wish, as well as the water. Bring the stock to a boil and simmer it uncovered for about an hour. Add a bit of salt or soy sauce to taste. Bring the stock to a boil again and then strain out the solids.


3. The stock can be used immediately or cooled and stored for a day or two in the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze it as suggested above.


Chicken soup with bean curd, cherry tomatoes, and greens
Qingcai doufu fanqie tang  青菜豆腐蕃茄湯  
All over China
Serves 6 to 8 as part of a multicourse meal, or 2 to 3 as a main dish

2 cups Chicken Stock
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (if not used in the stock already)
1 block firm bean curd
A big handful of cherry tomatoes, washed
A big handful of fresh greens, washed carefully and torn into bite-sized pieces
Salt to taste
Roasted sesame oil
1. Heat the Chicken Stock with the rice wine in a 1-quart saucepan until it boils.

2. While the stock is heating up, cut the bean curd into 12 or more squares. Let it drain in a colander.

3. Add the bean curd to the stock and bring it to a boil again. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the bean curd uncovered to heat it all the way through, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer the soup another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the tomato skins start to shrivel. Toss in the greens, bring the soup to a boil again, and adjust the seasoning. Sprinkle the soup with a little sesame seed oil and serve hot.


Stock with ginger and (yes!) cucumbers
Chicken and cucumber soup 
Jisi huanggua tang  雞絲黃瓜湯  
All over China
Serves 6 to 8 as part of a multicourse meal, or 2 to 3 as a main dish

2 cups Chicken Stock (the roasted version is terrific here)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (if not used in the stock already)
1 tablespoon finely shredded, peeled fresh ginger
3 slender young cucumbers or 1 large older cucumbers
½ cup leftover chicken, shredded
Sea salt or light soy sauce to taste
Green Onion Finishing Oil
1. Heat the Chicken Stock with the rice wine and ginger in a 1-quart saucepan until it boils.

2. While the stock is heating up, prepare the cucumbers. Tender cukes should have both the stem and blossom ends trimmed off, and then roll cut into 1-inch pieces. (See the picture above for roll-cut cucumbers, and Chef Ming Tsai also shows you how in this video.) Older cucumbers have to be peeled and seeded; then, cut the flesh into ¾ inch cubes.


3. Add the cucumbers to the stock and bring it to a boil again. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the cukes uncovered until barely tender. Add the shredded chicken and bring the stock to a boil for just a few seconds. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Sprinkle the soup with a little finishing oil and serve hot.

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