Monday, April 12, 2010

Soups on

Years ago I went to Mildura with the specific purpose of having dinner at Stefano's, something I had always wanted to do and I wasn't disappointed, it was a 5 course delight, wish I had taken some photo's!  The following day Stefano De Pieri had invited guests who were staying at the hotel to a master class as park of the package, so off I went.  The first thing he prepared was chicken stock.  Although I had made it countless times it was interesting getting another slant on it.  He started in the usual way, heat some oil, add chicken pieces followed by the root vegetables, but none of this peeling the brown onions, just quarter them and to quote Stefano "just bung 'em in" which makes perfect sense, as at the end of the cooking process it is put through a sieve anyway, and the the onion skins,  add to the colour of the stock.  All the vegies were thrown in, just chopped roughly and unpeeled.  I use brown onions, carrots, celery (leaves as well) half head of garlic, salt, black peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, sprig of rosemary.  After browning the chicken (I use thighs) I add the rest of the ingredients, along with enough water to cover well, bringing it to a slow boil and cooking for at least 4 hours on a very low flame, skimming the top from time to time.

It's not always possible to keep a ready supply of chicken stock on hand for general cooking and to be honest when I make it I usually devote it to soup, chopping the cooked vegetables, removing the meat from the bones and adding it all back to the stock, with the addition of some small ravioli or tortellini it makes a complete meal.  A foccacia or cheese toastie makes a great Saturday lunch.                       

Tips on making and storing stock:   Clean your chicken and pat dry before cooking, this along with cooking on a very low heat will reduce the amount of skimming required through the cooking process.  Use thighs as they are still moist enough after the cooking to be cut finely and returned to the stock.  Home made and commercially bought stock should be used within three days or frozen, using ice cube trays is a good idea as you can pop out as many as you need.

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