Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Freezing Your Own Chicken Stock

There is nothing better than having pints and quarts of chicken stock in the freezer for a quick pot of soup, a pan of gravy, or for making risotto. It's easy to do and doesn't take much extra effort.

I make it regularly now for farmers markets, but it has been a regular staple in my freezer for years. Whenever you have leftover chicken carcasses put them in a ziplock bag and throw them in the freezer. When you get 2 or 3 follow the simple recipe below.

Bones from 2-3 whole chickens
1 medium onion
4 carrots peeled and cut in half
4 celery stalks cut in half
2 smashed whole garlic cloves
3-4 springs of thyme
3-4 springs of parsley
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorn

Add everything to a stock pot and cover with enough cold water to completely cover chicken plus 2 additonal inches. Start on medium low heat until pot begins to steam but not boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 6-8 hours or overnight.

When stock is ready, let cool slightly and then double strain to remove bones, vegetables, and herbs.

I find that I have the best flavor if I properly season the chicken before roasting and add the chicken skins to the stock pot. If you like your stock a bit darker and more intense, try roasting your chicken on a bed of vegetables and add these to the stock pot as well.

If you decide to add the chicken skin to your stock you will see an increase in fat. As a rule, I do not skim the fat off my stock before freezing. First, I think it helps to preserve the flavors of the stock while in the freezer. And second, it is much easier to remove when I take the stock out of the freezer and before it thaws.

Next time you purchase whole broilers from Virginia Lamb... remember save those bones! In no time you will have your own great tasting chicken stock in the freezer!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Is It Done Yet?

For those who have limited experience cooking lamb, determining when it is done can be a challenge. An overcooked rack of lamb can be an expensive mistake and carving into an undercooked roast can be a bit frustrating. Yet the last thing you want to do is cut into a roast or chop to check for doneness. So what do you do? Using an instant read thermometer will give you quick and accurate temperature readings insuring the perfect main course for your meal.

As with other beef, lamb benefits from rest before serving, Resting (off of heat) allows the protein within the meat to relax and the juices to redistribute evenly. Give thin cuts like chops 5 minutes before serving and allow 20 minutes before carving roasts. Keep in mind that the meat's internal temperature typically rises 5-10 degrees as it rests. So for best results, remove the lamb from heat when the thermometer reads 5-10 degrees less than your desired temperature.

The USDA recommends cooking ground lamb to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160oF. Other cuts, including roasts and chops, should be cooked to 145oF for medium-rare, 160oF for medium, and 170oF for well-done. The chart below also lists approximate cooking times. Enjoy!

General information provided by The American Lamb Board.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Frozen Meat... How Long is Too Long?

Did you know... Properly handled meat stored in a freezer at 0°F (-18 °C) will always be safe as long as it hasn’t thawed. It's safe because the bacteria has entered a dormant stage. For best quality, store ground meat no more than 4 months; whole cuts, 12 months; and cooked meats, 3 months. Storage for a longer period of time is not dangerous, but flavor/texture can deteriorate. So be sure to date packages before you put them in the freezer!


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