Saturday, May 26, 2012

Chicken Stock

Can I tell you a secret? You have to promise you won't tell anyone...

Alright, if you promise you won't tell, I'll tell you my secret.  Are you ready for it? Well, here it is.

I only pretend that I make homemade stock for culinary reasons. Any talk of "oh, there's just no comparison" or "it really is worth the extra effort" is just that - talk. Sure, it may all be true, but it's not the reason I make stocks. In fact, I regularly buy boxes of the stuff and use it frequently (the six-pack from Costco and I are besties).

Nope. I make homemade stock because I'm kind of cheap and hate wasting things. And homemade stock is a great way to clean out the veggie crisper. It's just a bonus that it's super easy and makes my house smell good. In fact, it's so easy that it just may change your life.

Here's what I do:

If you want to make a meat stock, save the bones (a chicken carcass works really great). Put that at the bottom of a crock pot (mine is a 4-quart, and I think a slightly larger one would work better, but I make do). If you want to do a veggie stock, skip this step.

Next, add some veggies. I think onions, carrots, and celery are the essentials, but I've not used carrots or celery when I was out. Baby carrots, shredded carrot, carrot coins - whatever you've got. If you're using whole carrots, you don't even need to peel them. Cut those and the celery into big chunks. If you have a whole onion, chop it into big chunks and leave the skin on. The skin will help the stock get a nice dark color. If you have something else onion-y that you want to get rid of, throw that in too - shallots, scallions, leeks... they're all good. I'm pretty sure I added a green pepper once when I discovered I had one that was at the "I need to use this by tomorrow or throw it out" stage.

Add some garlic. I prefer to use whole cloves, in their skins (again, the skins help get that nice stock-y color), but if you only have a jar of minced or those little frozen garlic cubes from Trader Joe's, throw a few cloves worth in.

Next add some fresh herbs - a few full sprigs. I prefer to use Parsley and Thyme, but I'm really not picky. I've used Rosemary instead. Once, I even threw in some arugula. Use whatever you've got. I wouldn't recommend using dried herbs, though - only fresh, whole sprigs.

Throw in a palm full of whole peppercorns.

Cover everything with water, put the lid on the crockpot, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Pour everything through a fine mesh strainer and let cool before packaging up into individual containers. It will stay in the fridge for a few days or frozen for a long time.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jalapeno Poblano Chili

I love CookingLight. The day the new issue arrives in my mailbox is sort of like a mini-Christmas. If it sits on my coffee table for too long without me looking at it, I start to get antsy. When I saw this recipe for Jalapeno-Poblano Chili, I knew we had to test it out as a more every-day substitute for the famous chili recipe that feeds an army and takes at least 2 days to prepare.

I took a few liberties with the recipe - most notably, I used actual beef, cut into cubes instead of ground beef (personal preference). I also used a regular light-colored beer instead of Corona (because I realized at last minute we didn't have any). 

The results were great. It is officially our new favorite "substitute" chili recipe. 

Poblano-Jalapeno Chili
CookingLight March 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Grilled Calzones

My husband went to college in Iowa City (go Hawks...?).  It's a lovely little city with a lot of really wonderful food places. My personal favorite is a place called Sam's. Their calzones are A-mazing. Truly. I find myself craving them at random. In fact, if someone would bring one to my house right now, they would be my favorite person ever. Unfortunately, Iowa City is over 4 hrs away by car and we only get down there once every year or two. So when we go, we have to make it count. And the rest of the time, we try to replicate their calzones.

This was our latest attempt (using our brand new pizza stone!). While they were delicious, they still didn't capture the magic of Sam's. My husband is convinced it's all about the sauce and we just haven't found the right sauce recipe yet. I'm willing to entertain this argument...

Grilled Calzones
Makes 2

Here's what I did...

Get some fresh pizza dough and divide it in half. Roll each half out pretty thin. Put one half on a lightly-oiled pizza stone. Put down on half of the crust a layer of shredded cheese, a layer of pepperoni, a small layer of cheese, some browned Italian sausage crumbles, another small layer of cheese, more pepperoni, and then more cheese. Fold in half and then crimp up the edges.

Bring the other half over to the pizza stone and repeat.

Brush some oil on the top of both.

Put on a warm grill and cook until the dough is clearly cooked. You may want to flip it a couple times during cooking to ensure that both the top and bottom are cooked and the cheese inside is evenly melted.

Cut the calzones into strips and serve with marinara.