Thursday, January 21, 2010

Soups, Gravies, Stocks, Broths, Oh My!

Our dinner (Mom and Dad called it 'supper.'  "How old-fashioned," I thought in the first grade.) was meat, potatoes, gravy, a hot vegetable, and a fresh vegetable, 95% of the time.  The other 5% was chili, soup, stew, spaghetti or barbequed ribs (Mom's recipe from the green cookbook, I'll post that later.)   I remmeber standing at Mom's or Dad's elbow while they removed the meat from the frypan, added a little more Crisco to melt, stirred in the flour, let it brown, added lots of milk to make a pan gravy.  As a kid I didn't like pan gravy.  Sometime around puberty I found I loved pan gravy.  I have always loved a good roast gravy.  Mom made hers with cornstarch and so do I.
I guess here is a spot to explain how I grew up with plain cooking.  Dad doesn't like spices or herbs in his food.  (He got kicked out of a nursing home when he broke his hip, last Christmas, because he caused a mutiny over the food.  No lie.  They put basil in the tomato soup!)  He loves meat, potato, gravy, a veg, bread, and butter.  When we had spaghetti, we cooked him a hamburger patty and a boiled potato.  Mom served her barbeque short ribs with rice.  We cooked Dad a boiled potato.  The only casseroles we had were scalloped potatoes and mac & cheese.  At the same meal.  He has loosened up since he married Dorthy.  He still will not eat lamb, mutton, goose, or rabbit.  I'll tell you some of his goose and rabbit stories later.

So, I didn't take any home ec until my senior year in high school.  Way back when the continents were just moving apart, we had to wear dresses to school and take a full load of classes.  I only needed Senior English and Modern Problems (social studies) to graduate.  But unless you had a job, you were expected to be in school all day.  Anyway, I ddin't learn much about cooking that Mom, Grandma Vesta, Aunt Vi, Aunt Ola, Uncle David, Grandma Cora and Dad hadn't already taught me.  The rest I picked up on the mean streets of teevee.  And now I will share some of that with you.

Let's start with the basics:
Stocks and broths - I will use the term stock, since I really could not find a difference in how to make either.  I like to save up my chicken carcasses in ziptop storage bags in the freezer.  We eat a lot of whole, roasted chicken from home and the store.  Scott also likes the fried chicken from the store.  Neither of us like the thigh, so there are always thighs stored up.
On Stock Making Day, I take one gallon freezer bag full of chicken parts (including the gizzard, neck, heart, and liver) put it into my stock pot and add water to cover.  I do the same with beef, only I usually buy soup bones and add bits of left-over roast.  I will bring to a boil, then simmer for at least two hours up to 5 hours.  When the stock is done, I remove the bones, meat, etc to the garbage.  Then I use a small strainer to clean-up the stock.  I ladle the finished stock into freezer safe quart containers, label, date, and store in the freezer.  (We used to have a huge chest freezer.  We could put a 1/4 beef in it and still have room for four bodies.  We got rid of that and now have a smaller, upright.  Works best for just the two of us.)
Sometimes I add outer celery ribs, onion skins, a broken carrot to the water.  It just depends on how I am feeling.  I NEVER add salt or pepper to the stock.

I use the stock as a base to make a myriad of chicken soups.

Chicken Noodle Soup
2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup chicken meat, cut into bite size pieces  great use for skinless, boneless, breasts  I bake them for 30 min at 400F.  Cool and chop
2 ribs celery, diced small
1/2 onion, diced small
2 carrots, cut into bite size pieces
1 TBSP vegetable oil  canola, corn, olive your choice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 TBSP finely chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp dried
1 TBSP fresh thyme leaves  or 1 tsp dried
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 tsp dried
1 recipe noodles to follow

Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat. 
Add oil and heat until it shimmers 
Add celery, carrot, and onion and sweat them for three minutes.
Add chicken stock, carefully
Add chicken meat
Add herbs and spices
Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld

Grandma Jo's Noodle Recipe
1 heaping teacup unbleached flour
1 egg
1 egg shell milk

Mix together in a bowl  Add more milk if the dough is too dry.
Roll out thinly on a floured surface.
Either cut into strips or bite size pieces with a pizza cutter

Bring the soup back to boiling
Add the noodles, cook for five minutes.
Serves 6

Pan Gravy
1 TBSP Drippings from frying any meat, add vegetable oil if there is not enough fat to make 1 TBSP
1 TBSP unbleached flour
1/2 cup potato water   from cooking your potatoes
1/2 cup milk   OR  just use 1 cup milk

Heat the fat and drippings to hot, taking care not to burn
Sprinkle in the flour
Stir it around to mix then watch to make sure it doesn't burn
When the roux (that is what four cooked in fat is called 'ru')  starts to turn brown, stir until it the color you want
Carefully add the potato water and milk
Whisk until the liquid boils and thickens
Serves 2

I grew up eating gravy that was slightly thicker than whole milk.  Scott grew up eating gravy that was thicker than the mashed potatoes.  I make my gravy somewhere inbetween.  Compromise.

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