28 December 2010

Turkey stock

I first started getting interested in cooking as an undergrad in the mid-1990s. Everything I had learned about cooking stemmed from my Mennonite family (good cooks, all) who wasted *nothing*.  My mother and her family had survived the Great Depression in Canada (called the Dirty Thirties in that part of the world). So they know how to make the most of every scrap of food. Indeed, one of my favourite aunts would make a chicken noodle soup using the bones, necks and other cheap scraps of the chicken, and leave all of these parts in the soup. We knew frugality.

One of the first cooking resources that I used was Gourmet magazine. And when I found a recipe for a sauce that used chicken stock, I thought I would impress my girlfriend by making it all from scratch. I made the chicken stock, and was mortified at the last step where they suggest sieving out all the chicken bits. You just don't waste all that good stuff! So I added all of the chicken stock, bits and all into the sauce.  Needless to say, the bits overpowered the sauce. I may as well have left out all the sauce components. It was like eating chicken necks and an over-boiled carrot poured over a boneless-skinless chicken breast. The effect was almost the exact opposite of what I had hoped. My girlfriend was polite, but... unimpressed.

These days, I make stock pretty frequently, from all sorts of critters, usually from the carcass of something I've just cooked. However, for Christmas dinner, I need turkey stock to make the turkey gravy. And I need it in advance of smoking the turkey. So for a couple bucks, I can a bag of turkey necks with the my turkey and make some stock.

4 turkey necks
2 carrots
1 rib of celery
1 onion, sliced in half
3 whole cloves
handful o' parsley
small handful o' fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Pre-heat your oven at 400-425°F. Place the turkey necks in an oven-safe pot. Brown the necks in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.

Browned necks

Peel the onion. Slice it in half, and poke the cloves into the onion. Put everything into the pot. Cover with water.

Stock components

Heat over medium-low heat to a boil. Boil for 3-4 hours. Sieve out the chunks. Really, you don't want this stuff in your sauces and gravies.

Stock bits

Cool the stock, and skim off the fat.

turkey stock

It's hard to photograph stock and have it look lovely. Sorry about that colour.

This turkey stock is great for soups, sauces and gravies. And cooking stock is so much fun. It takes 5 minutes to set up, and then you can feel like you're being productive while doing nothing but boiling a pot for hours.

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