I bet you think this is going to be a story about chicken stock. Don’t be silly. Just because you see pretty images of carrots and fennel and onions and celery and actual chicken stock doesn’t mean I’m going to write about chicken stock. Instead, I’m going to tell you that it’s stock season and I’m a bit of a grump about it because everything that could go crazy in January, actually did.
It all started in my kitchen. My oven decided to pick the coldest month of my lifetime to just stop working. I did a lot of stove-top cooking but there was simply no way to make those gooey casseroles and caramelized roasts and cheesy bakes that everyone else made. I survived, of course. Thank goodness for smoothies and my trusty sauté pans and chicken stock (but don’t jump to the end just yet).
And guess what else happened?
My car decided to spend weeks in the shop. WEEKS. And it’s still there, probably in a million pieces in a corner waiting for someone to finally hammer it back together. The windshield had a crack but, naturally, they won’t fix a windshield unless you fix every ounce of rust on the body, rust that’s been there forever because, you know, New England gets snow.
Believe me, I keep whispering to myself that maybe I should own a car in Miami and not New England, but then, I’d be far away from all my friends and family who just love chicken stock.
I wish it all stopped right there. But then, my mother’s car is taking a nosedive and she loves my car (that’s still in the shop) and yadda yadda yadda. That means, I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to get a new car for me.
Leasing or buying a car has to be the most painful and annoying process in this entire universe. My husband just laughs at me when I say “If I owned a car dealership, I would…” because, let me just put this out there right now, I am never going to own a car dealership.
The thing is, a food gift business is a lot more fun and people actually like food. People don’t like car dealerships. Yeah, me neither. I walked out of about four of them last week. I sympathize with the car salesperson — it’s a tough job — but I also sympathize with me who needs a car for a normal price and not two million dollars.
Between the oven and the car crises, all I wanted was a piece of frosted chocolate cake and a glass of red wine to wash it all away. Instead, I spent most of last month on a food reboot, a plant-powered food reboot that excluded dairy, animal products, alcohol, caffeine, sugar and white flour. So basically, everything I love.
And while this reboot has been crazy, new-to-me and, at times, difficult, it’s been wonderful too. Instead of reaching for frosted chocolate cake, I call a friend or read a cookbook. Instead of guzzling that glass of red wine, I quietly sip lemon water and design new food gifts. Instead of finding comfort or relief by stuffing my face with my (old) favorite foods, I find a bit of peace in the action of doing or making.
You know, making something like chicken stock and then gifting it all away.
I keep a pot of chicken stock boiling away most weekends; it’s a habit I find difficult to break and one that meditatively got me through January. I chop, chop, chop super fresh vegetables to gift alongside a cooled jar of stock, and then walk a box filled with both down to a neighbor. Sure, there are more elaborate and obvious food gifts to give but a jug of broth never disappoints. Never. And in the moment of gifting, the grump in me disappears.
It’s February now and I’m adding foods like chicken stock and fish and maybe even an occasional glass of bubbly back into my eating repertoire. And my oven is finally fixed. And I pick up my new car this week. And there’s more snow coming which may rust my new car. Ugh, let’s just make some chicken stock.
I include gift wrap directions at the end, just in case you want to make someone’s day. Oh, and this is the sort of natural food gift you’ll see in my new cookbook, Food Gift Love, which you can pre-order.
Homemade Chicken Stock
Makes: 2 quarts
Prep Time: 3.5 Hours
Ingredients:Making the Chicken Stock
- 1 (4-pound) roasted chicken carcass
- 3 medium carrots
- 2 medium celery stalks
- 1 medium onion
- 1 handful (2 ounces) mixed herbs, stems and leaves
- 6 to 10 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 (2-inch) knob of ginger, sliced in half
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 quarts water
- Fresh vegetables like carrots, celery, onions and fennel
- Fresh herb sprigs like thyme, sage and oregano
- 2 large jars with airtight lids
- Box or tray
Directions:Making the Chicken Stock
- Pull any extra meat off of the chicken carcass, and reserve the meat for another use. Place the carcass in a very large soup pot.
- Chop the carrots and celery into 2-inch pieces. Cut the onion, unpeeled, into 8 large wedges. Add the carrots, celery, onions, herbs, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper to the soup pot. Add the water.
- Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer 3 hours. Strain the stock into a new pot or bowl, and discard the solids. Let cool to room temperature. If you’d like, skim off any fat that collects at the top of the stock. Store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 1 week or freeze up to 3 months.
- Chop the vegetables into thin slices. Take care to cut the denser vegetables (like carrots, fennel) into smaller sizes than the less dense/quicker-to-cook vegetables (like onions, celery, bean sprouts) -- this ensures all the vegetables cook up in the same amount of time.
- Layer the vegetables in a glass jar, similar to the one shown. Add a few sprigs of fresh herbs to the top of the vegetable tower, and seal.
- Ladle the stock into a second glass jar. Wipe the jar and rim, and seal.
- Write a label and directions on a tag. With string, tie it around the neck of the stock jar.
- Lay a towel in a box or tray and nestle the jars into the towel. Transport and gift, as is.
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