Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thanksgiving: the stock

Few things are as important to a good Thanksgiving dinner than a pot of hot, rich stock simmering on the back burner.

You need stock to make your stuffing (see my last post), to baste your turkey, to make lots and lots of gravy to drown your mashed potatoes, turkey, and stuffing in, and as the base for your post-Turkey Day turkey soup. 

Stock can be made well ahead of time and frozen until you need it.  It takes a few minutes of preparation, and several hours of hands-off simmering.

Start with meat.  For my Thanksgiving supper, I will usually buy turkey parts --  a few pounds of wings, necks, giblets -- roast them until browned, then dump them into the stockpot.  You can make chicken stock if you must for your turkey, but there's no lack of turkey parts in the markets these days.  Bony pieces are the best; you wouldn't simmer turkey or chicken breast meat to make stock. 

Roasted meat, with veggies, ready for the boil. 

Cover the parts generously with cold water.  I will typically make about four quarts of stock at at time.  To the stockpot add an onion or two sliced in half (no need to peel it); a carrot or two; a stalk of celery or two; four to six garlic cloves, smashed; a handful of parsley, stems and all; a dozen or so peppercorns; a bay leaf; and a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or a teaspoon of dried if that's all you have. 

I use a pasta pot for stock -- a large, covered, 12-qt pot with a perforated insert. 

Bring the whole lot to a vigorous boil, then lower to barely a simmer.  Cover partly, and let the stock simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  Turn it off, cover completely, and let it cool down a bit.

 The finished stock.

When it's cool enough to handle, lift out the perforated insert, you're left with about 12 cups of the most awesome stock.  (By the way, I do all this manipulation in my sink.  It's easier to handle large pots of hot liquid at the lower level, and any drips, spills, or splatters won't matter.)

Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate or freeze.  

 Removing the meat and veggies from the pot. 
Keep the bits of meat, dump the rest. 

Do not salt the stock.  It will be very bland now, but you want to have completely unsalted stock so that you can control the salt in whatever recipe you eventually use it in -- stuffing, gravy, soup. 

Depending on what meat you used, you can pick off bits of meat from the boiled bones, and save them for soup later.  You'll see here that these photos were taken when I made a pot of beef stock -- not turkey -- but the process is identical.  That boiled shinbone meat will be excellent in a pot of beef mushroom barley soup.  If you used turkey giblets to make your Thanksgiving stock, save those, and chop them finely to add to your gravy. 

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