Throwing myself out into the early-morning cold last Friday, I set about with a long to-do list. I wasn't going to let what I thought was a little squalling storm stop my pursuit of getting all the line items on that list finished.
As the morning wore on, it became apparent that the deck was stacked against me. Finally, as the hours slipped into early afternoon, I had to just laugh out loud, and retreat. At every turn it seemed that I had been thwarted. I never found myself getting angry, but rather just bemused at the ongoing folly of it all. Picking up some groceries for our dinner meal, I also grabbed a hunk of fresh celery and a packet of chicken wings.
I figured that making a huge pot of chicken stock would set the day right.
I continue to be amazed at how many people find the process of stock making too time consuming or, worse, boring. Upon further investigation I often discover that they have been seriously misled by overly complex recipes or instructions. Or they feel they do not have enough leftovers and other things for the pot. They say that anything can go into the stockpot, but I much prefer the quiet clarity that comes from using only fresh ingredients.
So, wash the wings thoroughly before putting them in a large pan filled with cold water. Bring it to a boil, very slowly. This slow approach allows the fuzzy white stuff to form on top of the water. For a more technical description, may I suggest you do your own research or ask a knowledgeable friend. You want to skim all this fuzz off just before the boiling point. Then add the coarsely chopped onions and celery, some peppercorns and a bay leaf. Let this concoction simmer for 3-4 hours, then strain the golden liquid into containers and refrigerate overnight. If you are going to freeze some of the containers for use later, be sure to remove any fat from the surface before freezing - and do label and put a date on the containers.
I always think it is just pure alchemy: that a pan with cold water, some chicken parts, celery, onions, peppercorns and a bay leaf can become this hearty, tasty broth with scarcely any intervention on my part. At the beginning the skimming detail does take a bit of focused time, perhaps 10 minutes, and at the end finding the right-sized containers with lids can be a disheartening search through a too-cluttered cabinet, but otherwise I have this golden treasure now at my fingertips.
That evening, admittedly without skimming off the fat, I prepared fresh risotto to accompany some gently seared scallops. I realized, with each succulent forkful, that the lashing-wind-and-rain noise dissipated along with that earlier sense of being thwarted at every turn. And a fresh carrot soup with nutmeg seemed a great menu item for après-ski this weekend.