Some wise advice for making chicken stock.
Yesterday was the day for a trip to the supermarket–as usual dictated not by coupons but by me being low enough on milk that I was not going to be able to make enough caffè latte to get me awake and doing what I needed to do today. As usual, I didn’t go with preconceived notions of what I might bring home to cook.
I got my milk and eggs–just not possible to be out of eggs, but I was–and did my usual troll past the butcher counter. I found a manager’s special that was simply too good to pass up: lamb stew meat at a great price. Since my agenda today was mostly minor chores I thought I’d have time to cook, so I came home with lamb stew meat and actually remembered to soak (in brine) the garbanzo beans last night. You’re probably thinking so what?
Well, it’s fall and that makes me want to cook hearty stuff and lamb stew just seemed to be a really good idea: economical, tasty, some to go in the freezer for quick meals, and some to eat now. Unfortunately, the weather is not really cooperating–my thermometer is showing 82ºF right now–but at least it’s cooler in the evenings now so stew is not completely amiss. Still, so what? Right?
Well, as I started my morning caffeination by browsing Facebook I was informed that I had memories from two years ago. Now I’m still not convinced the FB really cares about my memories, but the top item on the list was my post about making–yep!–lamb and garbanzo bean stew in the oven. Well, same today: it’s unseasonably warm again, but not too humid, and it’s sunny and breezy today so it’s oven rather than slow-cooker version this time. Since I did forget to soak the Romertopf ahead of time, I just pulled out the Dutch oven instead.
I did look for recipes last night but didn’t really find anything inspiring, so today’s lamb stew was a “kitchen happening”–let’s just see what turns out. That two-year-ago lamb stew was an oven version of a slow cooker recipe. This year, given the weather I decided that I’d (again) do oven braising. (The slow-cooker version was good, but no way as good as the one done in the oven.) I haven’t looked back to see what went with that version–all I really remember is that I used canned beans that time.
Oven-braised lamb and garbanzo stew (2016)
(I’m not giving much in the way of measurements here since this was a “kitchen happening”)
- Lamb stew meat (about 3 pounds with some bones included)
- Garbanzo beans (brined over-night)
- Lots of onions (cheated and used frozen chopped ones)
- Bay leaves–2 large
- Salt about 1-1/2 teaspoons, give or take–will taste later
- French thyme (dried)
- Marjoram (dried)
- Garlic powder (Oops–not a single head of garlic in the house!)
- One 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes–drat, out of fire-roasted ones.
- Smoked Spanish paprika
- Olive oil as needed for browning lamb
- Brown stew meat (bones included; they will make good stock as the beans and lamb cook ).The bones are big enough to get out easily when the stew is done. Add to Dutch oven.
- Saute onions until just golden, and add to Dutch oven with meat, beans, and tomatoes
- Deglaze skillet with water and add to braising pot
- Add salt, herbs, and spices.
- Bring to a simmer on the stove-top
- Place in a 185ºF oven and cook until beans and meat are tender–about 3 hours.
Here I was, again, making this lovely stew in unseasonably warm weather but still cool enough to use the oven rather than the slow-cooker. Cooking my own garbanzo beans was well worth the thought and bit of effort that it took to soak them. Brining them seems to make them cook much more quickly. Leaving the bones in with the meat really gave a lot of lamb flavor–worth the effort of taking them out after the meat was done.
I love this combination of lamb and garbanzo beans–it seems that I’ve used different seasonings almost every time this “happens” in my kitchen, but it’s good every time! No recipe needed just season as you like…a son gôut!
Occasionally my curiosity gets the better of me while I’m meandering through the supermarket and I bring home something that I usually would not buy. This time is was a box of Swanson’s Chinese Hot & Sour Flavor Infused Broth. Usually the “flavor infused” would be a signal to walk on by. Since I do use Swanson’s chicken and beef broths and stocks, I stopped and looked at the ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t feel as if I were in the chemistry lab stockroom, so I bought it.
I do really like hot and sour soup–it’s my usual test of a Chinese restaurant–usually disappointing since my standard was set in Hong Kong! I don’t see another trip to Hong Kong in the future, so I thought I’d try it. My expectations were not really high as I opened the box and tasted it, but it was better than I’d thought–the hot and the sour were pretty well-balanced. It’s main problem was that it tasted boxed–in other words, it needed some brightening up–like most boxed or canned stocks or broths.
Armed with my box of broth, I decided that although I wanted hot and sour flavor, I didn’t want to buy esoteric ingredients that I might not use again for a while just to try it out. I thought maybe I could do something that was in the “spirit” of hot and sour soup with what I found in the fridge and pantry without a trip to the Asian market. So no tree ears or lily buds, and not even bamboo shoots.
I found a basket of sliced mushrooms in the fridge, shelled edamame and collard greens in the freezer, water chestnuts in the pantry, and some rotisserie chicken and some pork in the fridge that needed given a re-do. My only addition was a very large handful of julienned carrots (from the salad bar of my local Harris Teeter).
Since this was one of those OMG-I-don’t-have-time-to-cook occasions, I got out the rice cooker (cum slow-cooker) and added the hot and sour “flavor-infused” broth. I sautéed the mushrooms in just a bit of peanut oil until browned and gave the carrots a brief swish through the pan with the mushrooms, deglazed the skillet with a bit of the broth, and poured that into the slow-cooker. I added the edamame, collard greens, and the water chestnuts and set it for two hours.
When the collard greens and edamame were done (about 2 hours) I added the chicken and pork to heat through. At the same time I added a piece of fresh ginger root and a small clove of garlic to “freshen” the flavors up a bit.
Obviously not a traditional hot and sour soup, but it was a good test of the “flavor infused” broth, and pretty tasty with the chicken and pork to add some richness, and the textural variety of the mushrooms, greens and water chestnuts. A garnish of green onions when served finished it off nicely. (I didn’t add the eggs, either.)
Verdict on the broth–not bad–actually much better than I expected– but if I’m going to make traditional real Chinese hot and sour soup (with tree ears and lily buds) I will start with my own stock–besides, I really like my hot and sour soup with pork. But if it’s just hot and sour I want, I might use another box of “flavor infused” broth!
A son goût!
Remember those turkey thighs that I roasted a couple days ago? They have really been a bargain. I spent about $5 on the package of thighs–two small-to-medium ones.
I had my roast turkey with sides of potatoes and cabbage (with juniper berries). Then I had two full-size sandwiches, and a half sandwich for lunches. Now I’m finishing the turkey thighs with a very hearty bowl of soup (and a glass of good wine).
I popped those thigh bones (with what meat wasn’t easy to carve for sandwiches) in to my tiny little single-serving crock-pot to make some stock–I just added a little salt, a bay leaf, the brown stuff that I deglazed from the roasting pan, and enough water to cover the bones. After slow cooking overnight, I removed the thigh bones. The meat just fell off into the pot.
In the same little crock-pot (don’t want extra dishes to wash), I added a small handful of barley, some dried mushrooms of various sorts–including shiitake, chanterelle, and porcini. The other things that went into this soup were the leftover cabbage (with juniper berries) and a few potatoes that were roasted with the turkey. (You may be thinking that this is pretty heavy on starch, but to finish the soup, I added some green stuff.)
About half an hour before I was ready to eat, I went out to the garden (which I share through the good graces of a neighbor) and picked a good size handful of small kale, turnip, and mustard greens.
After washing, I cut these in bite size pieces (though that was almost unnecessary as they were really not as big as my hand). They went into the crock-pot; in about 20 minutes they were still bright green but tender.
I did a final adjustment of salt using French Grey sea salt, and finally added several drops of black truffle oil to finish the soup.
I’ve had my bowl of soup for supper this evening–and it looks as if I’ll get one more meal out of those turkey thighs–with the barley, and the amount of meat that was left on the bones, there is easily another serving of this soup for lunch or supper tomorrow. (I’m sure that by the time I reheat it, those greens won’t be quite so bright green, but the flavors may have melded with the other ingredients so it should be good–maybe even better than this evening.
I opened a bottle of wine this evening that was a completely unknown to me. It was a limited release called “Dark” from Apothic. I was completely beguiled by the description that said that it “blends dark fruit flavors of blueberry and blackberry with opulent notes of coffee and dark chocolate”. How could I possibly pass that up? (I found it while shopping at Harris Teeter–just after I had bought a case of something called “Besieged”–more about that one later.)
I was surprised how dark it was when I poured it into the glass! (I even tried to take a picture–but it just looks almost black–so forget that.) It is definitely a “big” wine and right out of the bottle it was fruity and mellow–but after breathing for a bit it lives up to its description.
I thought it might overwhelm my bowl of turkey soup, but with the juniper berries, the rather emphatic mushrooms, the flavors of the greens, and the truffle oil, it turned out to be a great combination. Fortunately there is some of the wine left for tomorrow’s soup! This is one time when I’m looking forward to the “leftovers”.
It’s been chilly, cloudy, and grey–just the kind of weather for soups, stews, and braises. It’s also time to get the freezer stocked with some quick, easy food as I’ve got indexing projects coming in–some while I’m still teaching this Fall term. With lots of grading to do as well, I wanted something that would take care of itself while I worked–so out comes the all-purpose “rice” cooker for some slow-cooked food.
I’m a great fan of pork almost any way you fix it so when I found a package of boneless pork ribs–just the ticket for the slow-cooker–while I was doing my grocery shopping on Thursday it obviously went into the cart. Big package, but on special, so it came home with me to make a lazy meal, and some to go into the freezer for quick meals when I’m really busy, or when I need comforting, peasant-style food. Can’t pass up inexpensive on something I really like.
Braised pork and kale from the slow-cooker
- boneless pork spare ribs, about 2 pounds
- 1 packaged of frozen, chopped onions
- chopped kale, one frozen “family” pack
- 6 large garlic cloves
- 1 14.5-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons of Hatch chili powder
- 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, adjust to taste as needed when cooking is finished
Preparation and cooking
- cut pork into about 2-inch pieces
- add half package of kale and onions, mixing
- layer in pork, sprinkle with salt, chili powder
- add remaining kale and onions
- add fire-roasted tomatoes with juice
- close the lid and set for 8 hours
- shred pork using two forks (if desired)
- check seasoning and adjust as necessary.
No, no pictures as this is NOT a photogenic dish, but it sure is tasty! And there’s certainly nothing like complicated technique involved here.
Great served with a side of spicy black beans, or garbanzo beans, or just a big bowl on its own. This particular time I had a roasted winter squash as a side with it. (Now, to turn the rest of the winter squash into another meal–maybe stuffed with some Sicilian sausage that also went into the grocery cart.)
There was more liquid than I had anticipated when this was finished cooking, so after packing some in zipper-lock bags to go into the freezer (with SOME juice), the extra juice with some kale and some shredded pork is going to turn into soup–details will evolve when it’s used–but that’s an additional meal out of that pack of spare ribs!
Not an instance of absolutely great planning, but here I am as the thermometer hits the 90s making pork stock. Well…I never said that I was the greatest planner in the world–strawberry ice cream and stock-making in the kitchen all at one time. My favorite meat supplier (Meadow Lane Farm, Louisburg NC) had great meaty pork neck-bones at the market this past Saturday so I had to bring some home–so despite the heat it’s stock-making time.
These are very meaty bones, so I’ll have some meat to use after the stock is finished. Since there is so much meat on these bones, and I want to use it, I’m not doing the quick stock–but rather the stove-top method (now you’re sure I’m not great at planning, right?). But when you have the opportunity to get pork neck-bones, you take it. Meadow Lane farms is doing more pork (as well as beef) so next time I can plan to do this is cold weather. (I’m glad I’ll have more access to pork…love that “other white meat”.)
Basic Stove-top Pork (or Meat) Stock
- about 4 pounds meaty pork neck bones
- 2 medium onions, chunked up
- 2 medium carrots, chunked
- 3 bay leaves (dried ones)
- about 2-3 teaspoons salt
- Rinse the bones well. If you feel that there is any old, or “off” odor, or they’re very bloody, blanch quickly in one change of water.
- Add aromatics–onions, carrots, and bay leaves
- Add water to cover.
- Bring to a boil quickly, and then reduce to keep a bare simmer, and leave for about 2 or 3 hours. Test after about 2 hours–when the meat is fork-tender and “fallin’ off the bone” (a country expression that means really tender), remove from heat.
- Strain to remove bones/meat and aromatics.
- Cool stock quickly in an ice bath, stirring frequently to help cool evenly; then freeze or refrigerate. (Do not put the hot stock in the freezer or refrigerator as it will (1) warm up the refrigerator and affect everything in it, and (2) it does not cool evenly and quickly so that you could have bacterial growth.)
- When the bones are cool enough to handle, remove the meat and save for another use.
There was a bit of cursing in the kitchen as I removed the meat from the bones because I tried to do it before they had cooled quite enough, but for my efforts (sweaty through they were) I have bit over a gallon of pork stock that is cooling in the refrigerator to be de-fatted.
I have about a pound of very tender, succulent pork to use for another purpose, maybe a chili verde since the garden is rife with green chili peppers. The meat recovered after making stock is not as flavorful as it would be had I cooked it primarily to use just the meat, but it’s certainly great for a dish that is supplemented with herbs and spices like that. I could also use it in hot and sour soup, or posole.
My active cooking time was about 45 minutes from setting the stockpot on the stove to washing the stock pot. That includes the time to remove the meat from the neck bones! Although not the ideal time of the year to make stock–it’s well worth the effort. (Have to have some priorities–right?) In the winter, I’d have put the pot in the oven for the cooking time, but I thought that, perhaps, the stove-top (very low simmer) would be a bit cooler way to do this. (No, I’m NOT planning to check that out any time soon!)
Despite occasionally using the microwave to make stock or broth quickly or in hot weather, I’m a fan of the long, slow, stove-top or oven method so that I can luxuriate in the wonderful smells when it’s cold and/or rainy outside. It’s such a comforting activity and, though it takes time, it does not require a lot of close attention. However, there are times when I need stock or broth and I need it quickly. I gave the basic recipe for chicken broth in an earlier post (See The Microwave in my Kitchen), but I want to show you it can be used for other stock, not chicken.
Cooking some chicken give enough good strong broth for a bowl or two of soup. There are times when I need more than that because I’ve run out of what I had stashed in the freezer. That’s likely to happen in the winter when I’m a real soup-hound.
I was happy to find a quick method that does produce good stock–using the microwave. This might also be a reasonable solution for those of you who don’t have the chest freezer on the back porch or a good-size freezer with the fridge.
I own only one microwave cookbook: Barbara Kafka’s Microwave Gourmet. She was a reluctant convert to the microwave–as well as a traditionally trained chef. I read her introduction to the book while standing in the Regulator Bookshop; her initial reluctance to hop on the microwave bandwagon made me thing that this might be a different kind of microwave cookbook; I was right. I still do not cook a lot of things in the microwave, but I have found some very useful things in this book. I like the fact that she gives single-serving amounts for some of the recipes–as well as doubling some.
Getting bones for making stock is getting harder, with so much meat coming into the store already cut and boned, but if you can find a butcher shop, it’s well worth exploring the possibility of having them save bones for you. You should check your farmers’ market as you might be able to get “stewing” hens there, or if there is a vendor selling beef, they might have soup bones (necks, tails, etc.) and that is a real delight. I’ve found “marrow bones” in the freezer case at the supermarket, but they were so clean that they really did not make good stock (the marrow was excellent spread on toast, though). For chicken broth, you can always buy a whole bird, and take off the breast and leg/thigh meat and use the rest of the carcass for making broth.
I want to give you an adaptation of her stock/broth recipe (p.314):
- 2 pounds meat (chicken, duck, veal, beef marrow, or other beef or lamb bones cut into small pieces–maybe by the butcher)
- 4 cups water
- Place the bones and water in a 2-quart microwave-safe container. (Personally, I have a large 2-quart Pyrex measuring “cup” that I use for this; it has pouring spout and a handle which I like when working with this much liquid.) Cook at 100% for 30 minutes, or 40 minutes for a broth that will jell.
- Remove from the microwave oven and let stand until it stops bubbling. Strain the broth through a fine sieve. If you want it clear, you need to do the clarifying procedure, which I’m not including here. You can find that in her book (p.314).
- Cool and refrigerate, tightly covered (See Storage Containers) if not using immediately. (Usually don’t store it–my reason for making it in the microwave was either that it was sweltering summer weather, or I needed it NOW!)
If you have “soup bones” that include lots of meat, as do the ones that I get at the Durham Farmers’ market, then you have a hearty meal that’s beyond just soup. The beef can taken off the bones and added to some of the broth with vegetables for a really hearty meal of serious comfort food. That’s a bonus.
That’s it! As is mentioned in another post, I have not done a side-by-side taste test of the broth make the traditional (long, slow way) with that made this quick way, I am pleased with the results of this method. I will freely admit to keeping canned broth and stock on my pantry shelf, but these are usually a last resort, or to be used when the broth will be a background flavor as in chili con carne–not when it up front really good soup like a winter favorite, beef-barley-mushroom soup.
If you want a “brown” broth, you can always roast the bones in the oven before putting them into the microwave to cook. The recipe in the book gives lots of variations that are useful, including adjustments for more meat, adding vegetables, clarifying, and making fish broth as well. If you’re a microwave user, you might find this a great book to have on your shelf, or you might want to check it out of the library and see what else is in it. There is a large “dictionary” in which she lists lots of different ingredients and gives cooking times, or sometimes recommends not cooking that in the microwave. I do refer to the dictionary frequently. If you are a novice with the microwave (think it’s for popping popcorn, or heating water) she does a good review of the types and the shapes of containers that work best for cooking in the microwave and the information on cooking times is useful.
As I mentioned in my previous post regarding what to do with a package of four chicken thighs when you are cooking for one (and the cat) and don’t do leftovers, chicken soup was in the making with some leftovers (rice, garbanzo beans) as a start.
The broth from cooking those four chicken thighs was so intense that I was able to add a bit of water to it, so I have two servings of chicken soup. (Soup being a leftover that I tolerate better than other leftovers.) To keep the time invested to a minimum, I did use a convenience product: frozen soup mix vegetables . I do use those for winter use since it lets me have a lot of variety without purchasing all the individual vegetables; I can throw a handful or so into something for quick soup. As you can see there was okra, peas, corn , celery, potatoes, green beans, and onion.Not having any canned tomatoes open, I used some of the grape cherry tomatoes, halved and tossed into the mix.
I boned the chicken thigh and added it to the broth and veggies, popped the whole thing into the microwave for six minutes to cook the veggies. The broth from cooking the thighs had been seasoned only with a bit of salt to allow for maximum flexibility in what I could do with the meat, so it was a tad bland. I supplemented the previous seasoning with a dash of herbes de Provence, and some crushed red pepper flakes to add a bit of zing. Made and great bowl of soup
Given lots of veggies, the rice, and beans, and the very flavorful broth, the fourth chicken thigh provided reasonable portion f meat for the two servings of soup. When we consider that most of us eat much more meat than we need nutritionally, I was very pleased with the flavor of this quick meal. All I added was a green salad with cucumbers, radishes, grape tomatoes, black grapes, fresh herb leaves, with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. With the addition of a glass of red wine (from a box) it was a very satisfying meal. I have no idea of a calorie count–but I do think it was a healthy meal, particularly for evening when I know I’m going to be very sedentary.
Admittedly, there is a snack for later in the evening: some black grapes, grape tomatoes, and a few nuts, maybe pistachio, or Brazil nuts, or hazel nuts, or a mixture (only a tablespoon or two, though).
Lots of flexibility in terms of what you can do when you’re making a small quantity. I suspect that the remaining serving, which will be used in a day or two, will get some additional “perking” before it becomes a meal, but I know I’m starting with a good base of tasty broth and a bit of meat. In looking over what’s likely to be available , I suspect that I’ll add a bit of cabbage, and maybe some chile pepper to that last batch–but who knows.
Even though I bought the more expensive, free-range, organic chicken I think it was economical: essentially five meals from that one package of chicken. The extra flavor from the chicken paid off.
A son goût!
I guess I’m not really fond of many small appliances or kitchen gadgets. There seem to be a lot that just take up drawer space or counter space and don’t work that well. In many ways the microwave has mostly been just a “gadget” in my kitchen. Most of the microwave recipes that I found were just not that good: edible, but that’s about it. Many of the early cookbooks that I looked at seemed to suggest that anything could be cooked well in the microwave. Admittedly, I’ve not looked at a lot of newer ones because they seemed so uncritical about what does or does not cook well in the microwave. So for me it was for melting chocolate, making popcorn, heating a cup of water….
I’ve revised my opinion slightly after finding the Microwave Gourmet cookbook by Barbara Kafka. This author is a traditionally trained chef, and approached the microwave in a very skeptical frame of mind, and that has produced a useful microwave cookbook. There is no hesitation in saying what NOT to cook in the microwave.
One of the really useful features of this book is a dictionary where you can look things you might want to know about cooking in the microwave, and find times, suggested container sizes in which to cook it. I’ve use this more than almost any other part of the book, except possibly the information on how to arrange foods in containers in order to have them cook properly.
I’ve tried the microwave risotto, and it’s not bad for times when you don’t want to spend the time standing by the stove stirring for 25 minutes or so. (I’m anxious to compare the results of this with the Cook’s Illustrated simplified risotto.)
The most-used recipe in that book for me is the one for quick chicken broth or stock. I’m mostly a stove-top or oven stock maker, but this is great when you don’t have canned stock or want some really good broth for soup. Here is the recipe:
Use bones (carcass from the roast chicken, or necks, backs, wings, or giblets (except liver). You can collect these in the freezer until you have enough, or if you’re lucky, you can buy backs cheaply and make this whenever you need to.
- 2 pounds chicken
- 4 cups water
For 4 cups, place the bones and water in a 2-quart dish and cover tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook at 100% for 30 minutes. (Cook 40 minutes for broth that will jell.)
For 2 cups, use 1 pound bones, and 2 cups water. Cook for 20 minutes.
This cookbook has directions for making the classic stocks and broths in the microwave–including vegetable and fish/seafood broths. Although I’m sure I will not give up the stove-top or oven long, slow preparation of stock I think that I’ll turn to the microwave more frequently, especially in hot weather. I’ve not done a side-by-side tasting of each method, but this is certainly better than canned!
I’ve also cooked chicken in the microwave according to instructions in this book and been pleased with the results. I use chicken thighs instead of breasts, but instructions/times can be found in the Dictionary section of this cookbook. An unexpected benefit of cooking the chicken this way is some very good strong broth; just enough to make one good serving of chicken soup. To me the texture of the chicken is a bit different when done in the microwave– more chewy, but not tough, or disagreeable at all (I actually like that “chew”). I expect that I’ll be using the microwave more often to cook chicken now.
Time frequently seems to be of the essence when cooking–for one or for many. There are some things that I discovered that save me lots of time–and that means that I’m much more likely to cook a meal, rather than do carry-in, or reach for the peanut butter jar!
When you see “convenience” food, I dare say your first thought is processed, open-heat-and-eat food. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m thinking of things you prepare yourself with choice ingredients, and freeze, or otherwise “put by” for later uses that can shave time off of recipes.
How many recipes do you have that start with a “flavor base” like sofrito (Spanish), soffrito (Italian), mirepoix or mirepois (French)? Lots, probably. How many times have you passed on that recipe because you don’t have those, you did not want to spend the time mincing, dicing, or you pulled that bag of celery out of the crisper, and–yuck–it’s no longer fit to use! Cooking for one, I find celery a particularly frustrating ingredient. I like celery–but it always seems to go bad in the crisper.
Many flavor bases to start soups, stews, et cetera begin with carrots, celery, onion, diced or minced and sautéed in olive oil (or maybe butter). True it’s only a few minutes work to do this–if you have the ingredients. My solution to this has been to take celery, carrots, onions, and use the food processor to chop a large batch of this useful mixture, sauté in a mild olive oil with just a touch of salt, and then pack it into small containers in lots of a couple tablespoons (or freeze in ice-cube trays and transfer to zipper-lock bag), and put it in the freezer so that when I need it, I have the basic prepared carrots, celery and onions, to which I can add garlic and herbs as needed for a particular recipe, and I’m off to a running start.
I do keep canned beans around as a “convenience” food, but I much prefer to cook my own dried legumes (pulses). Since that is a time consuming thing, I have found a way to make those into “convenience” ingredients: cook a large batch until almost fully cooked, and then freeze with some of the liquid in small quantities–a cup or so, whatever you would most likely use. I’ve found that they hold well in the freezer, and can finish cooking quickly, so that you have the advantage of home-cooked quality, without the time investment. I’ve done this with lentils (my favorites being the French LePuy) of all sorts. True, lentils cook quickly and do not require soaking, but I can still save time with these. I particularly like to do this “precook” with beans since that means that I can have lots of variety and have the convenience of canned, with specialty beans that are very tasty.
Grains can also be done this way too. That left-over serving of rice that I’m sure I’m not going to use this week gets labeled, dated, and put into the freezer for a quick serving when I don’t want to take the time of cook rice from scratch.
Risotto is another favorite main dish for me–right in my category of comfort food with mac ‘n’ cheese, and tomato soup; I don’t find cooking it to be difficult–in fact it’s rather relaxing, but time consuming. I’ve tried some of the “quick” recipes (see Risotto post) and have not been too dissatisfied with them, but I’ve also found that I can make a big batch of risotto to the point where it’s ready for the addition of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and then freeze it is serving-size batches. It will thaw quickly, and lets me have risotto fairly frequently. It’s easy to add vegetables or seafood or other quick-cooking things as you finish this preparation.
Another “convenience” ingredient is homemade broth or stock. While I will admit to keeping canned/boxed broth/stock on hand, I much prefer to have the real homemade thing, and that is not hard to do: make a large batch on a cold rainy day when it’s good to be indoors; freeze it in small quantities for future use. I’ve found a very quick way to make chicken broth too. More about that later.
All these little conveniences can add up to much better small-time cooking with big-time flavor even when cooking just for one.