Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


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Small Batch Chicken Broth

To give the pressure canner a quick workout, I decided to make a small batch of chicken broth. We picked up a pack of 4 bone-in split breast chicken breasts, and we had to use them up quick. I butchered them up, and got straight to cooking. The bones and some other vegetables we had laying around went into a pot to make some broth. Then I tossed the meat into a crockpot to make some shredded chicken for easy meals. I’ll include those recipes later.

Chicken Broth

I’ve already covered this recipe, in general, so I’m only going to give some of the particulars today.

  • 4 split chicken breasts, or equivalent amount of other chicken parts, meat and excess skin and fat removed [1]
  • 1 Onion, skinned and quartered
  • 4 little cloves of garlic, skinned [2]
  • 6 Sticks of Celery, rinsed  [3]
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Various herbs and seasonings (fresh-crushed black pepper, dash of celery seed, dash of whole dried rosemary leaves, some sea salt)
  • 1 cup of wine [4]
  • 2 Tbsp oil (I used a mix of olive and vegetable oils, because I was running out of one)

Put the garlic, onion and celery in the pot. No, wait. Put the oil in first and heat it up over medium heat, then put in the other stuff. Add seasonings. On top, put the chicken bones. Let that cook for a little while. It might have been like 5 minutes, I wasn’t paying attention. You want the vegetables to get some brown on them. Add the wine, and let simmer for a little while until the alcohol has evaporated (just guesstimate, this isn’t science class). Add enough cool water to cover. Put the lid on, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to a simmer and cook that sucker for a while [5].

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Strain the broth. Put it in the fridge overnight to cool completely. The next day, skim the congealed fat off the top and bring to a boil. Ladle into prepared pint jars. Following the directions on your fancy-shmance pressure canner, process at 11 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes [6].

Properly prepared in a pressure canner, this broth should be completely shelf-stable, without refridgeration for years. Keep it in a cool, dark place anyway.

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Notes

  1. Sloppily and hastily
  2. You know, those stupid little cloves that are in the middle of the head of garlic, that are almost not worth peeling because they’re so little and stupid? Yeah, those.
  3. Normally I wouldn’t use so much, but it was starting to go bad and whatever we didn’t use here was going straight into the compost pile. Also, we didn’t have any carrots in our damn fridge, for the first time in months, so I had to make up a little bit of slack in the flavor profile.
  4. Also, a cup to put in the broth after you drink the first cup. I used a white zinfandel
  5. I didn’t time it. It was probably about 2 hours. Cook until the chicken bits are falling apart and you’re bored with waiting.
  6. I got two pints. The recipe with my canner said to process 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts. If you make a big enough batch, keep this in mind. Also, do whatever mathemagic you need if you’re at a high altitude.
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Chicken Salad

There are two recipes I make regularly that I think are strong enough to form the foundation of a menu if I ever wanted to start my own restaurant. Sometimes I think about doing exactly that, but then I remember that the restaurant business involves hard work, long hours, and no software. Full Stop. Instead, I think I’ll just keep making these favorites for family and friends.

The first is my French Onion Soup. It doesn’t always turn out, but when it does the results are phenomenal. The second is my Chicken Salad recipe. Actually, it’s not my recipe originally. I learned it from my mother, who learned it from her mother. I’m not sure if that’s the end of the chain, either. Regardless, the recipe is fantastic and people always love it every time I make it.

This chicken salad recipe is unique, I’ve never known another person to make it the same way (besides my family, of course). Other people have stumbled onto the same general idea: add a little sweetness to the chicken salad. I’ve seen other people instead add sliced grapes, diced apples, orange marmalade, or some other fruit products. All valiant efforts, but this version is, I think, superior to all the rest.

In addition to the Macaroni and Cheese recipe we also made another big batch of chicken salad for Easter, and everybody loved it like usual. Without further adieu, here is my chicken salad recipe:

Nana’s Chicken Salad

  1. Boneless, skinless chicken breast
  2. Celery (approx. 1 stalk for every 2-3 breasts)
  3. Celery Seed
  4. Carrots (approx. 1 carrot for every 2-3 breasts)
  5. Black Peppercorns
  6. Bay Leaves (approx. 1 bay leaf for every 4-6 breasts)
  7. Salt
  8. Mayonnaise
  9. Major Grey’s Chutney

Put the chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add roughly broken stalks of celery and peeled, roughly broken carrots to pot. Add a handful of pepper corns, a generous sprinkle of celery seed, a sprinkle of salt, and bay leaves. Bring the pot to a boil on high heat, then turn it down to about 75% or less so it keeps boiling but doesn’t go all crazy. Give it a quick stir after it gets going to make sure the chicken on the bottom isn’t getting burned. Continue boiling, covered and undisturbed, for about 1 hour or more.

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Remove chicken from pot. Remove stuck-on peppercorns and allow to cool. Once cool, pat off any extra water and chop your chicken into bite-sized cubes. The meat should be falling apart and stringy, and the cubes will further fall apart once you start mixing so you don’t need to be too precise. Put the chicken into a large mixing bowl. Discard the broth and the vegetables.

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Add a generous sprinkle of salt and fresh cracked black pepper to the chicken. Add mayonnaise and chutney to the chicken in about a one-to-one ratio. Start small, mixing and testing for flavor and consistency. Remember that you can always add more of the dressing, but you can’t take it away. The mayo adds creaminess and richness. It also helps to cut some of the sweetness and tartness from the chutney. The chutney, of course, adds the characteristic “OMG What is that!?!” flavor that people love so much. Salt, as I mentioned, is going to be very important to add because the chicken will be so absorbent of flavors. If you’re at a good consistency but the flavor isn’t bright enough, try adding a bit more salt.

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Dana likes the chicken salad with mustard. I like it plain. It goes great on almost any type of bread or croissants. Sometimes we’ll eat it with lettuce and a big fresh slice of tomato or avocato (or both!).  Most of the time it’s perfect all by itself.

Variations

  1. Add finely diced celery to the mixture, for a little extra crunch and flavor.
  2. Add finely diced raisins, craisins or dried tart cherries. Add a mixture of all three. The extra sweetness and tartness from these fruits makes the salad even more bright and luxurious.
  3. Diced sundried tomatoes bring a slightly more mature, though more subtle, flavor.


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Chicken Rollups with Cider Jelly

So now you’ve got a pile of Apple Cider Jelly laying around the house. So you think to yourself, “self, what can I do with all this delicious jelly in the next 5 minutes before I drink it all with a straw and throw myself into the abyss of diabetic coma?” I like this stuff on toast, or on english muffins. I haven’t tried it yet, but I strongly suspect it would be great mixed in with some oatmeal, warmed up and poured onto pancakes, and maybe even used to dip some maple flavored breakfast sausage.

Problem is, all these are breakfasty options and there are a dozen more hours in the day where I could be forcing cider jelly into my gaping maw if I could find the correct vehicle for it.

Enter wife. Dana has a much more practical and homey approach to cooking than I have, and she’s been working to perfect a great recipe for chicken rollups. In the most recent incarnation we added some of my cider jelly and true love was born.

Chicken Rollups with Cider Jelly

  • Chicken Breast, cut into rectangular chunks
  • A tube of ready-to-cook crescent rolls (We used Pillsbury, because it was on sale)
  • Brown Mustard
  • Cider Jelly
  • Smoked cheese (we used a smoked gouda, but we’ve used applewood smoked cheddar in the past)
  • Salt, pepper, and spices or whatever. Whatever you think tastes good on chicken.

You know how big your favorite brand of crescent rolls are, right? Cut your chicken breast into chunks about that same size. You want the chunks to fit nicely into the middle when it’s all rolled up. Doing the math, you’ll need as many chunks as you have crescent rolls to fill (We’ve found 1 breast of chicken is enough for a tube with 8 crescent rolls).

Cook the chicken in a fry pan with a little oil, salt, pepper and whatever spices you like. Dana likes onion powder.

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Separate the crescent rolls. In each, put a piece of chicken, a slice of cheese, a squirt of mustard and a small dollop of cider jelly. Roll up, and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake according to the directions on the tube (the chicken is already cooked, so you only need to bake the pastry). Remove from the oven, cut into bite-sized peaces AND DEVOUR THEM.

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In the time before the cider jelly I’ve made a mustard cream sauce for dipping. With the jelly, I don’t think it’s necessary (probably can’t hurt, though).


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Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

We eat a heck of a lot of chicken breast in our household, so I definitely want to make sure we get our chicken breasts at a decent price. Depending on market conditions and brand it seems like we can pay anywhere from 2$ to 5$ per pound of the stuff, which is a pain.

On thing we’ve started doing is buying the bone-in, split-breast chicken, especially when we get it on good sale. Not only are these cuts a heck of a lot less expensive (even considering the extra weight of the bones), but we also end up with lots of extra chicken bones that we can turn into stock.  We pick them up on the cheap, take them home, butcher them, and toss the various bits in the freezer until needed.

We keep two big plastic bags in the freezer. One is filled with chicken bones, and the other is filled with old vegetable peelings and vegetables that were about to go bad but we froze them at the last minute. If we’ve got half an onion that’s been in the fridge for a few days and we don’t have any plans to use it, we throw it in the freezer. Buy more carrots than we can reasonably eat before they get rotten? In the freezer. Some fresh herbs left over that we don’t have a plan for? In the freezer. You’re digging through the fridge and Oh No! There’s some old bell peppers hiding under the tortillas? Throw it in the freezer. Every couple weeks we can take the contents of these bags out, toss all the stuff into a big pot with some other bits and seasonings, and we get chicken stock.

Chicken Stock

  • A pile of chicken bones and parts
  • Various vegetables that still have good flavor, even if the texture and appearance is a little off (carrots, celery, onion, turnips, tomatoes, etc)
  • Herbs and seasonings (Sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, salt, etc)

Put the stock pot over medium-high heat. Add some oil, onions (if using) and chicken bits. Let these things get a little bit brown, for added flavor. Add in your other vegetables and seasonings and add enough water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil, and boil/simmer for a few hours. Strain out the liquid into a container and put it in the refrigerator. Later, when the stock is cool, skim off the congealed fat from the top of the stock.

Notes:

  1. Everything solid is being strained out, so don’t worry about chopping your vegetables nicely. Toss in whole carrots or celery stick, snapping them in half if they’re too big for your pot. You don’t need to peel your carrots either, just give them a quick wash to make sure the dirt and other bits are off them.
  2. Depending on salt content, the stock should freeze well and keep for a long time in your freezer. Your stock should keep for several days in your refrigerator as well. If you have the equipment, you can put it into quart jars and pressure can them at 11 pounds for 25 minutes, depending on your altitude.
  3. Chicken skins have lots of flavor, but that flavor is mostly trapped in the fats, which will be skimmed off later. Don’t bother putting chicken skin in with your stock, it adds nothing to the final product.

 

This is a pretty darn cheap alternative, considering the store-bought stock can cost upwards of 2 dollars per quart.

We’ve done the same thing with beef and pork bones too, although we tend to eat less beef and pork than we do chicken and sometimes it can be best flavor-wise to leave the bones in these things.

Next time I’ll talk about what to do with a big container of chicken broth.