I hope you don’t mind if I do the cliche thing and reflect a bit on the last year, as well as what lies ahead.
2011 was, quite possibly, the year of settling into the rhythm of day-to-day life for my husband, my son and myself. None of us graduated from school. We didn’t buy a house or a car. There was no wedding to plan, and no honeymoon to look forward to. No new babies were welcomed into our family, and we were fortunate to not have to say goodbye to close friends or family members. I did take a new job (heaven forbid we go 52 weeks without some kind of change), but for all intents and purposes, 2011 was arguably the most uneventful, routine year we’ve had yet.
And it was wonderful. Sing praise for routine!
Sing praise for having the time to escape for vacations – be them week-long or weekend-short. Sing praise for dinners at home, evenings with friends, and weekly date nights. Sing praise for baseball games, band practice, and book club. Sing praise for time with family and being blessed to witness the growth and love of the families that surround us.
I’m hardly saying that 2011 was boring or dull. Life in our household can rarely be described using such terms. But there was a reassuring consistency to our life that has been rather absent since… well, probably since we left the shelter of our parents’ homes and went off into the world ourselves (and entered college, and had a baby, and graduated, and moved, and bought a house, and started new jobs and schools, and said goodbye to grandparents, and got married, and… well, you get the idea). First world problems, I know – but constant change, be it however positive, is stressful nonetheless.
As for what 2012 holds in store for us – well, hopefully a bit more of the same, really, maybe with an extra helping of patience and perspective on my part. It’s a bit unnerving to think that I’m at a point in my life where I hope that things do not, in fact, drastically change – although realistically I know they will. And that’s OK.
Up at the cabin this past weekend, we discussed our resolutions with each other (apparently, we were not alone in doing this, although in retrospect not nearly as creative as Jenny and Andy!). My resolution is to travel to some place I’ve not been before. I do have additional resolutions regarding my time in the kitchen that require a little less investment and planning than travel does. I want to preserve lemons. Can something. Make my own red-wine vinegar. And spatchcock a chicken. That last one might make you giggle a little bit, what with the silly name and all, but in all actuality the technique both terrifies and intrigues me. Just watch the video – you’ll understand.
I make roasted (un-spatchcocked) chicken with some regularity – especially when I make it to the farmer’s market and am able to purchase a bird from my favorite vendor. After I roast the chicken, I frequently make stock with the remaining bones and small pieces of meat that cling to them. If you’ve not made stock before, you really should. It’s entirely too easy, and yet is one of those tasks that you feel infinitely proud about afterward. If you don’t want to use whole, fresh vegetables, collect your veggie scraps for a few days before or after you roast the bird or plan to make the stock. If you want to be very resourceful, you can freeze the carcass and/or veggie scraps and make the stock once you’ve acquired everything you need. As far as what vegetables you should use, one of the brilliant things about making chicken stock is that you shouldn’t feel obligated to use anything in particular other than the bones of the chicken and perhaps an onion.
What I’m saying is this – it’s very simple to make and very difficult to screw up, so please don’t wave it off as some too-difficult, too-chef-like, too-fancy, too-needless thing that is beyond you, because I promise that it is not.
- 1 chicken carcass
- 1 onion, halved
- 3-5 cups of vegetable scraps (such as celery, carrots, zucchini, leeks, garlic, broccoli, etc)
- 1/4-1/2 loosely-packed cup of mixed herbs, stem and all (such as parsley, thyme, tarragon, sage, oregano, bay leaf, etc)
- 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
Combine all ingredients above in a large stock pot. Barely cover with water. Cook on high heat until water just begins to simmer. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook at a gentle simmer (do not let boil) for 4-6 hours, until liquid is reduced by about two thirds and broth is flavorful and no longer tastes watered down.
Strain into a large bowl using cheesecloth. Discard remaining solids. Stock can either be used immediately, refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen for up to a year. I like to portion the stock out into one cup portions and freeze them for quick and easy use.