Saturday, November 04, 2006

Back for more

After the squash challenge, I went back to some old favourites: creamy tomato shrimp pasta, quiche with a hash brown crust, and one night Paul ran the show and made breaded chicken and potatoes, all easy-peasy quick things, safe stand-by meals.

But I was ready to get back to experimenting. And I was ready to take on my nemesis squash again. This time things would be different. This time I would make soup. For several reasons, first it's pretty hard to screw up, and second, I like to make soup for my Dooda, my grandfather, and I will be seeing him later this weekend.

I started my squash rematch with the pregame chicken stock production. If you are playing "laura dot cooks, the home game", you may wish to skip this step. But I had a couple of frozen barbecue chicken carcasses in my freezer. Sometimes, Paul and I have one of the supermarket barbecue chickens with homemade garlic bread for dinner if we are feeling lazy. By the second day I am usually sick of chicken sandwiches, but there is usually some meat left on the bones, so I just freeze them. Thus, I have essentially free bones to use to make stock. And free food is always in the grad school budget. In fact, according to some authorities, free food may be the corner stone of grad school nutrition, (see [1] and [2]).

Some caveats on using frozen barbecue chicken carcasses: the stock will take forever to come to a simmer, because you have essentially put in two chicken shaped ice-cubes in the pot, and (this is the scary one) the fat that rises will be orangish. Think fluorescent. The stock I made this time turned out really well, with a strong chicken flavour and very thick consistancy after it cooled.

One last note, celery is often an ingredient in chicken stock, but I don't like celery or celery leftovers and since making stock doesn't use the whole bunch, I leave it out. If you have celery, by all means add it. But I still think it is gross.

Chicken Stock

2 chicken carcasses with meat left on the bones (frozen or unfrozen)
1 bay leaf
1 carrot coarsely chopped
1 onion coarsely chopped

1. Place chickens in large pot and cover with water. (I used 8 cups.)
2. Add carrot, onion and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Skim off any foamy weird stuff that rises to the top.
3. Simmer about 3 hours. If you taste a small piece of meat and it tastes like nothing (kind of gross and newspapery) then you are done. Strain stock and chill overnight.
4. Once the stock is chilled skim off any fat.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash
4 cups chicken stock
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp butter
vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Oil a baking sheet and put the squash cut side down. Cook for 30-40 mins until tender and let cool.
2. Melt butter in a large pot and add onions. Cook to translucent and add the ginger.
3. Add stock to onions. Scoop squash out of the skin and add to onions and stock. Simmer for 30-40 mins.
4. Puree and add salt and pepper to taste.

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