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Chicken parts for stock


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A few times I've gotten inexpensive packs of chicken backs and necks for stock at QFC. Now that I have some free freezer space and want to make some homemade stock, I can't find them. I asked at University Seafood & Poultry and they said people snap them up for their dogs. Obviously I don't want to pay much (certainly less than $1 a pound). Anyone have a source for these? I'd be willing to buy maybe 12 pounds at a time if that helps.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I don't know what the prices are like out there, but here in the New York Metro area where the grocery prices are pretty high we can get whole supermarket chickens at 99 cents a pound and sometimes less, and leg quarters for 49 cents a pound. I know it sounds crazy to use whole chickens for stock, but whole chickens are actually excellent and efficient for stock making because you can start the stock, remove the chickens when they're cooked to proper poached-chicken doneness, remove the most desirable meat for use in chicken salads, sandwiches, etc., and then place the picked carcasses (which still have a ton of flavor-producing meat on them) back into the stock. The leg quarters work very well too and tend to have back portions attached. Here's an example of a local supermarket circular from around here. I'd be interested to hear what you come up with:

http://www.shoprite.com/weekly/week35/AdTa...1CBMPKW_429.jpg

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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mamster,

You might want to try the Red Apple on MLK in the CD. They have animal parts that I've never seen for sale anywhere else. When we lived on 'the Hill', my wife used to get stuff there for making stock.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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I stopped off at University Seafood on the way home from the farmer's market today and got a four-pound bag of necks and backs, enough to make probably two quarts of stock, for $2.40. They even asked whether I wanted more necks or more backs. Now I realize I need a cleaver to hack them into manageable pieces; luckily City Kitchens is having a sale.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Mamster, if you have a heavy chef's knife you oughta be fine. At least, we only use a chef's knife to hack up poultry at school, and it works fine as long as it's sharp and we apply our weight to the hilt. But then we don't saw up chicken backs into smaller pieces...there's no need to. The chef's knife is fine for taking apart the bird into smaller pieces and for cracking through joints and trimming up backs.

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Thanks, Malawry. Well, these will be thawed out tomorrow and I'll see what I've got and whether it needs to be broken down. I've been meaning to get a cleaver anyway, mostly because I envy the people who chop up the Chinese roast ducks.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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OK, here's how it turned out. The bag contained all chicken backs. Whole backs don't fit into my pot very easily, and I wanted to do a quick extraction stock, so I broke them down. I went down to City Kitchens to buy a cleaver, and in talking to the woman there (the one who's always there, maybe an owner), she convinced me to get an expensive pair of poultry shears instead.

These worked, but they made my hand hurt, and while I was snipping away and feeling like I was doing some kind of kindergarten craft project, I nursed images of myself whacking meat with a cleaver. By the time I finished I had decided to exchange the shears for the cleaver, although maybe I should just hang onto the shears and get the cleaver another time. It's a really good sale at City Kitchens, by the way.

I've returned to making stock because it tastes better, of course, but also because we now have more freezer space (our old fridge died in the summer heat and the landlord gave us a larger one). I promised myself that I would only do this regularly if I could make it easy and at least as cheap as canned broth. Back when I made stock a few years ago it ended up being a kitchen-sink affair with various aromatics that was a lot of work and expense for not much gain over canned.

Anyway, following tips from Cook's Illustrated, I broke the backs (four pounds) down into 2" segments, browned them in three batches, and sweated them for twenty minutes. I added two quarts of hot water and simmered another twenty minutes with ginger and scallions and a bit of salt (I may reduce this and can always salt later if necessary). I went the Chinese stock direction because I've been wanting to cook from Fuchsia Dunlop's Sichuan Cookery.

I cooled the stock (the best way to do this is to fill a gallon Ziploc with ice and toss it into the pot, although you waste a Ziploc) and refrigerated it until the fat congealed on the top. I skimmed the fat, filled half a mug with stock, and heated it in the microwave. Excellent stock--moderate gelatin, mild ginger-scallion flavor, full-on chicken flavor. The last time I made a stock this good was with a whole duck carcass. Total cost (not including those poultry shears): $3 for two quarts. I think the big can of Swanson is $3 for 1.5 quarts, so I think I've done well. Time: one hour.

Tomorrow I'm going to make kung pao chicken and hot and sour soup...or maybe dandan noodles.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Ahhh...another Chritopher Kimball acolyte. The only reason his writing is even tolerable is that he's virtually always right!!

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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This may be obvious, but whenever we buy a whole chicken (which is at least 2x a month) we cut it up and throw the back and neck into a ziploc bag in the freezer. Nobody actually likes eating the back, right? I think there are 8 backs in there right now, languishing while I wait for a cool day to make stock (not while temps are above 70, I'm a heat wimp, which is why I was so happy to move to Portland).

Also, I hate to say this, but the sort of stock you made isn't really suitable for traditional Chinese cookery, which calls for a nice clear, delicate stock without browned chicken overtones. Of course, you may know this and just prefer the heavier taste, but when traditional recipes call for stock, it's a very light clear one that is implied. Also, I tend to prefer adding my aromatics to the dish, not to the stock. I think the flavors get "muddy" quite easily and don't do well in the freezer, but then I refuse to eat anything that has canned onions or tomatoes in it either, so maybe I'm a snob!

One last thing, go for the cleaver. We have a really great old Sabatier cleaver from way back when they did hand grinding to sharpen and polish it. It could fell a small tree. It's not a Chinese one for meat, but French, with a lovely curve to the back so that all of your force is shifted downwards to the tip of the blade. It's great for doing any butchering. It's funny you want to hack duck to bits, the partner, who is ethnic Chinese, admires the western way of cutting fowl, with those huge pieces of meat and no bone bits!

regards,

trillium

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I rarely cook a whole chicken so I don't accumulate parts.

trillium, thanks for the info on Chinese stock. I'll admit I'm cooking out of ignorance here, not design. The stock ended up quite good (definite sauteed chicken flavor) and made a good hot and sour soup and some red-cooked pork belly (which I'll talk about on another thread when I have time). Do you have a method for a more traditional Chinese stock? I'd love to try it next time.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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one that is implied.  Also, I tend to prefer adding my aromatics to the dish, not to the stock.  I think the flavors get "muddy" quite easily and don't do well in the freezer, but then I refuse to eat anything that has canned onions or tomatoes in it either, so maybe I'm a snob!

oops. I meant to say canned onions or garlic...not tomatoes! I love Muir Glen canned tomatoes or my own canned pomarola any time tomatoes are not in season.

regards,

trillium

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I rarely cook a whole chicken so I don't accumulate parts.

trillium, thanks for the info on Chinese stock.  I'll admit I'm cooking out of ignorance here, not design.  The stock ended up quite good (definite sauteed chicken flavor) and made a good hot and sour soup and some red-cooked pork belly (which I'll talk about on another thread when I have time).  Do you have a method for a more traditional Chinese stock?  I'd love to try it next time.

Perhaps an incentive to cook whole chickens?

Anyhow, I'm sure your stock was delicious in hot and sour soup, the strong flavors probably stand up just fine to the chicken flavor. I guess it's more important in Cantonese food where things are a lot more delicate. The method for making stock is to use whole chickens or chicken parts of your choice and filtered water. The trick to keeping it clear and light is to never let it boil, just a very fine simmer. Hmmm...I mostly do it by look and taste to decide when it's "done". I'll bet one of my cookery books has a part on making clear stock (sometimes it gets called first stock because then you can make cloudy stock by boiling the hell out of the bones), I'll look it up and report back. If fat is an issue, this may not work for you, since a traditional stock isn't skimmed, lots of flavor is in the fat.

regards,

trillium

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Perhaps an incentive to cook whole chickens?

I'm with trillium here, rarely buying whole chickens is no excuse. Why I roasted a chicken last night just for myself and saved the bones for stock. They're taking up a regular sandwhich ziplock bag, awaiting cooler weather. As a matter of fact, I also have some lamb bones and probably a duck somewhere in my freezer, also awaiting to be turned into stock.

By the way you can practice roasting chickens to see what Le Pichet does!

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