Making Magic Happen in the Kitchen

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If you have a refrigerator, you probably have leftovers sitting in it right now.  A take out container of half-eaten chicken fingers and french-fries, maybe some pasta that is gluing itself together in the Gladware, myriad other pieces of meals that once were warm and delicious and satisfying.   Opening the fridge and seeing those unused bits now fills you only with the weight of an important decision: do you ignore them until they become gross enough to justify throwing them away, or do you take out these ghosts of former culinary glory and attempt to resurrect them?

Life before children

Parents often talk about this topic, but rarely does the discussion of “leftovers” include food.  The leftovers in these conversations are the bits and pieces of a dish called L.B.C. (Life Before Children).  The college degree a stay-at-home parent earned, the foreign excursions that aren’t so easy now that Baby is in tow, the images we construct in our own childhoods of the impressive and accomplished adults we will become… each in its own appropriately sized plastic storage container, stacked neatly in the back.  It is so much easier to just close the door on these pieces of L.B.C.  After all, there are plenty of other responsibilities pulling at your time.  How tempting it is to allow old bits of talent and ambition to grow slimy and rancid.  But where is the fun in that?  If you want to spice your weeks up a bit, why not try rolling up your sleeves, digging into your metaphorical Tupperware, and attempting to create something palatable out of whatever is packed inside?  You just might surprise yourself.  Not to say that everyone who attempts to achieve nearly-forgotten dreams succeeds in the way he or she originally imagined. That impressively golden Thanksgiving turkey probably never thought it would end up as a messy hot-turkey sandwich, yet here it sits before you and it is delicious.

Fun in the kitchen

Using your L.B.C. leftovers is quite similar to using the leftovers in your fridge: make a plan, set aside time to work on it, and be positive about what you create.  Let your interests and talents add flavor to your life, to your family’s life.  And while you are at it, drag out some of those real leftovers from your real refrigerator and try this recipe.  Maybe it won’t turn out how you thought it would, it might even be something you now realize you didn’t want after all, but you will at least have an interesting story to show for your efforts.  Have fun in your kitchen-

Leftover-Chicken Stock Recipe 

Leftover roast chicken with bones and skin and everything that was in the roasting pan

2 yellow onions, cut in half

2 celery stalks with leaves, cut in half to fit the stock pot

2 large carrots, cut in half to fit the stock pot

1 parsnip, cut in half or quarters, 

depending on how large it is

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

about 12 cloves fresh garlic, slightly crushed (more or less, depending on your tastes)

about 12 sprigs fresh dill

about 12 sprigs fresh parsley

Put the chicken and whatever drippings or vegetables that were roasted with it into a stock pot (the biggest pot you can find). Wash the vegetables, but don’t worry about peeling any of them because the stock will be strained once it’s done.  (How’s that for a time-saver?) Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and cover completely, plus an additional 2”, with water. Set on stove, uncovered, over medium-low heat. It’ll take a while to bring the pot to a simmer (tiny bubbles rising to the surface, don’t let it boil hard). Simmer for at least two hours, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, remove all solids from the pot and discard. Strain out remaining solids and liquid into a large bowl. Discard strained solids. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, the grease and fat will have risen to the top of the stock and solidified. Use a spoon to peel off this layer and discard.  The stock will be gelatinous, which might strike some of you as odd, but think about all the non-nutritive fillers and preservatives that aren’t in there. And it will liquefy once the stock is warmed up.  Portion the stock for freezing or immediate use. Store for a couple days in the fridge, or longer-term in the freezer.  Stock can be frozen in plastic freezer bags. Lay them flat to freeze, then store them standing up like books to save space in your freezer. Try freezing stock in ice cube trays. The stock-cubes are the perfect portion for sautéing veggies or meat.