Cooking For Kitchenphobes is a series aimed to put "cooking haters" more at ease in the kitchen. We'll walk you through one basic recipe a week until you love cooking. Or else.
It has come to our attention that many of you don’t like to cook. How do we know this? Some of our HuffPost colleagues have flat-out told us that the thought of making food sends them into a stress spiral (don’t worry, they’re not Taste editors). The prospect of making dinner causes these people’s brains to shut down. A cutting board makes them weep. They rip their hair out when confronted with an uncooked egg. Why is that? It's because they think cooking is hard. We're here to prove them wrong.
As food editors, the hating makes us endlessly sad. For us at HuffPost Taste, cooking is therapeutic. It's not a chore, but a privilege. Not an obligation, but an escape. By following a few simple guidelines, cooking allows you to create something artistic and delicious that has the power to nourish and comfort. The peacefulness is in the process -- there's something soothing about the rhythmic dance of a sharp knife slicing through an onion, leaving behind perfectly minced cubes that fall like raindrops to the cutting board. Or let's try this: have you ever seen melting chocolate? More specifically, have you ever seen this video of a Sacher Torte being made? It's poetry, and it's real. Or how about the aroma of simmering tomato sauce? It floods your senses in a way that can transport you to a faraway place -- let's say Italy, for example, where it's possible that George Clooney could saunter into your Lake Como kitchen at any moment (if dudes don't do it for you, just replace “George Clooney” with “Sophia Loren circa 1960s”). Have we sold you yet? And we haven’t even gotten to the part about eating. That’s just the bonus.
We want you to experience cooking zen the way we do, so we’re on a mission to put you at ease in your kitchen. If we can cook, you can cook – after all, we’re just regular humans like the rest of you. We don’t have special robotic arms or hands that turn into whisks (though how awesome would that be?). Our new series, Cooking For Kitchenphobes, will walk you through the most basic of recipes, step by step. Think of us as the patient friend who won’t think you’re an idiot for asking what a “dice” is. You can even ask us questions and we’ll answer them. And we know time is a hot commodity for everyone, but if you can take a couple hours every few days to go to the gym, you can take a couple hours to feed yourself, too.
For our first installment, we’re going to get you started with something easy and useful: chicken stock. You’re going to be great. Let’s do this. [Note: The brackets and italics below indicate when we're holding your hand.]
Yield: 2 liters [Remember, this is just the size of a 2-liter soda bottle. Don't freak out on us yet.]
What you need ahead of time
This is important: You'll need chicken bones. No, you don't go to the store and buy chicken bones. Just be resourceful and save the bones from the chicken you've been eating all week. Store those bones (whether they're raw or cooked) in a ziplock bag in the freezer, wait until you have a few handfuls, and you're ready to make stock.
- 2 pounds chicken bones [that's a few large handfuls]
- 2 liters cold water [that's about 8 1/2 cups]
- 1 onion, peeled and cut in mirepoix
[Mirepoix [meer-pwah] is the French cooking term that refers to onions, carrots and celery, always cut into consistently sized chunks, usually about 1 inch big. This is great news for you because it doesn't require any knife skills. You're going to be removing the pieces from the stock eventually anyway, so don't worry about looks -- just make sure they're all the same size.]
- 1 medium-sized carrot, cut in mirepoix [You don't even need to peel it]
- 1 stalk celery, cut in mirepoix
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and then crushed
[A clove of garlic is one small piece from a head of garlic. To clear up any confusion, look at this photo: the big bulb on the right is the head of garlic, and the small piece on the left is a clove of garlic. To crush it, simply bash the unpeeled clove once or twice with a blunt object.]
- Bouquet garni
[Another French term, bouquet garni [boo-kay gar-nee] refers to a palm-sized mixture of herbs that flavor the stock. It usually includes fresh thyme, bay leaf, parsley stems and black peppercorns, but you can use whatever herbs you like, as long as you don't use dried herbs -- they're too powerful in flavor. A bouquet garni is usually tied up in a cheesecloth, but since we're going to be straining the stock anyway, let's skip the cheesecloth step. You're welcome.]
1. Trim the bones of fat and skin and rinse the bones under cold running water. [It's important to start the water off cold because it enhances flavor and keeps the stock clear.] Place the bones in a stockpot and cover with the 2 liters of cold water, or as much as it takes to cover the bones. [A stockpot is just a big old tall pot.] Turn on your stove and bring the liquid to a boil, skimming off the foam as it rises. [Use a big slotted spoon to do this, and discard the foam into your sink.]
2. Lower the stock to a simmer and continue to skim well. Add the chopped vegetables and the bouquet garni, and simmer for about 2 hours, skimming frequently. [It's important to keep the stock at a low simmer, because boiling it will cause cloudiness. So just turn the heat down to the lowest setting, leave the kitchen for a while and read your favorite book -- you don't have to stand there and be a slave to your stock.]
3. Turn the heat off. Pour the stock carefully through a mesh strainer, discarding the bits of vegetables and herbs, and collecting the clear stock in a large bowl. Let the stock cool down to room temperature. Refrigerate in a sealed container for up to one week, OR freeze the stock in ice cube trays and bag them -- they'll last up to one year.
You did it. You have stock! Wasn't that easy? Stay tuned for next week's edition of Cooking For Kitchenphobes, when we'll walk you through a great soup recipe you can make with this stock.