Our waterside home on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, Moonstruck Cottage, is a weekend and holiday getaway that is about 2 hours away from our home, Evensong, in an historic little township that rests along one of the sleepier stretches of the James River in Virginia.
Like most people that have managed to carve out their little piece of heaven beside the water (be it poolside, riverside, lakeside, bayside or oceanside) we embrace the many visits from family and friends that share in our enjoyment of the sun, (the storms), the sand, the fishing—and, of course, the food at our beloved Moonstruck.
Although I absolutely love to cook and entertain, I am committed to spending as much time as I can with family and friends on the deck and in the water (or down at the barn with my horses) when we are there and not in the kitchen. So, I do my best to take all available opportunities to stock fridge, freezer and cupboards with many of the fundamental ingredients that are basic to putting together amazing food with the least amount of precious weekend time spent inside my waterside kitchen.
I love roast chicken (but don’t always love spending the entire afternoon preparing it) and rotisserie-style chicken from my local market is a proven timesaver that is not only delicious but also an incredibly versatile protein that can be used in an endless number of recipes. That being said, after meticulously divesting your roasted bird of all of its fork tender meat in the preparation of any of the previous “1-5 of 100 Ways to Rock a Rotisserie Chicken” you have most likely discarded all those lovely trimmings—buttery bits of chicken fat, crispy roasted caramel brown skin and those flavor-laden bones!
Well, I’m here to share with you that you are literally throwing away some of the most flavorful bits that will ever grace your kitchen—and the very humble ingredients that make my “#6 of 100 Ways to Rock a Rotisserie Chicken—A Valkyrie’s Version of Hearty Roasted Homemade Chicken Stock” so uniquely and extraordinarily rich and savory.
Making sure that nothing goes to waste in the butchering, preparation and consumption of any foodstuff was a reality in my family for as long as I can remember. To tell you the truth, I have to laugh sometimes when I read that it is now so “on trend” for many chefs to devote themselves to a “nose to tail” consumption concept when preparing food for their high end/fine dining restaurants. For my parents and my entire family, money was always dear and waste was abhorrent in our homes and never more so than when watching my grandmother, Ilo May B., in her kitchen and her absolutely fearless approach to wringing every ounce of flavor and utility from family provisions.
Grandma Ilo was intense it’s true, but not so much fierce as in your face Valkyrie mighty (ferocious warrior handmaidens of the Norse gods that escorted the battle fallen to the halls of Valhalla to spend their eternity). With the black glittering eye of the storied ancient mariner, she cut a wake through our lives not unlike a warship under full sail. Everything about her was larger than life—her unswerving devotion and love for friend and family, her empty-the-freezer-fridge-and-cupboards-to-help-a-friend-that-MIGHT-be-in-trouble fire drills, her cannon ball delivery of (nearly) always controversial opinions and, of course, her cooking! Like everything else in the wonderful and anarchic odyssey-of-a-childhood-lived-in-the-orbit-of –the-life-force-that-was-Ilo-May, her cooking could be a kind of chaotic event with ominously uncertain outcomes—at least it seemed that way to a little kid used to the painstakingly measured and calculated preparations of my mother’s kitchen.
There existed not so much as a rumor of waste and certainly no crying in Ilo May’s kitchen. If it was food (or the far more ambiguously defined—foodstuff) and she entertained even the tiniest suspicion that it harbored any remnant of flavor or nourishment in its all-by-its-lonesome state—then it would surely prove fabulous once stirred into the inscrutable mélange of fixings rolling about in the depths of the huge scarred, black-bottomed aluminum vessel (that always seemed more cauldron than stockpot to me) as it bubbled away on the spider web burner grates of her ancient white gas stove.
It was in the super heated, roast turkey redolence of that kitchen, following a childhood Thanksgiving, that I experienced a moment of wide-eyed epiphany that opened up a universe of opportunity to those utterly fearless in their coercion of flavor from food. With my chin on my hands and seated at her porcelain-topped steel kitchen table, I half-watched, half-dozed as she moved her prodigious girth sideways around the tiny room’s perimeter. Stove to sink to fridge and then back again as she allocated the day’s leftover plunder—awarding each family’s “fair share” measure into the faded and well scrubbed plastic stacks of former refrigerated-whipped-topping and oleomargarine tubs.
At some point as I catnapped in a food-sated daze, she stopped in front of that old white stove, opened it’s blackened maw and pulled from it’s depths the crispy crackling, dark caramel rack of re-roasted (that’s right—“re-roasted”) remains from the day’s once mighty turkey. Now bolt upright with eyes wide open, I cannot even begin to describe the bone chilling trepidation that came over me as she dropped that enormous indigo blue graniteware roasting pan on the top of the stove, slid both oven mitts from her hands, tossed them to the kitchen table in front of me, placed curled fists on her hips and then stepped back, cocked her head and contemplated the smoking carcass in front of her.
Why such tremendous fear, you ask? Please know that the children of my family were required to not only “try” everything put in front of them but finish it as well. While my mother always insisted that a “try” was “only” three bites—it was my personal experience that only Thor himself could finish the massive “3-bite portions” the adults in the family deceitfully put in front of me under the auspices of “try.”
So, you can only imagine my horror as I immediately imagined myself with spoon poised above the smoking-crunched-up-turkey-cadaver-brew that would surely emerge from that vile cauldron of doom on her stove.
Oh, Mighty Odin, King of the Norse gods—what fresh terror was this?
As she turned back to the task divvying of leftover portions she saw the horror stricken look on my face and burst into laughter! Gathering me in a huge hug while laughing so hard tears were rolling down her face, she attempted to reassure me that she had slow roasted all those turkey bones and trimmings so that she could make the best turkey broth I had ever tasted in my life—in fact, (small beloved idiot), there existed no “next day” turkey stew eaten in her home that hadn’t been made with the frightening brew.
Hours later I was at her elbow to watch her strain the slow simmered broth two or three times until the rich, warm brown stock was clear of the vegetables, onions and herbs that had accompanied that frightening carcass into the pot. Into the fridge to “melt it all together” overnight, she was back at it the next day adding leftover vegetables, potatoes and all manner of bits and pieces from the Thanksgiving feast until seemingly satisfied with the still seemingly sinister contents of that cauldron on the stove.
As the men of the family engaged in the annual Pinochle battle at the dining room table, Grandma ladled out the stew to the flock of grandchildren seated at the “children’s table” in the kitchen. You cannot possibly fathom the stone cold relief and then amazed wonder when I took that first very reluctant sip and was rewarded with an epiphany of amazingly rich flavor that just rolled across my naïve little palate!
My utterly crazy, black-eyed grandmother had delivered the impossible from that cauldron on the stove—like the intrepid alchemist of food that she clearly was—she had taken what anyone else might have dismissed as garbage and magically distilled from it the very essence of that once mighty turkey!
Ilo May B. passed away many, many years ago but her fearless pursuit of flavor lives on in those she touched during life. I have no doubt that in her resting place, not too far from the shores of her beloved Clear Lake in South Dakota, she maintains a Valkyries’ vigilance over her loved ones—ensuring that her legacy of intrepid thrift and Valhalla theater in the kitchen conveys that little bit of her heaven in every dish we prepare for our families and friends.
As my Grandpa Alvin B. would say, “Vel bekome!” (Enjoy! In Norwegian)
#6 of 100 Ways to Rock A Rotisserie Chicken: “A Valkyrie’s Receipt for
Hearty Homemade Chicken Broth”
- 3 Rotisserie chicken carcasses—Bones, fat, skin and trim (Note: I always save the carcasses and trim from the rotisserie chickens and then freeze them until I have enough to make the broth)
- ½ cup dry white wine for deglazing the baking pan
For the stock:
- 6 ½ quarts of water
- 2 Tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ Tablespoon freshly cracked pepper, roasted
- 1 cup baby carrots—about 12 or 15
- 1 large unpeeled sweet yellow onion, quartered
- 6 large unpeeled shallots, halved pole to pole
- 1 head of garlic—cut in half horizontally across the cloves
- 12 sprigs of fresh thyme
- ½ cup fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, rough cut
- 2 stalks of celery
- Large, rimmed baking pan
- Stock pot, 9 quarts or preferably even larger—just makes it easier to stir
- Large chinois or other fine mesh sieve/colander
- Quart-sized zip topped freezer bags
- Large, heat resistant measuring cup or small bowl
- 2-cup measuring cup
- Large, flat baking tray (possibly two)
- The open mind and adventurous spirit of a flavor-obsessed alchemist
Preheat oven to 250°. Prepare a large rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and evenly layer trimmings and carcasses across the bottom of the pan. Roast for three hours with the pan on the middle rack of the oven. Stir once every hour until the house is filled with the warm, rich fragrance of roast chicken and the bones and drippings are crispy, deep roasted and dark caramel brown.
About 30 minutes before the trimmings are finished begin the liquid for the stock. In a large, heavy bottom stock pot—at least 8 quarts and preferably larger—add six quarts of fresh water, salt, pepper, baby carrots, onion, shallots, garlic, thyme, Italian parsley and celery. Cook on medium high until simmering.
Scrape roasted bits from rimmed baking tin into your stockpot and deglaze the bottom of the pan with the dry white wine—scraping and stirring until dissolved and then pour resulting glazing into the simmering broth.
Simmer (without ever allowing to boil) partially covered stockpot on low for 4 hours—stirring occasionally (and breathing in that incredible roasted chicken aroma of the broth that will fill up your kitchen and drawing “what smells so delicious?” demands from your family)!!
Strain the broth at least three consecutive times through a fine mesh sieve or chinois until virtually clear—discarding solids as you go.
Cool until just safe to touch and handle. I usually take a few moments to label and date each bag before beginning portioning of the broth for freezer storage. Place an opened quart-size, zip topped freezer bag in a large, heat resistant measuring cup or small bowl and pour two cups of broth into the waiting bag, remove as much air as possible, then seal and lay portioned bag flat on a large, flat baking tray. Once you have a full layer of the portioned bags, place a layer of wax or parchment paper on top and begin another layer.
Continue until all broth is portioned and then freeze flat bags. Once frozen solid, the portions can be removed from the tray and easily stored until called into service as the bases for innumerable dishes just waiting for that buttery, roasted, caramel colored broth to take them from delish to just plain bliss!
And inspiring a chorus of “Takk for maten” or the traditional Norwegian “thank you” for another amazingly simple and delightfully flavorful meal served—of course,