On Sunday morning, we ventured to the southernmost Costco Wholesale in the Portland Metro. Jesse and I had been looking forward to accompanying his mom on this adventure for weeks; we woke up early like kids on Christmas morning. Were we dancing with the devil? Yes, clearly. I mean, look at this place.
Our fellow Costco-goers hailed from the extremely rural to the fairly urban and came in all shapes and sizes, especially those befitting the stereotype given us by some of our international friends. But we nimbly navigated our carts–yes, plural–through the warehouse aisle by aisle, me running on ahead and excitedly bringing back pallets of garbanzo beans to Jesse playing games on his phone and guarding the cart. I felt like a frikkin terrier, and the bigger-than-life quality of the store boosted my energy to schnauzer levels.
Our haul amazed me. 22 bottles of wine, good to last us for the next 2 months (supposedly). Most of it from local Willamette and Columbia wineries at prices in some cases half of what you’d find in the grocery store. (And I’m thrilled to be in a state where that’s even an option! Oh, Minnesota. You’re so cute.)
What else? Office chairs for Jesse and I, lots of dried fruit and grains and nuts, pallets of canned garbanzos and red kidneys–the beans I always want for last-minute meals and never remember to soak up. Cheryl grabbed 2 packs of 4 canisters of Lysol wipes. I bought a shitload of replacement razorblades. Jesse trolled the samples and drooled over the kayaks.
I also hit the money in the meat department. This was the department I most feared; Big Agriculture’s tortured chickens? Not appealing. So I was glad to find bags of pasture-raised organically fed chickens… and proceeded to put 4 in the cart.
I decided it was high time to stock up .
Two weeks ago, I had my first Portland Farmers Market experience. It was so beautiful I almost cried. But instead, I ate a massive tamal and ran around buying fiddleheads, dandelion greens, and chicken feet. A bag of maybe 15 chicken feet for $5 from a local farmer.
And today, one of those Costco chickens and six of those locally farmed chicken feet are joining forces with carrot, onion, and celery in the big red stock pot. Eew. This was one of the more disgusting things I’ve done in a while. I realized as I was wrist-deep in the chicken cavity, pulling out what I can only assume were the lungs, that the last time I dissected something I wore nitrile exam gloves. Hello! Next Costco trip, I’m buying a big fat 500-count box of those things, size medium. They sell them. I wondered what I would ever do with 500 nitrile gloves at home. Now I know.
Anyway, I’m using the recipe–which is actually more of an essay with instructions, like most of the recipes in this lovely tome–from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers.
Rich Chicken Stock, adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook
1 4lb-ish chicken
6 chicken feet
4 quarts cold water (maximum; or just enough to cover)
1 tsp salt
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 large carrot, cut into 2″ chunks
1 stalk of celery, leaves removed and cut into 2″ chunks
1. Rinse the chicken and remove the giblets. Save the neck for the stock, if it’s included. Remove the breasts with a sharp sharp knife (check out Shauna and Danny Ahern’s video over at Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef) to put up for later use. Leave all the skin and fat alone. According to Judy, that’s gonna provide a load of flavor, and I’m inclined to believe her. Slash the thighs and the drummies so they release all have to the stock.
2. Place chicken in a big heavy stockpot. “Big” as in, like, 10+ quarts. I’m using a giant red thin stockpot–enameled carbon steel, the kind you can get at the mercado or Target for $15. Since it’s so thin, and since we’ve got one of those glass-covered electric cooktops rather than my beloved gas, I placed this Big Red into a big heavy anodized aluminum saute pan in order to promote even heating. Whether or not this is actually working is beyond my expertise. It just made me feel better about myself to do it this way. Work with what you’ve got, mmkay?
3. Clean up your workspace right away. Germs! Potentially nasty salmonella germs! And this is the moment I sang Cheryl’s praises for buying all those Lysol wipes.
4. Add cold water quart by quart until the chicken is covered–no more than 4 quarts. If the chicken isn’t covered with 4 quarts, take that sucker back out and remove the drummies and wings to promote a better fit (the drummies and wings go back into the pot, too!). Do almost whatever you have to in order to get the chicken and legs to fit. This might have been my least favorite part of the process.
5. Let the whole mess come to a healthy simmer. Skim the foam off once, stir the chicken once, and then add the veggies and salt. And then step back. Step away from the pot. Leave it alone. For, like, 4 hours for best results. Let the fat come to the top and form a ‘cap’ on the whole mess. Leave it alone. Judy wants you to taste at various points. I’m gonna go ahead and also promote frequent tasting, but I probably won’t do it myself because I’ll forget.
6. After about 4 hours, taste (I actually did it this time) and if the juice is bursting with bright chickeny flavor, then take out the biggest pieces with a strainer of some sort. Keep the chicken and pick off all the spent meat–it could be useful in a bake/casserole or covered with juicy toppings in a taco, though it won’t be the moist juicy rich chicken you’ll want to highlight in most dishes. Pour the rest of the stock into a bowl/pot through a wide strainer. Let the stock cool to room temp and then pour into one or several containers with tightly fitting lids.
7. This liquid gold keeps in the fridge for about a week, but I’m sure as heck going to freeze a bunch. To do that, I’m going to measure out a quart of the stock and pour it into good quality gallon-sized freezer bags, label the bags, and put them in the freezer on cookie sheets so they freeze flat.
8. Have a snort of Bailey’s. You’ve earned it. And next time you go to Costco, buy the nitrile gloves.