You know what, bossy boots? I don’t want to discard the solids from my chicken stock and my rhubarb syrup. I want to eat them. And you know what else? You can’t stop me.
Every so often, I run across an article or blog post about the withering lexicon of culinary technique. Mostly, people are lamenting the steep decline in kitchen I.Q. that has accompanied the raising of two generations of children on chicken fingers and liquid calories, and the fact that words like “dice” strike terror into the hearts of modern-day recipe readers. It’s sad, it’s true, and I largely ignore it and carry on with my satanically complicated recipe writing. Dice, I say! And if you don’t like it, you can shuck off.
But I have my own nemesis words when I’m reading recipes. They’re small, and they’re not overly complicated, but they really put a bee in my bonnet.* They are: discard solids.
* (Hey, maybe that‘s where all the bees went? I have been feeling spectacularly moody lately.)
It’s not that I never discard solids. For example, when I make tea, I don’t open up the tea bag and eat the leaves. When I’m lucky enough to have leftover lobster shells to make stock with, I don’t snack on the carcasses when I’m through. Some solids are nasty. I’m (mostly) not a (total) lunatic.
It’s just that so often, when recipes demand that you “Discard the solids,” they’re ordering you to miss out on some really delicious stuff. They’re peer pressuring you, is what they’re doing. “Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much moisture as possible. Then, obviously, discard the solids, because you’re not the kind of person who would eat soft, creamy carrots and celery infused with thyme and a little chicken fat, or else we wouldn’t be friends.” Friends, indeed.
So here’s what’s happening. I’m turning you on to two recipes where “discard the solids” need not apply.
The first one is this easy recipe for rhubarb syrup from The Kitchn. You can use the syrup in drinks such as the rhubarb gin and tonic pictured above (just make a G+T and add two tablespoons of the syrup—how’s that for a recipe?) or seltzer with a splash of rhubarb syrup (I’m thinking even Americans don’t need a recipe for that one). The solids, pictured on the spoon above, turn into a little “rough jam” that you can keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks and serve on toast or spooned into mini tart shells. The rough jam idea was from the recipe’s creator, so I’m just passing along an already enlightened tip on that one.
The second recipe is for chicken stock. This is the big guns kind of stock, made from whole birds and veggies galore, that you give as a gift when someone you love really needs a gift.
It’s adapted from the Barefoot Contessa. I think she’s wonderful, I really do. But she wants you to throw away not only three whole chickens’ worth of surprisingly tender meat, but also this.
To me, that looks like lunch.
- 2 whole chickens
- 4 large carrots, washed and cut crosswise into 4 pieces
- 5 stalks celery, with leaves, washed and cut crosswise into 4 pieces
- 2 large onions, peeled, root end trimmed, quartered
- 10 sprigs thyme
- A big handful fresh Italian parsley, including stems
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- Place all ingredients in a large stockpot. Add 8 quarts water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer gently for 4 hours. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a very large bowl. Chill the stock overnight, then skim off the fat on the surface, if desired. (I often don't, to be perfectly honest.) Use within a week, or freeze in airtight containers.
- People always talk about chicken from stock-making using words like "sawdust" and "leathery." Sometimes I wonder whether they've ever actually tasted it. If you've simmered your stock gently, the chicken from this recipe should be quite delicious.
- To make the lunch pictured above, run the onion, carrots and celery from the stock through a food mill, rewarm, and sprinkle with grated cheese.