One thing I’m hoping to get out of this cooking project of mine is some new go-to recipes and techniques that I can rely on and work into my normal cooking routine. I have some things that I do over and over and a very very few foods that I’ve made enough times in enough different ways to know what I think is the best way to cook them, but that list could stand to be a little longer. I’d like to be able to improvise a little more reliably, and I still dream of being able to dice an onion really impressively. It was one of the most disappointing things for me about cooking school that we just kind of cooked each thing once and then moved on. I get that we had a lot to cover in a relatively short time, but I was expecting a lot of repetition so we could start really internalizing what we were learning. I think I was the only one there without professional cooking experience though, so maybe the program I was in was designed with the idea that most of the students wouldn’t need it. Anyway. Now I get the chance to, like, be the cooking school I wished to see in…whatever…so I’m definitely keeping an eye out for opportunities to make the same thing a bunch of different ways and try new techniques out.
Which brings us to the next recipe in my Cook On Cooking plan: chicken stock. Now, I make chicken stock all the time, but this is, like, professional stock made in professional quantities. The recipe calls for 15 lbs of bones and 2 lbs of mirepoix. I admit I had a moment where I was like mirepoix?! Because no no no no no, chicken stock is a thing you make with leftover bits you’ve had in the freezer for almost too long, never in the same quantities, and certainly not in any kind of ratio, or diced for god’s sake. You just snap a carrot in half so it fits in your pan, crush some garlic cloves, and you’re good. This recipe wants me to count how many parsley stems I use! But then I thought about how I have been basically making stock the same, inconsistent, leftovers-based way forever and alongside that how I’ve never been super into the quality of stock I make and sometimes I read articles about how to make the best stock or what’s the best store-bought stock and how a good stock should taste like something you would drink on its own and I really really really want to be someone who understands all of that, so giant vats of stock it is.
Where to get 15 lbs of chicken bones, though? I save bones whenever I make chicken, but they never build up that much before I need stock. I’m sure I could go to a butcher or buy multi-packs of wings and legs. Then again, I could just see how many chickens I’d have to cook to end up with 15 lbs of bones. That sounds more fun, right? And in the process, surely I will come across my One True Way to cook a chicken. In the meantime if I need stock, I guess I can compare some store-bought brands and see if there really is a difference like I’ve heard about.
Eat Your Books tells me that between the cookbooks I own, my smallish collection of Cook’s Illustrated and the handful of recipe blogs I follow, I have 85 roast chicken recipes to choose from. So, yeah, the list needs some managing. I have sorted it into general categories so I can try to keep some variety, which really helped make some initial cuts clear. Cutting out all recipes with honey (my husband’s allergic) or rosemary (I hate it) knocks about 20 off the list right away. Then there are a ton of duplicates of the “master recipe followed by 9 variations” type that I’m sure will knock of a bunch more. Beyond that, I want to try to focus on the ones with techniques or flavor profiles I haven’t tried before. Surely somewhere between 0 and 85 chickens there is a magic number that gives me 15 lbs of bones, provides enough experience roasting chicken that I feel more like an expert, and somehow isn’t so much chicken compared to the just 2 of us eating it that we never want to eat it again.
Anyhoo. If you are as into the idea of cooking like a billion chickens and developing some kind of unified theory of chicken roasting as I am, I’ll be keeping track of all that here.