Kudos to my brilliant readers for sleuthing out my super secret picture titled "stock." I know how to take all the fun out of guessing games...
So. It all started the other day when Husband began thumbing through that good old ode to offal, Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast, and stumbled upon a recipe for braised pig's trotters with chicken, and began shopping.
What exactly are trotters, you might be asking? Someone asked me recently if "trotter" was polite term for, erm, Rocky Mountain Oyster (but he didn't use that term, either). No, no, nothing that delicate. A pork trotter is the foot of the pig. I haven't had many pig's feet in my days, although I do recall seeing them pickled, and in a jar, and staring at them in mild horror at the thought of eating one of those tiny little feet.
The idea of the recipe is to braise the trotters in a bottle of red wine, pluck the meat from them, and then braise the meat with cut up bone-in chickens. All was going fine until we came to the point of plucking the meat. No meat. A lot of fat and connective tissue, but no meat of which to speak. Hm. They did, however, smell quite tasty - Husband compared it to precisely the aroma of a really gamey Côtes du Rhône or Châteauneuf. We pondered the issue for a bit, and he bisected another foot with a knife, and upon finding no meat again, decided to just set the feet aside and braise the chicken in the pork stock. He added some baby Yukon Gold potatoes and a few turned carrots, and after what seemed like an eternity (I have no patience, so when someone else is cooking, it always seems as though an eternity has passed), we finally sat down to eat. And eat, and eat. The chicken was meltingly tender, the stock was practically sticky with gelatin, and rich beyond belief - so rich, in fact, that we were certain we could fill the pot back up with water and get another equally delicious soup.
We had a few soup leftovers, and the next night we staggered in from the bitter cold from work and set out to partake of them. We knew we were onto something good when the leftovers plopped from their containers in the manner of a Jello mold - no joke. A meat jello mold, with bits of chicken and potatoes and carrots floating within the nearly clear stock. If it hadn't been 1 in the morning, I would have taken a picture.
Rhulman stock method, take two (click here for take one). Into the oven (at 180) went the chicken bones, the pig's trotters, and 8 quarts of water. Overnight it sat, and on through the next day. Aromatics were added and still it cooked, and then was strained.
At any rate, all of this to say that the secret to an amazingly rich stock (and soup), with a crazy mouth-filling meaty and savory quality, thanks to their huge amounts of gelatin, is pig's trotters. I believe chicken feet will have a similar effect, but I haven't tested that theory yet. This stock can literally be refrigerated after straining and then sliced and placed into bags for the freezer. The best thing about the trotters is that they are remarkably cheap - 3 large trotters were $5 at the Crestview Asian Market (High & Crestview, in Clintonville); one of the only places in Columbus where one can purchase trotters, chunks of pig's blood, soft-shell turtles (but you would never eat a turtle, would you?) and live frogs, all in one visit. Heaven.
Two recipes! The soup and the resulting stock.
Pig's Trotter and Chicken Stew - Serves 4, recipe adapted from Fergus, courtesy Husband
Scrub the pig's trotters. Place three thawed pig’s feet in an 8 Quart stock pot with four chopped carrots, four stalks chopped celery, 10 cloves garlic, 12 peppercorns and one large onion chopped. Add one bottle red wine (no, it doesn’t matter what it is) and one (32 oz) container of chicken stock. Bring to a simmer on stove top so that scum may be skimmed. Transfer to 350 degree oven and cook uncovered for 4 hours.
Remove trotters from broth and allow to cool. In a separate pan render fat from 8 slices of bacon. Remove bacon and reserve. In Bacon fat brown chicken - pieces from 2 cut-up chickens. When chicken pieces are browned, place in trotter liquid. When finished browning chicken, pour off any fat and deglaze pan with wine or some of the trotter liquid and add to pot. At this point, if any meat was on trotters it may be pulled and added to the pot. Cook uncovered at 350 degrees for 1.5 hours. Before serving, add 2 pounds of lightly steamed baby potatoes and 1 pound lightly steamed carrots. If you wish, you can pull the chicken from the bones or simply serve the chicken pieces in a bowl and then ladle the stock over, garnishing with the reserved bacon.
Stock - makes 8 quarts of stock
Place the trotters and all of the leftover chicken bones, skin, and meat into an 8 quart stock pot and cover with water. Place in a 180 degree oven and allow to cook overnight. In the morning, add more water to bring level back up to 8 quarts and allow to cook for another 8 hours or so (you could probably strain it after the first 8 hours, but this is how we did it, so I wanted to be sure to give you the same instructions). Add 4 ribs of chopped celery, 6 large carrots, chopped, one large onion, chopped, and a few cloves of mashed garlic. Return to the oven and cook for one more hour. Allow the stock to cool slightly and then pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. At this point, you could pour it through a filter, but it was far too thick - even fresh out of the oven - to go through a filter. Fortunately, when you put the stock into the fridge, it will naturally separate, any detritus falling to the bottom of the bowl. Freeze and enjoy!!!