So one of the little baggies hiding in the back of my freezer contains a handful of chicken bones leftover from a simple dinner of roasted chicken legs. With a little water, and some simple seasonings, we can extract the rich flavor, hiding in the bone marrow and little scraps of meat, and collagen from the bits of connective tissue clinging to the joints.
|Old chicken bones can easily become a flavorful stock|
If you are going to cook your stock for a long time, so don't be afraid to add in a little more water as it evaporates to maintain the volume of stock you're looking for. Once you feel like you've extracted as much flavor as you have time for, adjust your salt and pepper- if you've added more water along the way, you'll almost definitely want to add more salt and pepper- use your judgment. You can transfer your stock to another container, and refrigerate if you don't plan on using it right away. Your stock should be cloudy, have a yellowish color, and cling slightly to the back of a spoon. You can strain out the bits of herbs if you like, personally, I don't mind having some herbs floating in my stock, and it may even add a nice visual touch to whatever gravy, sauce, soup, or whatever you end up using it for.
|A simple, and flavorful chicken stock.|
To start our gravy, we'll need to shift gears. I'm starting this gravy with a simple roux. A roux is a common French or Creole technique for building a base for thickening a sauce or stew. It also provides most of the color to our gravy. Most gravy making methods use a roux or something nearly equivalent to a roux as a major component. All you need to make a roux is a hot pan, and equal parts fat and flour. The fat used is most often butter, but you can also use oil or even pan grease from cooked meats just as easily- it all depends on the taste and level of richness you're going for. I want to keep my gravy rich, but on the lighter side, so I'll start with olive oil.
|A basic roux starts as equal parts fat and flour- in this case olive oil|
|Basic roux just beginning to cook|
|Medium golden-brown roux just about ready.|
|Add the stock to the roux - get ready to whisk away the lumps before they set.|
|Reducing the gravy|
A good, simple gravy like this one is best served hot. It makes a great accompaniment to roasted chicken, or as a topping for rice or mashed potatoes.
|Our simple chicken gravy served with a piece of roasted chicken|
|Substitute stock for water when cooking grains or pastas to add a little extra flavor|
|Chicken stock and oil as a cooking liquid for couscous|
|Couscous with a little extra chicken flavor|
Remember- if you use your gravy and stock infused couscous in a meal with more chicken, save the bones, so you can do it again. We've barely scratched the surface of the multitude of things we can use leftover bones for, so don't let it go to waste. With a little patience and ingenuity, you can assemble nearly complete meals out of the scraps and a few very inexpensive pantry items.