The countdown is on to my absolute favorite FAVORITE ultimate FAAAVVORIITTTEE (Oprah voice) holiday of the year, Thanksgiving. Isn’t it the best? A holiday focused on spending time with people you love, lots of yummy homemade food and zero focus on materialism. Instead we give thanks for the good in our lives and enjoy a little R&R. I love everything about it.
I have yet to host my own Thanksgiving but I dream about it all the time. I think about how far in advance I would start planning, the table setting, the wine I would serve and the details of the menu. One day it will happen but for now I am ok with imagining how I would prepare and sharing a few ideas with you all over the next week in case you are still looking for some.
To start, stock. The foundation of so many good things but on Thanksgiving none quite as important as the gravy. I think we can all agree gravy makes everything better, right? Well I have come to the realization in my cooking endeavors that homemade stock makes everything better too, so if these two concepts can sync up minds will be blown. Key to this idea is the fact that you can actually do this homemade stock step now (or even a month or two) ahead of turkey day gravy making. Even better, I make this stock using mostly scraps stored in the freezer so it costs as much as an onion, a head of garlic, and maybe a carrot or two to make 8-12 cups of goodness. Gotta love that.
Here’s the trick, when I buy a rotisserie chicken I remove all the meat from the bones and put the remains into a large sealed bag I keep in the freezer. As I cook over the next few weeks I add stray garlic pieces, onion and carrot pieces or any extra bits of vegetable that could add to the flavor of stock. Once I have a full freezer bag (usually two chickens worth) I throw everything in my largest stock pot, fill it to the top with water and throw in some or all of the following depending on what I have stored up in the bag:
1-2 onion, cut into quarters
1 head of garlic unpeeled, cut in half crosswise
2-4 carrots, cut into thirds
2-4 celery stalks, cut into thirds
fresh herbs like thyme or dill if you have them on hand
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Bring the pot to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 4 hours. Stock will reduce slightly. Once done strain all ingredients, dumping the solids and moving the liquid to the fridge overnight to allow the fat to solidify on top. Remove the fat and separate the stock into freezer bags in 2 or 4 cup measurements labeling each bag accordingly, I usually end up with a little more than 10 cups worth. Lay them flat in your freezer and you end up with easy to use homemade stock ready to go when you need it. If you need an easy meal this week, get a chicken, save the bones and make this stock next weekend. You will be one step ahead of an incredible Thanksgiving meal, happy almost Thanksgiving!