26 July 2011

Use Real Chicken Broth, People

Okay, since I didn't win a free trip to BlogHer with my recipe using Knorr's new shelf-stable concentrated chicken stock, I'm not biting the hand that feeds me when I tell you that the stuff is rather nasty and not worth cooking with.

Should I start at the beginning? Sometime last month, BlogHer set up a competition. 200 bloggers got samples of Knorr Homestyle Chicken Stock, a product about to be released in the United States, to use in the creation of a recipe. Recipes were submitted, 8 people were chosen; there'll be a cook-off at the BlogHer conference next week. I entered, out of curiosity, and because I do like to cook and I thought it might be fun to create a recipe to toss into the stockpot.

A package containing four little tubs of stock arrived by mail. We examined the label:

Water, salt, modified palm oil, autolyzed yeast extract, sugar, carrots, chicken fat, lactic acid, leeks, maltodextrin, xanthan gum, potato starch, garlic, chicken powder, parsley, locust bean gum, malic acid, thiamine hydrochloride, natural flavor, disodium phosphate, ascorbic acid, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, caramel color, succinic acid, spice, mustard oil, beta caratene, coconut oil.

Let me tell you something. To make chicken stock, take the carcass of the roasted chicken you had for dinner, fling it in a pot, cover it with water, and boil. Strain off the bones, and put the stock in the fridge. When it's cold, scrape the fat off the top. Divide it up into 1 cup plastic containers and stick it in the freezer. DONE. Two ingredients. Hardly any work.

We forged ahead, disheartened by the long list of unpronounceable ingredients. I peeled the foil off the top of a little container, and sniffed. Cat food! It smells exactly like cat food! I lovingly made the meatballs, with a package of ground free-range, organic chicken from the philosophical butcher. I harvested herbs from my garden, and used an onion from my CSA. And then I poured disodium this and disodium that in the pan around the patties and put them in the oven. And I used the rest of the gums and acids to make the couscous. And I cried a little in my heart, because I was selling my soul for a chance at a free plane ticket and a free hotel room and a free conference pass.

We ate the chicken balls and couscous, with cats on the prowl. They thought it smelled like cat food.

And I submitted my recipe, and I didn't win. I'm kind of relieved, because really? I couldn't have lived with myself otherwise.

Try my meatballs. The trick is that you brown them on top of the stove, and then you finish them in the oven. The stock reduces a bit, making a little sauce for your couscous. Substitute rice or orzo, or just serve the meatballs with some nice crusty bread to sop up the sauce. (Oh, if you'd like some cooking photos with acerbic commentary, click on that picture of the ingredients - it'll take you to a Flickr set.)

And remember what Michael Pollan said: Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.

Chicken Balls with Couscous

4 T. olive oil (divided)
1 medium onion, minced
1 T. minced fresh tarragon
2 T. minced fresh parsley (divided)
¾ cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1.75 lbs ground chicken
1 T. kosher salt
1 t. ground pepper
3 cups homemade chicken stock
1 T. butter
1 ½ cups instant couscous
  1. Put 2 T. olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet. Add onion. Cook onion over fairly high heat for about 4 minutes, stirring often, until onion is softened and translucent. (Yes, start with a cold pan, it’ll be fine.) Add tarragon and warm through, about 1 minute.
  2. Put chicken in a large bowl. Add panko, 1 T. parsley, salt and pepper. Scrape onion/tarragon mixture from skillet into bowl. Mix everything together gently, with your hands.
  3. Form mixture into seven slightly flattened balls, and put on a cookie sheet to rest. They’ll be a bit smaller than a tennis ball. Set aside for about half an hour, and clean up the kitchen or supervise some homework – but don’t wash that skillet you cooked the onions in.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  5. Add the remaining 2 T. olive oil to that big oniony skillet, and put it on the stove to heat until the oil is shimmery. If the skillet’s not big enough for all seven patties to cook without crowding, work in two batches. Cook the patties for three minutes on each side.
  6. Turn the pan off, pour 1 cup of the chicken stock around the patties, and pop the pan in the oven.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes. [Another built-in pause! Make a salad, feed the cat and go water the herbs on the back porch.]
  8. When the chicken is almost done (meaning, the timer’s about to go off), bring the remaining 2 cups of stock to boil in a small saucepan. When the chicken timer goes off, add the butter and couscous to the saucepan, put the lid on it, and turn off the heat. Set the timer for another 5 minutes. The patties and the couscous will be done at the same time. Fluff up the couscous with a fork, and mix in the remaining 1 T. parsley.
  9. Serve patties with couscous on the side, with some of the now reduced chicken stock drizzled over both. Add a vegetable and you’ve got a meal.
Total time, about 90 minutes. Active time, about 30 minutes. In other words, you can do other stuff while you’re making dinner.

This will serve anywhere from four to seven people, depending on how hungry and/or greedy they are. In my house, the seven year old was so hungry that she needed two patties and more couscous and all of the ketchup.

Eat real food, people.


flutter said...

I tried the concentrated stuff one time and it was so salty and so gross I had to throw the dish out.

S said...

Umm, yum. Will you cook for me? Pretty please?

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I can neither try chicken stock... real or fake... nor meatballs. Alas.

Now if they wanted to make a vegan option...

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I love this.

I've made my own chicken stock, but it turns out I cook with stock a lot more frequently than I cook up chicken itself, so I do buy the factory-made stuff. There's a decent brand though that's organic, which mostly means it doesn't have all that crap in it.

Hey, question for you, guru. I've got about 10 lbs of halibut in my freezer that's a year old (my parents caught it last summer). It's too old for most purposes but I thought maybe fish stock? Fish stock recipes say to use bones but could I use a filet instead?

RuthWells said...

Oh, gah. That sounds vile (the stock, not the meatballs!).

Julia said...

You don't put celery and onion in with your carcass?

We don't have cats, but the refrigerator purrs nicely when it's well-stocked with stock.

Bibliomama said...

I put vegetables and herbs and a cinnamon stick in my stock and the stock is usually so good I hardly have to put anything else in when I make soup other than whatever the soup is (asparagus, squash...). I tried the stuff in the tubs once and found it hyper-salty and gross too. It's good that they didn't give you the chance to sell out - I'm always afraid if I got the chance I would take it, so it's good I don't really have anything anyone wants to pay for.

Patois42 said...

Not only boldface but uppercase that "homemade," k?

Anonymous said...

From what I can see, the only chicken mentioned on that ingredient list is "chicken powder". CHICKEN POWDER?

On the other hand the concentrated chicken base I buy at BJ's has as its first ingredient, chicken. Yup, it's got other things in it too in small amounts, and I know it would never pass Michael Pollan's lips, but Michael Pollan doesn't cook on the fly and I do.

I toss chicken or turkey carcasses into my crock pot and make my own stock when I've made a turkey or chicken, but freezer space for storing it is limited(oh, for a separate freezer) so the base is there for everyday cooking. I also use the beef base as I am yet to make a really good beef stock.

meno said...

I just came here for information about the cats. :)

YourFireAnt said...

I'm afraid I would've been a complete snot and submitted a recipe with real chicken broth in it instead of the Knorr crap.


Ilina said...

Nothing better than homemade chicken stock!

Unknown said...

REAL is best.

Sometimes for a quick soup I throw a bunch of thighs in a pot with herbs, let it simmer while I chop the veggies, sautee the veggies, and then pluck out the bones before dumping in the veggies. Dinner in 1 hr.

(cooking I can do, spelling not so much)

mayberry said...

Sounds delish! (Your recipe, not the chicken powder.)

leanne said...

That chicken stock/powder stuff... wow... and um, gross, nasty, ick.

The pictures are making me hungry.

Also, I usually start with a cold pan, too.