- I do not have children. I slept in until 9am for the last two days running.
- I did not host Christmas.
- My Christmas-cooking contributions were done in advance, in the quiet clean calm of my own kitchen, not in a counter-strewn window-fogged deadline-panicked chaos amidst the hysterical screams of young children trying to sell each other off, while an aunt who should totally know better adds fuel to the child-slavery fire. (Though I did pick up a fabulous four-year-old for the bargain price of twelve dollars, and they weren't even real dollars.)
- I'm currently relatively well.
- I really like cooking.
For the stock
- the giblets minus the liver (more on that in a moment)
- if possible - celery, bay leaves, pepper corns, some say carrots - peelings and offcuts of veg all welcome, except potato peelings
The first and most challenging step is to open the hitherto-mysterious bag(s). I had two bags, from two capons (the castrati of the chicken world). The liver can't go in the stock, as it'll make it bitter, so you have to separate out the liver. Get in there and use your (well-washed) hands (and wash them well afterwards, you're handling raw meat). I wasn't confident about my liver-recognising abilities, so Will came and helped for moral support, but it turned out it looks much like it usually does. The liver is soft and slimy and squishy and doesn't really hold itself together. All the other bits more or less come in solid bits or are solid little bullets of flesh. You can click on the picture above for a close-up - the liver is on the left, the other bits on the right. Pop the liver in a separate bowl; we'll get to that when we make the paté.
I'm sensitive to meat smells and tend to bury my nose in my scarf when we pass a butcher's, so the strong smell of these meats was a bit overwhelming. I just kept reminding myself of those incredibly rich-tasting French casseroles and sausages (andouillettes?) and that this would smell much better cooked. (Which it does.) Strength, my faint-hearted friends!
Roughly chop up the non-liver giblets. Some of the pieces are hard and bony inside. You want to cut through the bone, so the inner-bone goodness and flavour gets into the stock. I used our sharpest knife, and pressed down hard on the top of the blade with my other hand, and with a bit of see-sawing made it through. Two or three cuts through is plenty.
Chop up an onion (as roughly as you like) and whatever vegetable bits and bobs and offcuts you have to hand - this was the tops and the base of the celery that went with the cheese lunch yesterday.
Heat some oil or ghee in a saucepan. Many of the recipes I've found say to bring the meat to the boil - without roasting or frying it first! I've tried that before and the smell turned my stomach. I struggle with poached meat at the best of times; frying and roasting all the way. WE WILL FRY THE GIBLETS NICE AND TOASTY.
Still a tad nervy of the very rich raw meat smell, I put the onions and celery in to fry first, so their smell would get a headstart and help me out. And now, the star turn...
THE GIBLETS! On a high-to-medium heat, stirring quite often, a good five minutes' frying, until they're smelling like rich cooked meat instead of rich raw meat. (Cooked meat smells gooooood.)
Once it's smelling good to you, cover it generously with water (cold or hot, who's bothering) and start bringing it up to a simmer. Don't worry too much about adding too much water, you can always reduce a stock. Enough that everything can swim easily.
A few more helpers - bay leaves, herbs, peppercorns. We're mysteriously out of peppercorns (I buy it in such huge bags that this is a bidecadial happening) but had some ground pepper; the herbs are limited to thyme, which is growing in the garden, and I didn't feel like adding rosemary. Thyme does very well with soft inner meats like this.
Chuck 'em all in. No need to strip the thyme leaves off the stalks, the whole lot will be drained anyway.
Put the lid on and let it simmer for... Most recipes say 30-40 minutes. I'm (unscientifically) convinced that that isn't enough time for all the vegetable-herby-meaty goodness to make its way from the objects into the water, so I usually leave it on a low simmer for much longer, just quietly bubbling away in the kitchen.
Once it's done, drain it with a sieve, reduce it further if need be, let it cool, and then freeze it for future stews / soups / risottos / bologneses / what you will. I don't have pictures of that, as it's still on the stove, but here's the same process with chicken stock.
Boxing Day cooking! The capon carcass being turned into stock (top left, not suitable for my wheat-free favourite people as bits of stuffing crept in, here's how to do basic stock-from-a-roast), the non-liver giblets being turned into stock (top right) and liver paté in progress (bottom right).