Perfect Homemade Chicken Stock

I’ve been making homemade chicken stock pretty much since I started cooking. In college, it was just an economical way to stretch a $5 rotiserrie chicken. The problem is, I never graduated from my original technique: take all of the meat off a rotisserie chicken and reserve for another use; toss chicken carcass into giant pot with a halved onion, a carrot or two, and a stalk of celery; fill giant pot with water; simmer for hours; strain and freeze. The result of that method is certainly broth, it’s just not that good. Cloudy, thinly flavored, and a little gray – it’s fine for adding to a stew or sauce but certainly not something I would sip on it’s own.

It wasn’t until I spent six weeks in Asia last winter that I discovered that good stocks and broths aren’t only the backbone of a soup or a sauce, but culinary achievements in and of themselves. Of course, I knew this before going to Asia – I consume enough food literature to know that a good broth should stand on its own, needing no other embellishment to be enjoyed. But I didn’t really internalize how good a broth could be until I’d experienced the dumpling soups in Hong Kong, which consisted of broth, dumplings, maybe a few noodles, and that was it. No veggies floating around in these soups, or creams to thicken them, or salty slices of kielbasa. Then we moved on to Japan and consumed ramen for basically every other meal. There, broth took on another dimension of deliciousness – although for ramen it’s not so much about clarity and purity as it is about richness and salt.

Since coming home, over a year ago now, I have been pouring my heart and soul into making a perfect homemade chicken stock. I know precisely what I want to achieve: a stock that’s golden, clear, richly flavored, with just enough fat to lightly coat your mouth after a spoonful. I’ve been doing lots of research, and experimenting, and taking detailed notes on each batch.

After a recent batch, which I always seem to be putting away boiling hot at 10pm on Sunday night, Trevor looked and me and said “I can’t believe you make stock every weekend.”

“Not every weekend,” I corrected him. “But often,” he said. “It’s not like you tried it once and said ‘yep, I’ve made stock.’ You’re more like a Russian grandmother: ‘on Sundays I make stock, to feed the family and use up the chickens'”

That’s pretty much the long and the short of it.

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That Pale Green Moment // Asparagus, Leek, and Goat Cheese Souffles

Asparagus, Leek, and Goat Cheese Souffles {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Asparagus, Leek, and Goat Cheese Souffles {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

When this time of year arrives – that first week when the trees have those few, glorious days of pale greenness, and all of the spring flowers that have been patiently waiting their turn through the cold spring bloom at the same time; when we shed our layers and revel in the feeling of fresh air on our bare legs and everyone lights their grills for their first time in months so that whole neighborhoods smell of smoky charcoal – I feel as though something that I’ve been waiting for, without even realizing how desperately I was waiting, has finally arrived. It feels as though things should change, routines should fly out the window, evenings should be reserved exclusively for long conversations on the porch with old friends and cold beers, and the biggest decision to be made during the day should be whether to spend it at the beach, hiking somewhere densely green, or simply sipping lemonade in the backyard. Of course, for most of us, routines don’t change just because it’s almost summer, as much as years and years of summer vacations may have conditioned us to feel like they should. But we can certainly try to do a little more to embrace the season, and let some of our responsibilities slide, just for a while.

Asparagus, Leek, and Goat Cheese Souffles {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Asparagus, Leek, and Goat Cheese Souffles {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

I took yesterday off, partly to get my life organized between trips, and partly just to savor the day. I woke up early to long morning shadows, a cool breeze on my face, cool clean sheets, and the first chirps of birds. Waking up early is such a pleasure when it’s a choice and not a necessity. I spent the day doing a mix of chores and treating myself to small breaks, like a trip to the bookstore to pick up a stack of new paperbacks for the summer and an invigorating workout. I walked everywhere. Something about the day kickstarted my creativity again. By the end of the day I’d jotted 5 or 6 new recipe ideas in my notebook, something I haven’t done in months. It’s a good reminder of how important it is to rest – and that even days with chores and errands can be restful if you approach them with the right mindset. After a winter spent in a melancholy fog and a hectic spring, I need more days like this. Days that open me up to hope and possibility and peace again. Almost summer days.

Asparagus, Leek, and Goat Cheese Souffles {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Asparagus, Leek, and Goat Cheese Souffles {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

I wanted to make something to celebrate this time – something light and effervescent, that would capture this fleeting, pale green moment. Perhaps it’s a bit literal, but asparagus souffles – pale green, quickly deflating – are what came to mind. With blanched asparagus, butter-sauteed leeks, and fresh tangy goat cheese pureed into the batter, these souffles are light, savory, and just slightly vegetal. They would be the perfect addition to a brunch or as a light lunch all on their own. Souffles can be intimidating but really, does it matter if they fall? They will still be just as airy and delicious. I promise you no one will complain.

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Asparagus, Leek, and Goat Cheese Souffles {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Asparagus, Leek, and Goat Cheese Souffles

Makes 8-10 souffles. Adapted from Simply Recipes and All Recipes

  • 1/2 lb. asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small leek, washed and sliced into half-moons
  • 4 TBS butter, divided, plus more for buttering the ramekins
  • 3 TBS cake flour (AP flour is a fine substitute)
  • 1 1/4 c. whole milk
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled
  • 6 egg whites
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Generously butter eight 6-0z. ramekins and set aside on a baking tray.
  2. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus pieces and cook for 2-3 minutes, until bright green and just tender. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water two to three times, until asparagus is room temperature. Drain thoroughly and place in a blender.
  3. Return the small pot to the stove, over medium-low heat. Melt 1 TBS of the butter in the pot and add the leeks. Saute leeks until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add to the blender with the asparagus.
  4. In a large pot, melt the remaining 3 TBS of butter over medium heat. Add the cake flour and stir into the butter, cooking until golden brown and nutty smelling, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking to make a smooth batter between additions. Once all the milk is added and the batter is smooth, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer over medium-low heat, then remove from the heat. Pour into the blender with the asparagus. Blend the mixture on high until smooth, then add the egg yolks and blend again. Pour the batter back into the pot (no longer over the heat), and stir the goat cheese into the warm batter until melted. Set batter aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold 1/2 of the egg whites into the batter until incorporated. Very lightly fold the second 1/2 of the egg whites into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins, filling 3/4 of the way to the top. Bake the souffles for 15-20 minutes, until puffed and lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Ingredient of the Week: Strawberries // Strawberry Gazpacho with Grapes and Goat Cheese

Strawberry Gazpacho with Grapes and Goat Cheese {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Strawberry Gazpacho with Grapes and Goat Cheese {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

It’s been ages since I’ve done an Ingredient of the Week series, mostly because it’s been ages since we’ve had any hint of life in our garden. But even though the garden is several weeks behind where it was last year, thanks to the weirdly cold spring we had, it’s finally starting to move out of that frustrating stage where everything’s tiny and you use all your time weeding and waiting, into that lush, productive stage I dream about during the depths of winter.

The first crop to really come into its own this year was the strawberries. We planted 75 little plants last spring, and although it was torture to pick off the blossoms last summer, allowing the plants to establish themselves but forgoing the chance of fruit, we’ve been rewarded several times over for our patience, with pounds of fruit ripening on an almost daily basis this summer. In just a little over a week we’ve already picked over 8 pounds of gorgeous berries, which is a lot for just two people. I’ve done a little canning, a little baking, and a little drink-making, but we still have a lot of berries to work through, so we’re going to do strawberry week – i.e. I’ll be posting new strawberry recipes here every day this week, until you all are completely sick of hearing about them.

Strawberry Gazpacho with Grapes and Goat Cheese {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Although strawberries are usually recognized for their sweetness, we’re kicking things off with a savory recipe. Strawberry gazpacho is not a new idea, but it is certainly a good one, as the balance of acid and sweetness in fresh strawberries  is actually pretty similar to the balance in a very ripe tomato. I did a little research on strawberry gazpacho recipes, but ultimately decided that none of the recipes out there had quite the mix of flavors I was looking for, so I came up with my own. Fortunately, I was really pleased with how well it turned out. It has a little bit of everything red in it – strawberries, tomatoes, red pepper, red onion and red chilies, plus a bit of cucumber, garlic, and basil (not red, but very necessary). Marinated in olive oil and champagne vinegar, then pureed into a smooth and frothy soup, it’s well-balanced and refreshing.  I topped it with red grapes, for sweetness, a goat cheese cream, for richness, and a handful of toasted pine nuts. I liked it so much I had some for breakfast yesterday – it definitely meets my serving of fresh fruit or veggies at every meal requirement, so that’s an added bonus. It’s also super easy, so I imagine we’ll be blending up several more batches of this before the summer is over.

Strawberry Gazpacho {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Past Ingredients of the Week

RhubarbRhubarb-Prosecco Spritzer; Rhubarb Custard Fool; Rhubarb Recipe Round-Up; Persian Rhubarb and Beef with Rice; Rhubarb-Ginger Bars

English PeasSmashed Pea, Dill, and Feta Crostini; Green Pea Fritters with Herbed Creme Fraiche; English Pea Recipe Round-Up; Green Pea Rum Cooler; A Salad of Bacon, Peas, and Fennel

CarrotsSavory Carrot, Feta, and Almond Baklava; Carrot Cake Crepe Cake; Carrot, Grapefruit, and Mango Smoothie; Moroccan Carrot Panini with Olive Tapenade

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Strawberry Gazpacho with Grapes and Goat Cheese {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Strawberry Gazpacho with Grapes and Goat Cheese

A Katie at the Kitchen Door original recipe. Serves 4-6.

  • 3/4 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 2 1/2 c. sliced)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped (about 3/4 c. chopped)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about 2 c. chopped)
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 large heirloom tomato, cored and roughly chopped (about 3/4 lb.)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1-3 tsp red fresno chili, seeded and finely chopped (taste for heat and adjust amount accordingly)
  • 1/2 c. packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. champagne vinegar
  • 1 TBS sea salt
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1 small bunch grapes
  • 2 TBS pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet
  1. Combine first 11 ingredients (strawberries through salt) in a large bowl and stir to coat all ingredients with the oil and vinegar. Cover and let marinate at room temperature for three hours. Transfer to a blender and blend on high until smooth and frothy. Serve at room temperature or chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  2. Just before serving, whisk together the goat cheese and heavy cream until smooth. Pour the gazpacho into bowls and top each with a swirl of the goat cheese cream, a handful of grapes, and a few toasted pine nuts. Serve with crusty bread.

Ingredient of the Week: Carrots // Carrot-Grapefruit-Mango Smoothie

Carrot-Grapefruit-Mango Smoothie {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

I was planning to post this last night, but for some reason when I got home from my run in the 35° weather, I just didn’t feel like a cold veggie smoothie. I felt a lot more like this pumpkin, black bean, and chorizo soup (delicious, we added half a jar of tomato jam for sweetness and it was perfect). But this morning when I woke up, carrot-grapefruit-mango smoothies were the first order of business.

Some of you who follow me on twitter or instagram may have heard that I recently became the owner of a Vitamix. And a pretty fancy one at that. It was a bonus of sorts from my real job (I love the thing, but I can’t ever see paying $600 for a blender), and perhaps it’s just because it’s new, but I’ve been blending up a storm. Green smoothies (or orange ones as it may be), have become a daily treat, and I love starting my day with them – they’re so immediately energizing, I feel like I should make a video game powering-up noise when I drink them. I know a lot of people who think drinking green smoothies is a completely frou-frou thing to do, but I’ve been trying to convert them one sip at a time. Seriously, green smoothies taste like mangoes or bananas or apples, not spinach. The spinach is just a bonus.

Carrot-Grapefruit-Mango Smoothie {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Since I made drinks for both rhubarb week and pea week, I figured it was only logical to whip up a carrot based drink as well. Carrot juice and booze did not strike me as a stellar combination (although I think this could change my mind), so I decided to go the healthy route and turn my stubby little garden carrots into a frothy smoothie. The trick to making a smooth drink from whole, raw carrots is to peel and grate them first – a little time consuming, but worth it for the creamy texture you’ll get (and much cheaper than buying carrot juice!). The Vitamix could probably handle them just cut up into chunks, but I’m still getting the hang of the correct ratios for using it, so I grated them this time around as well. The result was a thick, vibrant, tangy breakfast full of beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. Drink your vegetables!

Carrot-Grapefruit-Mango Smoothie {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Carrot-Grapefruit-Mango Smoothie

Serves 1. Inspired in part by this and the Carrot-Grapefruit Juice in Vegetarian Everyday.

Note: This can be made in any blender, but if you’re using a weaker one, you’ll want to chop up your grapefruit and blend on high. If you’re using a Vitamix, you could probably get away with not grating the carrots, but I like the extra smooth texture that grating them gives.

  • 1 c. water
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 ruby red grapefruit, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 c. frozen mango
  • 2-3 ice cubes (only if using Vitamix)
  • maple syrup or agave to taste (optional)
  1. Place ingredients in blender in order listed. Blend on high until thick and smooth. Serve immediately.

A Day Off // Roasted Carrot and Tahini Soup with Chickpeas

Roasted Carrot and Tahini Soup with Chickpeas {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

I took today off, not to do anything in particular, but just to have a whole day to myself, to catch up on things, clean, get organized, write, etc. A one day staycation, if you will. I love days like this. It helps that the temperature got up to 50 (50! Spring! I can feel it!) and that after a full week of sneezing I’m finally feeling better.

I wanted to ask – how were everyone’s Valentine’s Days? Mine was just right. Trevor brought me flowers (yellow, my favorite) and chocolate and 9 little airplane bottles of booze with 9 accompanying packets of hot chocolate – boy knows how I like to drink. We had planned on going ice skating, but I got home from work too late. Instead, we meandered downtown just to see if we could find space at a bar for a few drinks. We ended up at Saloon, a very hipster-esque underground bar/restaurant. They were having a singles Swing Dance night, and it was fun to drink our fancy cocktails and nibble on sliders and watch people. It was even more fun to be with my favorite person and just talk and laugh. I feel so lucky to have that.

Valentine's Day Loot

Sorry, enough schmaltz, back to my staycation. No day at home is complete for me without a little bit (or a lot) of cooking, and today was no different. I made another batch of these grapefruit and ginger thumbprint cookies (note to self, always make extra dough so you can whip up a batch of these in 10 minutes!), I worked on a spring salad feature for an online magazine (which you’ll have to wait to hear more about), I’m in the process of testing out Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil‘s new book, Breakfast for Dinner, and I made this roasted carrot and tahini soup, the perfect healthy and tasty treat for an afternoon lunch at home. I’ve tried a lot of different carrot soups over the past years, and never found one that I liked, until I realized that the trick was in roasting the carrots first. Now, I use this technique with most vegetable puree-type soups that I make. This particular soup was inspired by Smitten Kitchen – I used slightly different amounts and spices, I roasted the carrots instead of boiling them, and I went for a yogurt-tahini sauce instead of a thinner tahini-lemon sauce, but the gist of the two recipes is basically the same. The flavors are lovely and bright, the puree smooth and the crunchy spiced chickpeas addictive. I might just have another bowl for dinner.

Roasted Carrot and Tahini Soup with Chickpeas {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

Roasted Carrot and Tahini Soup with Chickpeas

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen. Serves 3-4.

  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch slices
  • 4 TBS olive oil, divided
  • coarse sea salt, to taste
  • 1 small onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 c. chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 c. cooked chickpeas, or canned chickpeas, drained of their liquid
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 6-oz. container plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 TBS tahini
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss the carrots with 2 TBS of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast the carrots for 25 minutes, flipping once, after 15 minutes of cooking.
  2. About 5 minutes before the carrots are done, heat 1 TBS of the remaining olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion, and saute for 3 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add the minced garlic, coriander, and red pepper flakes and saute for 2 minutes longer, until the garlic and spices are fragrant. Add the roasted carrots to the pot along with the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cooked chickpeas to the same roasting pan you used for the carrots. Add the last 1 TBS of olive oil, to the chickpeas, then sprinkle with the cumin, paprika, and sea salt. Toss to coat evenly, then roast for 15 minutes.
  4. Blend the soup in a blender until it is a smooth puree. If it is too thick, add more broth to the blender. Add the lemon juice to the hot soup and pulse a few times to incorporate. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon or salt if necessary.
  5. Spoon the soup into bowls. Top each with a large spoonful of yogurt and 1 TBS of tahini, as well as a handful of the roasted chickpeas.

Roasted Carrot and Tahini Soup with Chickpeas {Katie at the Kitchen Door}