Sunday, November 8, 2009

Be Prepared. Or At Least Keep The Freezer "Stocked."

I like to be prepared.

By that, I mean I like to be really prepared.  How else to explain that I currently have 10, 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes in the pantry?  (One day soon, but probably not tomorrow, I’ll buy an equally ridiculous amount of Italian sausage and make red sauce.)  I also have nearly 20 dozen regular tampons in my bathroom cabinet.  (Never mind that I’m practically perimenopausal -- it was triple coupon week!)  And what about the 21 black Sharpie Markers in the desk drawer?  (Hmm -- can’t really explain that one.)
A person might reasonably assume that my need to “stock up” is a reflection of my recent divorce, but I’ve got to confess that emergency preparedness is part of my very nature.
Remember New Year’s Eve 1999?  I do.  I was able to enjoy myself very much, because I’d heeded warnings of a catastrophic, cataclysmic computer and banking industry meltdown.  Included in my Y2K “kit” were a stack of twenties, a bunch of ones, several jugs of drinking water, a few coolers of ice and a stash of D batteries that, nine years later, has yet to be depleted.  Just to be sure, I also prepared New Year’s Day dinner the day before.  No way was I stepping into the 21st century without my share of luck and fortune.  I made enough Hoppin’ John and collards to feed the entire neighborhood. With leftovers.

Still, nothing could’ve prepared me for last weekend.  Snarky Son (SS) came down with the flu – complete with a 103 fever, a rib-clutching cough and an unusual appetite for horror movies.  (True, it was Halloween, but I also attribute the scream cinema marathon to the fact that SS was too weary to change the channel.)

Darling Daughter (DD) then got a walnut lodged in her throat.  She could still breathe and speak, but after the doctor's office warned us of the possibility of "aspirating in her sleep," we spent three-and-a-half hours in the emergency room, which was overrun with all the flu-afflicted kids in Charlotte who weren’t at home scaring themselves silly in front of the TV.  Which explains why DD and I both availed ourselves of the complimentary ER hand sanitizer every 20 minutes until her release.

All of that came on the heels of four sleepovers, a rainy Halloween block party and a miserable evening of trick-or-treating with umbrellas.  Astonishingly, no one called DSS.  Or if they did, they must’ve given the wrong number.

And here's the capper:  I had no chicken stock in the freezer.

How could that be?  I had one kid with the flu and another with a bruised throat.  Without chicken stock, there'd be no vegetable soup, no gingered spinach mushroom soup and certainly no homemade chicken noodle soup.

You can be sure the stock shortage was temporary.  I couldn't control disease or destiny, but I surely could brew up a batch of broth.  Before long, the aroma wafted through the house, warming both the kitchen and, after a compliment from DD, my heart.  Not only was there orzo vegetable soup on the stove, but the freezer shelves are stocked.  I can now sleep easy.  As soon as I figure out what to do with those Sharpie markers.

Chicken Stock (with Chicken)
10 chicken thighs (along with any other parts you might want to toss in)
3 whole carrots, peeled
3 stalks of celery (with leaves)
1 large onion, cut in quarters
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
4 whole cloves
5-6 sprigs parsley
1 half lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Put all ingredients in a large stock pot, cover with 4-5 quarts of water, bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Skim foam from top as needed.  After one hour, remove chicken from pot, and allow thighs to cool to touch.  Separate meat from skin from bones, discarding skin, setting aside meat and returning bones to pot.  Allow stock to simmer an additional hour, skimming as needed and adding water if needed.  Allow to cool somewhat, then strain stock, first through a colander, and then, through cheesecloth.  Skim fat, taste, and add additional seasoning, if needed.  Chop thigh meat into small bite-size pieces and return to stock.  Freeze in quart-size plastic containers, dividing meat equally among containers.  You now have the makings for homemade chicken noodle soup any day of the week!  Or, try one of these Feminine Wiles recipes, Greek-Inspired Lemon Chicken Soup, Gingered Spinach and Mushroom Soup, or Chicken Orzo Vegetable Soup.
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