I had two conflicting desires on Saturday night. Both G and I had a dramatically strong hankering for a home cooked dinner before we went to the birthday party of an actress/formula one engineer friend of ours. (Doesn’t that sound like the most awesome friend – acting and formula one engineering – in truth it’s two awesome friends who happen to be twin sisters!) However, we had nothing in the house, little time to cook and categorically no desire to go shopping. Only two solutions presented themselves, either we bit the bullet, ordered take out and succumbed to a glorious MSG coma or we raided the freezer/store cupboard.
As I’m sure you all know, raiding the freezer and store cupboard is sometimes just plain embarassing. Last time G and I tried it, we found frozen gin and tonic (we’re convinced someone gave us watered down gin as it froze solid) and that’s about it. That day MSG won. However, yesterday I felt very smug as we stumbled across frozen chicken breasts (from when I needed chicken legs and a whole chicken was cheaper than just the legs – crazy supermarkets), some store cupboard chinese noodles and, to cap it all off, frozen duck consommé. Noodle soup here we come.
Now I know it sounds ridiculous to have duck consommé in your freezer, and I guess it is, but there’s a fantastic way to make consommé that doesn’t involve all that tedious clarification with egg white, called ice filtration. I outline how to cook it below, but it is as simple as freezing and then thawing and it gives you a truly clear, golden consommé
Once we threw in some shallow fried shallots, spring onions, coriander and thinly sliced carrots, we poached the chicken, made delicious chicken crackling and we were well on our way to a lovely dinner – it’s all about the fixin’s!
- Broth (here I used leftover duck consomme but most good broths would do)
- Skinless Chicken breasts (I had two)
- Chicken skin from the breasts
- Packet noodles
- 2 x spring onions thinly sliced (white and green)
- 4 x banana shallots thinly sliced
- Handful oyster mushrooms thinly sliced
- Half a carrot sliced into very thin batons
- Handful chopped coriander
- To poach the chicken breasts, season the and wrap the meat in cling film very tightly, sealing the ends with a twist (imagine you’re making a Christmas cracker). Simmer some water gently and place the chicken breasts in the water for ~30 minutes until cooked. If you’re lucky enough to have a sous vide, set it to 63 celsius and place the chicken in for 30-40 minutes. Once cooked, slice to desired thickness.
- To make the chicken crackling, take the skin, season and place in a shallow tray on some grease-proof paper or a silicone mat. Place some more paper (or another mat) on top and place another tray on top of that to weigh it down. Then place in a pre-heated oven at 190 celsius for 20-30 minutes or until crisp. Blot with paper towel to remove excess rendered chicken fat. This method works with any skin and is actually how I often make pork crackling.
- Heat some oil (vegetable, corn or any other high smoke point neutral oil) in a frying pan. You need enough oil to cover the very thin slices of shallot. Place on a high heat and add the shallots once cooked. The oil should bubble really vigorously when you add the shallots, if it doesn’t the oil isn’t hot enough (I test with one slice first). Once the oil stops bubbling and the shallots are brown, remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towel and season with salt.
- Place a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on a medium high heat and add the sliced oyster mushrooms. Season with salt and toss in the oil. They will only take a minute or two to cook and should have a lovely soft texture with a great meaty flavour.
- Cook the noodles according to packet instructions, warm the broth and serve.
Bonus recipe (Duck consommé)
- 2x Duck carcasses and wings (I always buy duck legs/breasts as a whole duck, joint and freeze)
- 1kg Pork ribs
- 500g uncooked ham joint
- 10 x banana shallots
- Chopped carrots
- 2 x thumbsize pience of ginger
- Bulb of garlic (halved)
- Aromatics (Cinnamon stick, star anise, black and pink peppercorns, bay leaf, coriander seed, szechuan peppercorns)
- Dry sherry (or chinese rice wine)
- Water to cover
- Roast the duck carcasses/wings, and pork ribs until golden (~1hr at 180 celsius), cover with honey and roast for another 10 minutes.
- Roast the halved banana shallots and the garlic until golden.
- In a stockpot, heat a thin layer of oil and toast the spices, add the carrots,ginger and garlic and sweat. Deglaze the pan with the sherry or rice wine.
- Add the roasted bones/wings, the ribs and the ham joint, cover with water and bring to simmer skimming off impurities.
- Simmer for 4-5 hours. Strain. At this point you have a lovely stock (N.B. I have added no salt other than the ham joint – I always make stocks without salt as you can add salt later in dishes but if you have a salty stock it’s ruined). Sometimes I reduce the stock a bit further to intensify the flavour.
- To ice filter and make a consomme you simply freeze the stock. Once frozen, place in a double layer of muslin or cheese cloth and leave at room temperature to thaw over a bowl. The gelatin in the stock will remove the impurities and you will be left with a clear, beautiful consommé. This method will work for any gelatin rich stock (i.e., meat based) to clarify a vegetable stock, either add gelatin and ice filter (at which point it’s not strictly vegetarian) or clarify the traditional method with egg whites.