Monday, March 24, 2008

Lost and Found in the Freezer

The plastic container tumbled out of its precarious position in the freezer, narrowly missing my bare foot before shattering on the oak floor. Time to clean out the freezer again, a chore that always gets put off until the day I can no longer gently place containers inside and be able to find them when I need them. A stock making binge and an overflow of overripe bananas pushed the freezer's capacity to the limit, so I began purging what I no longer could identify and what I could use today.

I found a frozen chicken carcass and two cups of meat, leftover biscuits and cornbread. All this provided the makings for Chicken and Dressing, a hearty, filling dish for a March night's supper.

First, I made a broth from the carcass. I put it in my favorite stockpot with water to cover with an onion, a carrot and a stalk of celery, all roughly chopped. A bay leaf and just the slightest amount of salt (perhaps a teaspoon) joined in. This came to a steady boil which I reduced to a barely bubbling simmer, skimming away any flotsam that surfaced. While the broth simmered, I tore the biscuits and cornbread (about 5 cups each) into small chunks and placed them in a casserole to dry out.

When the water was sufficiently enriched with chicken essence, I strained it and discarded the solids. The yield was about a quart of broth. In the clean stockpot, I melted 2 tablespoons of butter, and sweated two stalks of celery, chopped, and an onion, also finely chopped. As the vegetables softened, I added the broth, a bit of water (less than half a cup) and whatever appropriate seasonings were found in the spice drawer (poultry seasoning, salt and pepper). At this point, the oven was heated to 350 degrees.

The broth was poured over the chunked breads and the sauteed vegetables, along with three slightly frothed whole eggs stirred in as well. The final addition was the two cups of chopped, cooked chicken. I wrapped the casserole in foil and placed it in a moderate oven (300 to 350) for most of the afternoon. About 15 minutes before mealtime, I removed the foil and allowed the dressing to firm up and brown a bit. I probably overuse the word "yummy," but this was indeed a good, filling meal that pleased all three of my eaters. There were plenty of leftovers as well, which must be eaten tomorrow, because they most certainly will not end up in the freezer again.

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