There are two basic cooking components that benefit from having been prepared ahead of time at home: Chicken (or turkey) stock and tomato (marinara) sauce. While preparing my favorite Chicken Pot Pie a few days ago, I bought a whole chicken, more than the recipe requires, and cut it up to make a large amount of stock. I had about a quart of stock left over that I froze to use another time. While commercially manufactured broth and stock is OK for many uses in the kitchen it cannot match homemade for richness and flavor. You can also pour homemade stock into ice cube trays, freeze it, and store the cubes in a zip-lock bag to add to vegetables, rice, or sauces as needed. Another good means of making stock is to freeze the carcasses of a couple of rotisserie chickens and use them to flavor the stock. Here’s how you do it, all proportions approximate: place chicken parts in a stock pot, add a medium, peeled and split carrot, half of a whole peeled onion, six peppercorns, and a tablespoon or two of salt (to taste), and cover with about an inch of water. Cover and bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 35 – 45 minutes. Skim off any foam that may form on the surface. Remove the chicken and let the stock cool. Pour through a strainer to remove the solids. At this point you can proceed with your dish or freeze the stock for future use. This could not be easier and discerning tasters will notice the difference.
I was recently shopping for groceries with a family member and we were asked to bring home some spaghetti sauce. I was reminded of the last time I brought home a jar of the stuff and how disappointed I was at its flat, uninteresting flavor. Whenever possible I make my own. True it takes an additional hour or two but if done ahead of time you have delicious tomato sauce, or marinara, to which you can add mushrooms, sausage, cheese, or Italian herbs at the last minute to, no doubt, rave reviews. Marinara, roughly translated, means “In the style the sailor’s make” and is made with tomatoes, onions, herbs, garlic – but no fish.
The first recipe takes about an hour to prepare and makes 4 cups of amazingly flavorful marinara. If you want a very complex, nuanced sauce for those special dishes, this is the one to make. The recipe suggests running the cooked sauce through a food processor but I have equal success with my handheld, immersion blender. This recipe is from the thoughtful folks at Cooks Illustrated Magazine. Marinara Sauce
The second recipe is taken from Williams-Sonoma‘s website where you can find some very good recipes and be tempted to purchase the high-end cooking equipment they purvey. This recipe makes twice as much sauce (8 cups) as the previous recipe and is a bit easier to prepare. This is a terrific sauce for assembling a big batch of spaghetti or lasagna or you can freeze it in pint or quart containers for future use. A pint of sauce sealed in a zip-lock bag and frozen flat on a baking sheet can be stacked in the freezer and you will never have to buy commercially prepared sauce again. Marinara Tomato Sauce