Ode to a rice cooker

Rice cooker

My culinary workhorse.

I hate to admit this, but I have a thing for kitchen gadgets. I like to talk a big game about how I don’t really care about owning a lot of “stuff,” that it’s experiences that matter to me, but… as soon as I step into the kitchen, my hippy-ish anti-materialistic philosophy kinda flies out the window. My sous-vide circulator, my pressure cooker, my Vitamix, my bullet smoker—they all bring me a lot of joy. And, hell, I’d argue they help me create experiences—delicious dining experiences—and don’t just sit there looking pretty and collecting dust.

The gadget I use the most in my kitchen—once or twice a day!—isn’t as sleekly powerful as the Vitamix or as geekily futuristic as the sous-vide machine. In fact, it’s probably one of the most common kitchen appliances in the world.

It’s my rice cooker.

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RECIPE: Delicious Low-FODMAP Chicken Stock

One cup of delicious low-FODMAP chicken stock

One cup of liquid gold.

I went through a couple of ideas when I was deciding which recipe to post to this blog first. The delicious “Moorish paella,” made with risotto rice, harissa and merguez sausage, that’s become a staple around these parts?. Or the Martha Stewart-inspired flourless chocolate cake that is, I swear, lighter, creamier and just plain better than the regular gluten-filled cakes we used to enjoy. Or maybe an adaptation of the Ottolenghi chicken-and-wild-rice salad that makes the best, most lunchable leftovers?

I had settled on the paella, when I opened my freezer to pull out some frozen chicken stock in which to simmer the rice. As it happened, I was fresh out. And then it occurred to me—maybe I should hold off on a more complicated dish and focus on something simple, a “building block” of low-FODMAP eating, if you will.

Because the truth is, there are a LOT of recipes that call for some kind of stock, particularly when you’re cooking with a lot of rices and grains, as we low-FODMAP eaters often are. And while it’s often tempting to just buy a can or tetra pack from the grocery store, they can often be a digestive mine field, as some combination of onions and garlic are almost always used to flavor commercial stocks. Plus, homemade stock just tastes so much better! You can use it in soups, stews, sauces, gravies—keep it in one- or two-cup portions in the freezer and pull ’em out as needed.

It’s actually super easy to make stock. Preparation time is under 10 minutes, and as long as you’re around to let it simmer away for a few hours, you can let your stove do most of the work for you. Typically, stocks are made by lightly simmering chicken carcasses (bones and however much meat you have on hand, or to taste)  along with a bunch of aromatics—tasty vegetables that enhance and bring out the flavor of the bones.

The problem for us low-FODMAP eaters is that two of the most commonly and heavily-used aromatics in stocks are onions and garlic. (This is why eating at restaurants can be so difficult—beware of sauces and soups!) So to make our low-FODMAP stock, and to make it delicious, we’re going to have to do two things: replace the missing aromatics, and cook it longer so as to bring out more flavor to compensate for what’s missing. We’ll add green onion tops to replace some of the missing taste and aromas from the onions, and throw in some extra carrots to fill it out even further. And while many recipes will tell you to simmer your stock for at least an hour or two, I’ll advise going even longer—or even better, using a pressure cooker if you have one (in which case you’ll only need to cook it for 45 minutes or so).

Low-FODMAP Chicken Stock Ingredients

I made mine in a pressure cooker, but a regular pot is more than fine too.

delicious low-fodmap chicken stock

Ingredients

Bear in mind that stock-making is an inexact science, and not to take the measures here too seriously. If you’ve got extra carrots or chicken, throw ’em in. Don’t worry about the exact amount of water either. It’ll all taste good in the end if you simmer it long enough.

3-4lbs of chicken carcass (this can be the body of a roast chicken you’ve already cooked and eaten, plus whatever bones and scraps of meat you’ve saved, or you can always buy inexpensive chicken backs at most grocery stores.)
3-5 carrots, chopped on the bias (diagonally); don’t worry about peeling them, just give ’em a good scrub
3-5 stalks of celery, chopped on the bias
One bunch of green onions, chopped on the bias (JUST the green parts)
3 or so bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp salt (don’t overdo it on the salt, as the stock will reduce and you can always add more later)

Instructions

1. Throw everything in a big pot.

2. Add enough cold tap water to cover everything in there by a couple of inches. Cover and gently bring to a boil.

3. Just when it’s started to boil, adjust the heat way back down again to just about minimum. Do not  over-boil your stock. Let it just gently simmer away; the water should be just moving below the surface. Then back away.

4. Check for taste every hour or so. Remember that it won’t quite taste “right” until you add a little salt, so if you’re not sure, scoop out half a cup or so, sprinkle with salt, stir and then taste.

5. When it’s ready to taste (or has reduced as far as you’re willing to go), pour stock through a strainer (or a cheesecloth, or even a coffee filter) into a large bowl. Make sure you push on the solids with a wooden spoon to get every last delicious drop. Strain it again if you like, until it’s as clear as you want it (the old story about French consommés was that they were so clear you could read the date on a penny at the bottom of a bowl, but you probably don’t want to go that far).

6. Let cool. If you want a really non-fatty stock, let it sit in the fridge overnight and skim off the solid white fact that will have accumulated on top.

Store for up to three days in the fridge, or even better, save some in the freezer. I like to ladle two-cup portions into freezer bags and then label them with the serving size and date. When I need some for a recipe, I just pull out however as many bags as I need and let them thaw.

It doesn’t get that much easier than making your own chicken stock, and once you taste it, it’s hard to go back to store-bought. And if you’re on a low-FODMAP diet, that’s probably not even an option anyway—but this is one case where you won’t be missing out on flavor. Isn’t it nice when it works out that way?

What’s your favorite use for chicken stock? Let me know in the comments below!