I’ve been promising for ages that we would have a conversation about chicken stock. Well, hopefully you haven’t been holding your breath but if you have, today’s your lucky day.
This isn’t really a recipe per se, it’s more of a method. There are many ways to make chicken stock, including using whole chicken, roasting a whole chicken and then making it into stock, buying chicken wings or parts and making stock, et cetera. Honestly, there is no ‘right’ way to make it, despite what some folks will tell you, though there are a couple of things you need to make it taste the way you’re used to.
The Standard for making stock is the use of celery, carrots and onions, also known as mirepoix. Having these aromatics is the most important part of stock making. In fact, if you have no chicken at all, you can use these items to make a very simple and tasty vegetable stock.
You get big rewards for something so easy. Your stock will be flavorful, lower in sodium than anything you’ll find at the grocery store, you have a frozen insurance policy for a quick dinner most nights of the week. If you remember to take a container out of the freezer before you go to work and plop it on the counter, you’re more than halfway there. You’ll also be saving yourself about $2 a quart by making your own and since you’re making it out of something you were going to throw away anyway you’re almost making money back.
So, about twice a month we will have a roast chicken. One big fat chicken will feed the two of us for at least three meals and up to a whole week if I play my cards right. Nick knows that when we’re having a roast chicken all of the bones go in a bag in the fridge or freezer because I’ll make stock. Who am I kidding – our friends know this too, and they all pool bones after dinner to go into a bag (they know they will be rewarded with dessert, I think). Once we are done with picking the meat off the chicken a day or two later, the whole carcass goes into a big pot and stock making ensues.
You want to use your biggest heavy-bottomed soup pot for this, one that is at least 6 quarts but it should be more like 8 or 10. You want to give everything enough room to move around and mingle. And since this takes a few hours, you want to make enough to have it be worth your while. Mine also has a built in strainer that makes removing the solids at the end a breeze.
Don’t bother peeling your vegetables, or taking the skin off the onion, or even really chopping them. They do their job in this application the same in big chunks as they do if you take 10 minutes to chop them all uniformly. I personally save my chopping skills for when they count but if you’d like to cut your vegetable smaller by all means. Sometimes wielding a very sharp knife is cathartic after a long week so chop away if the mood strikes.
Here’s the rundown of stock making:
Chicken bones, skin and fat (from one large chicken or sometimes two smaller ones)
Two carrots, scrubbed and cut into 1″ hunks
One huge onion, cut in to quarters, with the skin on
Two large celery stalks, with leaves if they have them, cut into 1″ hunks
A couple of garlic cloves, unpeeled and roughly chopped (I usually use the ones that are too shmeensy to peel and futz with)
A couple of parsley stems if you have them, if not no big deal
8-10 whole black peppercorns
One bay leaf
1-2 teaspoons of salt (your choice, I usually add closer to 2 teaspoons)
5 quarts of cold water
Place all items listed above in an 8-10 quart stockpot, bring to a boil, and reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 3 hours.
Pour stock through a fine meshed sieve, straining out and discarding all of the solids. From here, I cool the stock to room temperature and refrigerate it for 24 hours, skimming off the fat that rises to the surface and congeals. Makes about 10 cups.
Stock can be frozen for months and stored in freezer bags, frozen into ice cube trays for quick use, and frozen or refrigerated in jars It can also be kept in the fridge in a container of your choice for up to a week. I have deli-style containers that hold one, two and four cups each, and I separate the stock into a a couple of sizes for freezing.
And there you have it. Investment cooking is some of the most worthwhile and satisfying cooking imaginable. So next time you roast a bird hang on to the bones and parts you think are trash, because they will make a jewel of a soup someday.