Monday, March 3, 2014

Chicken Stock

Skill Level: Beginner
Skills Attained: Broth
Supplies:
  • Cooked Chicken (or Turkey) Carcass
  • Soup Pot with Lid (or pressure cooker)
  • Water (up to 16 cups)
  • Spoon
  • Cutting Board
  • Knife
  • Onion (one)
  • Carrot (one, large)
  • Celery (one stalk)
  • Thyme (1 t.)
  • Sage (1 t.)
  • Salt (1 t.)
  • Pepper (1/2 t.)
  • Strainer
  • Storage Container
Chicken stock is one of those ingredients that can really enhance the flavor of a dish. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I admit that I use store bought chicken stock (and yes, those awful, salty bouillon cubes...I know, I know. But it's just so convenient, inexpensive, and lasts a long time). However, on the few occasions I make homemade chicken stock, I am reminded how worth the extra effort it really is. 

The only reason I made chicken stock from scratch recently was because I started to buy and bake whole chickens. Truth be told: I am cheap (or shall I say "thrifty"). I try to find ways to shave off money from my grocery bills. It's just more cost effective to buy whole chickens as opposed to boneless, skinless chicken breasts. (And let's be honest, that crispy skin just tastes delicious.) Anyway, after making the whole chickens, the remaining bones and carcass are exactly what you need to make chicken broth. 

Basically, you throw the chicken pieces in a soup pot along with water, a few vegetables (onions, carrots, celery) and some spices (thyme, sage, salt...whatever you have on hand, really). Let that cook for a few hours; drain the liquid; and voila...chicken stock! I love that this process is not an exact science. You are really just flavoring water by transferring the flavor from the chicken, veggies and spices into the water. So, instead of plain, old water you are left with delicious, rich, and flavorful stock. Oftentimes, I use this broth in soup and risotto. Use it right way; keep it in the fridge and use within a week; or freeze it for 3 months or so. 

Here are more detailed instructions:

Place chicken parts in a large soup pot. (Depending on the size of the chicken, this may be 2 pounds or upwards of 5 pounds.)

Add enough water to cover the chicken. (For 5 pounds of chicken parts, this may be 16 cups. In this batch, I only had about 2 pounds of chicken pieces, so I only added about 8 cups of water.) Sorry...this picture is really gross.



Cover and bring to a boil; then reduce and simmer for 30 minutes. While simmering, use a spoon and skim off any of the slime that forms.


Chop vegetables and add to the pot: one onion, one carrot, and one celery stalk. Again, this is not an exact science. For example, I didn't have any celery on hand while making this, so I just omitted that veggie.

Also, add your spices. I don't always have all of the recommended spices on hand, so I include what I do have. This time around, I used thyme, sage, salt and pepper. I just guessed at the amounts, but if you are the type of cook that needs exact measurements, I would guess that I used 1 t. thyme, 1 t. sage, 1 t. salt, and 1/2 t. pepper.

Remove the lid to the pot and let simmer for a about three hours. Add additional water if the water falls below the chicken parts.

(Note: You could also use a pressure cooker, which cuts your time down to about 30 minutes. One of the last times I made stock in my pressure cooker, I didn't realize the seal on it had broke, so I was left with a very burnt pot and a house that wreaked of burnt cooking for about two days. Needless to say, I am using the "old fashion" way for a little while.)







Strain the veggies and chicken pieces, and pour the stock into a storage container. Keep the lid off until cool, and then store in the refrigerator (up to a week) or freezer (up to about three months).




If you ever roast a whole chicken (or turkey for that matter), I hope you are inspired to take the extra time to make stock with the remains. Happy cooking!