April 12, 2009

How to: Chicken Stock


the basics:
cold water
1 chicken carcass, meat removed
6 carrots, cut up
3 onions, quartered
2 parsnips, cut up
1 bunch celery or just celery tops
2 heads garlic
optional: 1 bunch green onions or scallions

Place the chicken and the vegetables in a large (8-10 quart) stock pot. Add water until the pot is nearly filled.

Periodically skim off fat as it floats to the top. After about 3 1/2 hours, strain into a large bowl. If you want it super clear strain through a paper towel lined colander. Cool immediately by placing the bowl in an ice filled sink. Never place the hot stock directly in the fridge or you run the risk of rapid bacteria growth which may result in food poisoning. Refrigerate overnight, then skim off any fat that rose to the surface. Package in air tight containers or freezer bags to store.

I suggest freezing any stock you don't use right away. In if freezer bags, lay the bags flat so they freeze in a shape that takes up the least amount of room. To defrost simply remove the block of stock from the container and place it in a sauce pan. Heat on low for 3-5 minutes.

Add ginger and/or galangal and extra garlic and green onions to the mixture if using it in a Thai, Japanese or Chinese dish for extra flavor. Alternately, add these ingredients into the pot when defrosting plain chicken stock, simmer for 5 additional minutes then strain them out. Similarly, if making Mexican or other spicy food, add dried chile peppers, extra garlic and/or onions to the stock or when defrosting.

Add some whole spices or herbs (bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, rosemary etc) to the mixture.

Roast the chicken carcass in a 350 oven for 15-30 minutes before tossing it in the pot. This helps intensify the flavor.

Add some whole, skin-on raw chicken legs or wings for extra flavor.

Makes about 5-6 quarts of stock.

My thoughts:
Stock is so basic, I almost feel odd posting a recipe for it but I use it so much when cooking and I've received numerous requests for a guide on making it, I gave in. It truly is simple but delicious. Much better tasting then what you can buy in the store. It is also much cheaper. A box of our favorite store-bought stock is nearly $4. The chicken I used was $6 (on sale) yielded more than two meals worth of meat and over 6 quarts of stock. You really can't beat that!

One last tip:
Save odds and ends of vegetables (a carrot top, celery leaves, bruised green onions etc) in a container in your fridge or freezer to add to the pot when you make stock. The whole vegetables add a lot of flavor but every bit helps!