Friday, September 10, 2010

Chicken Stock

I never really thought I'd be the kind of person who makes home made chicken stock, yet here I am. There's something very...cosmic and "Whoa! Dude." about using very bit of a chicken, giving that bird one last chance to shine, with the parts we'd normally throw away. It takes a bit of time with the simmering, but honestly, the putting together portion of making stock is really easy. This is only the most basic of recipes, as well - you can save up all sorts of veggie scraps to add to stocks. That said, it's not recommended to use celery leaves in stock, as it imparts a bitter taste, as do certain chicken internal organs. So if you're using the leftovers from that chicken you roasted for Sunday dinner and from which you carefully saved the plastic baggie of innards (rather than cooking it IN the chicken, as....someone, I don't know who...has actually done...ahem), use the gizzard and heart, but save the liver and kidneys for another use.*

That said, PLEASE don't think you have to be all Annie Pioneer and actually use organ meat for making stock! The batch I made most recently was the final resting place of a rotisserie chicken the Bald Guy had picked up on a night when we both were too tired to bother with cooking.

1 chicken carcass, any size, plus any chicken bits, skin, or bones you might have saved from previous cooking adventures (minus liver or kidneys)
1 onion, cut into quarters, skin still on
4-5 (or more) garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 carrots, cut into large chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
Some whole cloves (8-10ish)
Some black pepper corns (10-15ish)
2 bay leaves
Fresh herbs if you have any – some stalks of rosemary, for example
Optional secret ingredient: black cardamom. This isn’t the sweet green cardamom you might use in baking desserts, this is the black insect-looking pod that gives nightmares to small children and smells like a house that’s recently burned down. Popular in Indian cooking. Amazing stuff!

Special Equipment
1 large stock pot with lid


  • Put the chicken, vegetables, and seasoning into a large stock pot.
  • Cover with water so everything is immersed.
  • Simmer, with lid on but partially askew – NEVER BOIL – for hours. How long do you have? That’s how long. The longer, the better. As long as it never comes to a boil – NOT ONE LITTLE BUBBLE – you’re good. Keep it at ALMOST boiling for as long as you can. Last time I made stock, I let it sit overnight on the stove. Of course, I didn’t sleep well the whole night wondering if I was going to poison us all with salmonella or burn the house down, but the stock turned out amazing. (Why never boil? Boiling releases gristle from the chicken and creates a cloudy stock instead of a nice, clear liquid)
  • Oh fine. If you must have a timeframe, say 2-3 hours.
  • Scoop out the solid bits from the stock using a slotted spoon and discard (trust me – you don’t want to try and use those vegetables for anything else). Then get a big bowl and a strainer and strain the whole shebang to remove all the extra stuff from the liquid.
  • Let cool before you put in the refrigerator, or divide into smaller containers to refrigerate (large containers of hot meat products take too long to cool in the refrigerator and can create colonies of unsavory characters).
  • Use in risotto, soups, or other dishes that require chicken stock.

*For those of you completely squicked out now by the mention of internal organs, my sincere apologies.

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