This winter I have had my stock pot out on the stove in perpetuity, making batch after batch of chicken broth. It’s been quite steamy around me these days!
Sometimes I start with a fresh chicken.
Sometimes I use up chicken carcasses, or, in today’s case, the frame of a roasted duck.
At my parents home over the holidays I made two batches of stock, and after explaining my method to my mom, I realized that my recipe is worthy of sharing. Over the past ten years I have combined a Tex-Mex version with Thai and French recipes to produce a reliably wonderful chicken broth for soup or sauces. My routine for years was to buy a chicken on the weekend and dry brine it to roast on Monday, then make stock on Tuesday.
Making stock is my way of using up bits of leftover vegetables and those that are looking a bit elderly, a clean up of the fridge as it were. The process is not rocket science by any means but is in my mind an essential part of my budget regime. A $10 to $14 chicken to roast can be stretched to two (or more) meals and then the carcass is transformed into stock for soup which can provide me with lunch for five or more days. Sometimes I have soup for breakfast too, since my inability to eat eggs, potatoes and many fruit have made for limited choices these days. The flavoring I use are the same for chicken frames or for raw birds, only the method is a little different.
HAL’s Best Chicken Stock
1 carcass from a roast chicken (or any other poultry) OR
1 fresh chicken (or other bird)
4-6 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
1 onion, chopped roughly
1-2 ribs of celery, roughly chopped
2 carrots, unpeeled, quartered
4-6 quarter sized pieces of fresh ginger root, about a 1/2 cup
Stems from a bunch of parsley
1 ancho or New Mexico dried chile pod or 1 tsp ground chile
1 bay leaf, preferably California bay
1 T ground cumin
Fresh or dried herbs, any combination of sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, tarragon or whatever you like, even poultry seasoning is great
Cold, filtered water
Salt, pepper, ground nutmeg
Leftover vegetable scraps, plus I usually save the tough outer leaves of leeks for stock
The Method – Raw Poultry
In a large pot (5-7 quarts) over high heat add the raw whole bird (parts are fine too but a whole chicken is much cheaper), with the whole chile pod and garlic cloves, and water to cover the bird generously. Bring to a boil, turn down the hear to medium low, and set the timer for 30 minutes.
During this time the pot needs to be skimmed of any foam that rises to the top by using a large spoon, lift off the scum and dump into a small bowl kept by the burner, and occasionally empty the bowl into the sink. After 30 minutes the foam should stop forming, then you can add all the remaining ingredients and simmer quietly for another 30 minutes, or until the chicken is very tender when pierced with a fork. By simmering quietly, I mean that a few bubbles will rise from the bottom of the pot.
When the chicken is tender when stabbed with a fork, remove it from the pot to a plate, and let the chicken cool for a few minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and return the bones and skin to the stock. I even remove the meat from the two larger parts of the chicken wing. This meat is great for other uses like sandwiches, enchiladas, tacos and pasta but I usually cut up all the dark meat and save this for soup.
The Method – Poultry Carcass (Cooked)
When using a chicken carcass from a leftover roasted chicken, immediately add all ingredients for the stock into the pot and proceed with the directions below. Sometimes I freeze the carcass and have a few in the freezer. You can put them into the pot frozen, the liquid will just take longer to come to the simmer.
Continuing On For Both Methods
Let the stock simmer quietly again for 2-4 hours. The stock is done when you pull out a piece of the carrot and it tastes bland and rather tasteless. This is a good indicator that all of the other stock ingredients have contributed all of their flavor to the stock.
Turn off the heat and get a large bowl or another large pan and set a fine meshed strainer or a small holed colander inside. Using a ladle, ladle the stock into the strainer, picking out the pieces of garlic as you find them and set them aside. When the strainer gets full, use the back of the ladle to gently press on the solids inside the strainer to get all of the stock out. Dump the solids into your compost bin or into a plastic bag for disposal. Repeat until all of the stock has been strained. This takes me about 5 minutes, so it’s really not a lot of work. I add salt, pepper and a little nutmeg to taste at this point.
(It sounds much more complicated that it is, see how easy?)
If you plan to make soup right away, wipe out the stock pot with a paper towel and start your soup recipe. Be sure to squeeze the simmered garlic out of their skins into the soup pot. I often store the stock in the fridge until the next day. You will find a layer of congealed fat on the top of the stock, which should have the consistency of loose jello, this is a great thing! I lift off the fat and usually toss it, unless I’m making matzo balls, or if I made stock with a duck. Duck fat is pure gold and has many uses. The jello-like consistency of the cold stock means that the gelatin from the poultry bones has permeated the stock, this provides better soup consistency and body. When I see that jiggle I know I have done a good job in making stock.
(Just strained stock, such a great color. You can see the layer of fat on the top.)
(If you fill your stock pot to a few inches from the top, you will end up with 2/3 of the pot full of stock)
Tip: Keep a zip lock bag in your fridge or freezer and save up the bits and end pieces of vegetables from whatever you are cooking to pop into your stock pan.
I hope next time you buy a rotisserie bird or roast a chicken yourself you save the carcass and make up some soup stock!