I’m starting to think that maybe I’m obsessed with soup. First there was my favorite Tortilla Soup recipe. Then just last week I cracked out my Veggie Cassoulet yumminess – both of these in the middle of summer. Sure, I got some strange looks. But today is the first day of autumn. So naturally, I’m making chicken stock. And then I can make more soup.
I used to think that making stock was for people who had entirely too much time on their hands. Then I started making lots of soup and realized that it’s really for people who are broke. Store bought stock is expensive! And since the quality of your stock can make such a big difference in soups and sauces, it’s really not something you want to skimp on. To get the good stuff, it’s easy to spend $4+ for 32 ounces. So in all honesty, I make stock because I’m too cheap to buy it. With only a few dollars and a few hours, I can stir up enough stock to last me through the great soup craze of Autumn ’09.
I also love that you can throw a well-picked over chicken carcass into a pot with some herbs and a few vegetables, and it simmers away into liquid gold. It was destined for the garbage bin, and now it’s a whole new meal. Best magic trick ever. I end up wasting enough food inadvertently; by being able to reuse my roast chicken I feel like my kitchen is an efficiently little machine.
Still not convinced? Making your own stock allows you to control the quality of your ingredients and the salt content. Just one serving of commercial stock has you well on your way to your daily allowance of sodium. (Not to mention that list of ingredients that you can’t even pronounce.) By adding the salt when you’re cooking your soup or sauce, you have a much better chance of ending up with a deliciously seasoned dish.
AND making chicken stock is incredibly easy and convenient. Roast chicken is a staple in our household, and when the meal’s done and the chicken has been picked over for the third (or fourth) time, I simply toss the carcass right into a zip top bag and slide it into the bottom drawer of the freezer where it waits for its encore performance. Then, whenever the stock bug hits, I just pull it out, throw it in a pot, and let it simmer. Sure, it takes a few hours to cook, but it requires nominal attention allowing me to focus on 5 other things at the same time. And then I feel like an accomplished multi-tasker.
Really? You need one more reason? Here you go: homemade stock tastes so SO much better. This stock has many layers of flavor even without salt – it really has a wonderfully complex flavor profile. Just take a sip of store bought stock the next time you’re using it. Does it taste like chicken? Because it should (but it probably doesn’t). Your homemade stock will be good enough to sip on it’s own. I promise. And it will transform the humblest of soup recipes into a wonderfully gourmet meal.
So the next time you polish off that Costco rotisserie chicken, stick the bones in your freezer. I’ve already done all the work to find the best recipe, and this one is it – hands down. So give it a try. Use some for a pot of soup right away, or stick it in the freezer for up to 6 months. I can pretty much guarantee that once you make your own stock, you’ll never buy the boxed stuff again. Enjoy!
Click here to print this recipe.
Recipe adapted from Epicurious, Norman Van Aken: New World Kitchen
Yields 8 – 10 cups
Time: 3 hours plus overnight cooling
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 large stalks celery, roughly chopped (no need to trim the leaves)
1 large leek, white and light green parts, rinsed & roughly chopped
1 head garlic, cut horizontally in half
1 cup dry white wine
8 sprigs fresh thyme
handful fresh parsley (about ½ cup)
8 fresh basil leaves
2 bay leaves, torn in half
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, toasted
2 or 3 chicken carcasses, about 3 to 4 pounds bones & left over meat
12 cups water (or as much as it takes to fill your stock pot and cover the ingredients)
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, and leeks with a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté the vegetables, stirring occasionally until golden brown (about 10 minutes.)
Add the white wine and stir, then add the herbs, peppercorns, chicken bones, and enough water to cover everything. Bring just to a simmer.
Turn the heat to low, skim off any impurities that have risen to the top. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 ½ hours.
Strain the stock at least twice through a fine-mesh strainer, or through a strainer lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Chill the stock in an ice-bath to bring the temperature down before putting it into your refrigerator. (Lots of hot stock in the fridge can bring the temperature up more than you’d think.)
Chill overnight, then skim the fat off the top of the stock. Transfer to the storage containers and refrigerate for up to three days, or freeze for up to 6 months.
This stock intentionally has very little salt in it. That way, you can control the seasoning in your soup as you’re cooking it. Always easier to add salt than to deal with an over-salted dish.
When using real chicken, the cooled stock may be a semi-solid. It will resemble jello that’s not quite set. No need to worry, this is the sign of some delicious stock!
There’s no need to peel the vegetables, even the onion and garlic. Simply rinse them off and throw them in the pot. You’re going to skim the foam and strain the stock instead.
Be sure to keep the stock at a very low simmer, and stir only gently. If it boils, the finished broth will be cloudy. (but will still taste very good!)
As in any recipe, only use wine that is good enough to drink. Cheap wine never tastes good, either in a wine glass or as an ingredient in a recipe.
Toast the peppercorns in the toaster oven or in a dry sauté pan over medium heat. Just watch them carefully – they pop after a few minutes.
Stock? Broth? What’s the difference? Stock uses bones and meat, while broth uses just the meat (or in the case of vegetable broth, just vegetables).
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