Ladies and Gentlemen, Hell has frozen over!! I have managed to make a basic chicken stock. Not the brown stock from and earlier post, in where I admitted my shameful lack of kitchen prowess, but a clear, pure essence of chicken. I have reclaimed my cavewoman birthright of knowing how to boil water and bones to make something delicious. I feel like a champion!! I am so excited I must share this with all of you!
A few notes on the recipe:
Some of my previous attempts at making chicken stock ended with a liquid that was a bit funky. I usually save my carcases and freeze them so I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the ingredients may not have been the freshest and that might have contributed to the unpleasant flavors. However, even when I bought chicken wings for stock it often came out 70s funky. So as I do whenever I have a question that needs answering, I did my research and discovered that in most Asian cultures, they boil the bones, strain them and then make stock with them. Sort of like a 3-5 minute pre-boil. This method, it turns out, not only removes the funk, but almost all need for skimming as there is hardly any scum on the top of the pot.
Another question I wanted to answer was if there were parts of the chicken that were better for stock making. I read 100s of recipes, one of which was Ina Garten’s recipe calling for the use of three whole chickens! Cooking like this, no wonder she’s barefoot, she spent all her money on wasteful recipes! Aside from this, most people seemed to use wings, backs and necks. Seeing as backs and necks were cheapest, I went with that. Here I used a little over 4 pounds and got great results, however, I think adding a pound or two would make for an even richer broth.
As is usually the case when I make stock, I do not use any aromatics or seasoning. I can appreciate that this is likely what has held me back in my previous attempts, however, I feel that it is the right thing to do with stock that is not being made with a particular dish in mind. My reasons are few, yet valid. First and most importantly, I do not know to what use I will put the stock, and ramen, pho and cock au vin all have very different base flavor profiles. Secondly, I feel that pre-seasoning your stock does not allow you to control the salt and overall seasoning of your dish in as precise a manner. I have vivid memories of sauces made too salty by reduction. Finally, I feel that if you season your stock your food all begins to have a similar flavor. While this might be good for a restaurant that is trying to achieve consistency amongst its menu, it is not good for the cook experimenting with new flavors and trying to expand their cooking palate. If you know what you will be using the stock for and would like a more traditional, french style stock, you may add an onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 stalk of celery and 1 large carrot along with herbs of your choosing, tied in a bouquet garni so as to be easily removed. Here, however, you will find a basic, essence of chicken that may be seasoned a la minut; because of this, It is more a technique than a recipe. So, without further ado, here is my victorious recipe, feel free to bask in the glow with me.
4-6 Lbs of chicken bones (I used backs and necks here but wings work great.)
3 liters of water (or however much it takes to fill your stock pot and submerge your bones)
1 large stockpot
1 smaller pot (your next largest pot)
Fill the stockpot with the 3 liters of water and place over medium heat. Fill the smaller pot with water and bring to a boil. Once the water has come to a boil, add the the chicken pieces to the smaller pot allowing them to boil for 3-5 minutes. Depending on the size of your smaller pot you may have to do this in batches. Once the bones have been boiled remove them from the boiling water and drain them well. Next add them to the large stock pot.
Bring the stockpot to a boil and immediately turn down to a bare simmer. Cover and let cook for 5 hours, checking regularly, skimming any skum that might raise to the top and adding more water so as to keep the bones submerged. While you should check on your stock to ensure that the water level is not too low and that the heat has not raised the stock above a simmer, you do not want to stir it frequently, if at all. Doing so will actually make your stock more cloudy and more importantly it will make the flavor muddier. Leave it be and it will reward you. You will know the stock is ready when you can snap the bones easily with your fingers.
Once the stock is ready, place a fine sieve over a bowl large enough to hold your stock. If you do not have a fine sieve you can use a colander lined with a few layers of cheese cloth as I have done here. Transfer to the refrigerator and allow to cool over night. Once the fat has solidified you may skim it and transfer the stock to it’s final resting place/vesel. Personally, I like to fill zip top freezer bags and lay them flat in the freezer as it makes it easier to thaw the sauce later on.
If for some reason the fat does not solidify well and you can’t seem to skim it off properly, you may freeze the stock. The fat will rise to the top and the whole thing will freeze, it is then very easy to scrape it off. If you need to use the stock right away I would suggest investing in one of those little fat separaters that look like measuring cups with the spout coming from the bottom. They have worked very well for me in a pinch.