Chicken stock for the soul

Ok, never mind chicken SOUP, even metaphorical soup. I’m talking stock, that liquid essence now reduced to something from a can or a bouillon cube, but which is the stuff of cooks’ dreams. Here’s what the Rombauers say about stock in The Joy of Cooking (my second favorite food book, after Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen):

Antique dealers may respond hopefully to dusty bits in attics, but true cooks palpitate over even more curious oddments: mushroom and tomato skins, fowl carcasses, tender celery leaves, fish heads, knucklebones, and chicken feet. These are just a few of the treasures for the stockpot–that magic source from which comes the telling character of the cuisine.

In my family, I’m in charge of stock-making, providing the raw material which is the secret reason why Joanna’s soups are so good (I’ll ask her to post our best soup recipes soon, but don’t tell her I’m claiming credit for their goodness). Whenever we’ve got a turkey or chicken carcass leftover from a big meal, or from grabbing one of those whole roast chickens from the deli at the grocery store, we don’t throw away the bones and skin–we make stock. Then we freeze it, or turn it directly into soup, or use it for making rice (it makes rice taste really good).

It feels kinda old-fashioned to get all the good out of what would otherwise be thrown away. Your great-grandparents would be proud.

Here’s my modification of the Joy of Cooking recipe for “Light Stock from Poultry”.

Break up your chicken bones, skins, and leftover pieces. Don’t leave anything out. Put them in a pot with about two  quarts of water, and bring them to a boil. Add:

  • 6 peppercorns (screw open your pepper grinder to get some, or just put in plenty of pepper)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley or plenty of dried parsley
  • 1 small diced onion (or half a big one–a great use of leftover onions you might have saved)
  • 2 sticks of celery, diced up,  if you have them
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, diced or sliced thinly

if you don’t have something, leave it out! It’ll be fine. Don’t add salt.

Reduce the heat, and continue to simmer uncovered or partially covered on a very low heat, for about two hours, or until the liquid is reduced by half. If some scum (frothy bubbles) float to the top, you can spoon them off. Then strain it into a storage container, and put it in the fridge overnight. (Throw the bones and solids away; you’ve got all the good out of them.) There may be some fat that solidifies at the top, and you can just lift it off and throw it away. Then put it back in the fridge until you want to use it (in a few days), or put it in a ziploc bag and freeze it for up to a couple of months.

If you have a chicken or turkey for dinner, this takes very little time, because you get it going while you do the dishes, and strain it and store it before you go to bed.

What to use it for? Recipes coming up soon!

You’ll be tempted to start buying those roast chickens at the grocery store just to get the bones for stock soon! Be sure, if you can, to get free range chickens. This is a way to get all the good out of the added expense.

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One Response to “Chicken stock for the soul”

  1. maddieparker Says:

    Hey from a fellow chicken lover – I look forward to more.

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