Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chicken Stock

For sure it's my fault. All this time I've been telling you to just taste the difference between grocery store chicken stock and making your own. But I haven't told you how. Well, if you keep reading, you'll know, which is half the battle according to GI Joe.

There are certain things that a cook loves to do. Some are complex, such as an intricate design on a cake or curing your own slab of bacon. Others are simple, like properly roasting a chicken or making your own BBQ rub. One of mine is preparing certain dishes with homemade chicken stock. Some canned chicken stock is okay, I like Swanson's low-sodium, it's nice to have a couple cans on hand when you don't have time to thaw your frozen homemade stock or run out. But nothing compares to homemade.

The effort to make your own chicken stock is well worth the result. All you need is a few hours on a lazy Sunday, a couple chicken carcasses, wing tips and any other random chicken parts hiding in the freezer, some veg, water, and a big pot. If I'm hacking apart a bunch of wings, I'll save the tips and toss them in the freezer for the next batch of chicken stock. Same thing with rinds of the undisputed king of all cheeses, parm reg. A couple two tree of them are very helpful.

Chicken Stock
makes about 5 quarts

4 lb chicken carcasses-usually two roasters and their necks, can use parts from other chickies- backs, wing tips, hell feet if you got em
1 or 2 large white onion, chopped
4 carrot, peeled and rough chopped
4 celery stalks, cut in quarters, can use most of the core and leaves for this also to save the pretty ones
4 cloves garlic, smashed
handful of fresh parsley
10-12 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
10-12 black peppercorns, whole
cold water-filtered if possible

Toss your chicken parts into your largest pot, usually they call this a stockpot for a reason. Add the veg, herbs and peppercorns. Place the steamer basket on top of this lovely mixture, then add cold water until about 2' from the top- you want to keep everything submerged with the basket, have as much water as possible without making a mess taking it out a couple times during the process. Fire up the stovetop to medium high until you bring to a boil. The ideal setting is on slimmer- a bare simmer, just breaking some bubbles here and there. You will see some scum form on the surface- a whitish foamy mess that you need to skim off. These are impurities from the bones that will not lend tasty flavor to your stock. For the first hour or so, you want to skim this scum with a spoon or small spider strainer 4-5 times. For the second hour, maybe only once or twice. Should be good after that, leave uncovered. You should not boil off too much steam in order to have to add water- if things do get low perhaps a cup or so. Twice or thrice during the process I like to remove the basket and give it a good stir up.

A long, gentle period of flavor extraction- somewhere around 6 to 8 hours is what I usually allocate. Once ready, strain through a fine mesh strainer, or cheesecloth if you have it, into a large pot. Press on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible, then discard.

You have various methods to cool down this stock- my favorite is placing in a snow bank, a sink full of salty ice water also works nicely. Park in the fridge, covered, for about 8 hours. The fat will rise to the top and then can be removed easily. I like to save 2 and 4 C portions in the freezer in empty pickle jars or tupperware.

Shelf life in the fridge is about 3 days, you'll get 4 months or so in the freezer, but it won't last that long.

An easy way to keep everything happily flavoring your stock- use your steamer basket.

Not sure what to make with your stock? Soups and pasta are home runs. It's 11 days till opening day. Better get your winter soup fix satiated.

butternut squash soup? French onion soup? Beer Cheddar?

Vegetarian? I'm sorry. Pistachio-lemon pasta

Not vegetarian? Good! Veal with capers and delicious white wine sauce

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