Monday, January 28, 2013

Chicken Stock for the Soul of your Kitchen...and Stomach!

So, the day after that magnificent chicken has been roasted and the carcass is waiting in the fridge, it is time to spend some time on your chicken stock. Really, the active time is about 5 minutes, and every once in a while you have to check on it to see if you need to skim any of the fat off the top. I feel like making stocks intimidates some people, but it is ridiculously easy and will increase your cooking abilities ten-fold. Imagine having homemade stocks waiting in your freezer with your own kitchen's flavors to awaken a soup, stew, or a new sauce you've been wanting to try out. It feels good and tastes better! Plus, without all of the preservatives and excess noise that mass-produced stocks coming from a can or carton give you, you really are getting a healthier product.

I should probably tell you what kind of stock I have made in order to give you a good starting point. Chicken stock should be very simple, the flavor deriving from the carcass of a roasted chicken, that already has spent it's life hanging out with herbs, spices, and other aromatics. The bones have so much hidden flavor that is absolutely necessary to extract. Additionally, using the entire bird will make you a more sustainable cook.

You will notice that the recipe has a very simple list of ingredients. This is because the stock is a base for an infinite variety of sauces, stews, braises, soups, risottos, rice dishes, and any myriad of applications. Because of it's versatility, the end product (the stock) needs to be rich, but without flavors that will take over everything else. Therefore, you will not see me throwing in handfulls of herbs and spices *gasp!* I know...

Some ideas for stock use:
  • Measure out amounts of chicken stock into containers that can be frozen. You can choose the measurements based on your favorite recipes, or recipes that you wish to make in the future. Anytime you need some stock, you'll have reinforcements awaiting your order in the freezer. 
  • You can also put stock into ice cube trays and pop one out whenever you need a bit of richness in a sauce. 
  • Also, if you want in on a secret, the carcass can be boiled a second time, to make what Ferran AdriĆ  called the "second stock" and use that to make your next stock even richer. I feel like this tip would be especially useful for someone who finds themselves using stock quite often. Also, a good idea in preparation for the holiday season.
  • You can use this same recipe to make turkey stock after Thanksgiving! Mind-blowing, I know :)

Basic Chicken Stock
Inspired by The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran AdriĆ 
Celery (could use celery seed)
Chicken Carcass

For the stock that I made, I used the carcass from the roasted chicken that I made the night before. I stored it covered in the fridge (along with some of the drippings). For the aromatics, you only need onion, celery, and carrot. I believe I threw in a few cloves of garlic because I just can't resist, and I used celery seed instead of celery, which is a great substitute if you absolutely don't have any celery in the house. 

A little ugly, but I couldn't resist.
It's so exciting to see what it turns into!
Chuck everything in a big pot, no need to chop anything! Then pour in 8 cups or so of water, enough to cover everything and bring to a boil. Skim the foam from the surface and simmer for 2 to 2-1/2 hours.

Strain everything through a fine mesh sieve and you have fresh stock! Store in the freezer up to six months in small containers. You only want to defrost what you are going to use that day, and in that case take it out the day before and store in the fridge so that it thaws correctly!

May you have many more delicious dishes coming from this important preparation task!

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