The Stock Market: Chicken Stock

Many (almost all) of my recipes call for stocks.  And of those stocks, the vast majority are chicken.  Rich chicken stock, homemade chicken stock, reduced chicken stock, brown chicken stock… it all comes down to one very fundamental notion:  You need chicken stock on hand.  Otherwise your sauces, stews, braises, etc will be missing critical flavor and consistency.

Who really makes and stores chicken stock at home?  Who has the time?  Why not just buy a can of swansons and make your life easy?  I agree, that does make your life easy, but the flavor and richness of real chicken stock cannot be replicated with any store bought broths, unless someone starts making and selling the real thing.  Maybe I should start…

Ingredients are easy.  Every time you have chicken bones (even if it’s from a whole roasted chicken), SAVE the bones.  Throw them in a bag, put them in the freezer and store them.  When the time comes to make your stock, you won’t need to purchase chicken bones.  After that, it’s a few aromatics and herbs, and you have everything you need.

Real chicken stock has one crucial ingredient that store bought broth does not:  gelatin.  This is the richness, the savory goodness, the flavor underneath the flavor, the desired component… This can only be derived from cooking the bones for a long time, slowly breaking down the natural collagen, releasing it into your stock.  The air in your kitchen will develop the deep aroma of chicken soup.  When it cools in your fridge, it will solidify and look like geletin.  This is what you want.  When it’s reduced, it will thicken itself.

Making the stock is easy, but it takes time.  In my opinion, if you’re going to make it, make a large batch and freeze most of it in small quantities, so when you need it, you don’t need to defrost the entire batch.  Make it on a rainy day when you feel like spending some time indoors.

A little bit about the actual production:  I like to blanch the bones.  This is an optional step, but it does 1 important thing:  removes the fat and impurities from the bones.  Now they’re clean and devoid of any unwanted particles.   Second, using wings or chicken feet produces the best stocks.  They are higher in collagen than any other part of the bird, and produce the best results.  And third, do not chop your vegetables.  Peel what needs to be peeled and leave them whole.  Broken down vegetables have a tendency to fall apart, and consequently cloud your stock.  You want a very clear and pure finished product.

Chicken Stock

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook time:  4 – 6 hours
Yield:  2 gallons

Ingredients:

5 lb chicken wings, chicken bones, or chicken feet
1 lb yellow onions, peeled
4 ribs celery
4 carrots, peeled
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Method:

Blanch the bones (optional, but important).  Place the chicken bones in a large stock pot and barely cover with water.  Bring to a boil, turn heat off and strain the chicken bones.  Rinse the bones well under cold water.  Clean the pot.

Return the bones to the pot and add all other ingredients.  Cover with cold water by about 4 inches.  Bring to a simmer, turn heat to low, and very slowly simmer (a bubble or two every few seconds is perfect).  Continue to cook this way for 4 to 6 hours (the longer the better).  Do not stir or agitate in any way (that will create a cloudy stock).  Strain through a very fine strainer and put on ice to cool rapidly.

Store.

Enjoy.

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