Sunday, November 15, 2009

Second Helping: Lazy Chicken Stock

I use broth shortcuts all the time: granules, cubes, cans, boxes. But when chicken broth has a starring role, as in the Chicken Tortilla Soup we posted last week, it's well worth the minimal effort to make your own stock.

Making chicken stock is one of those things I didn't do for a long, long time. Because making it takes a long, long time. Which I figured meant it took a lot of work.

To the contrary, I realized, chicken stock makes itself. All you really need to do is hang around the house for hours and let the stock do its thing.

Use leftovers from a roast chicken. Or throw in chicken pieces (with bones), remove the meat once it's cooked, and return the bones and scraps to the pot. Or stockpile leftover chicken bits -- bones and skin -- in a large bag in the freezer. Keep adding to it, and when it's full, make stock. Be sure to set aside a bit of leftover cooked chicken to go into the finished soup.

Lazy Chicken Stock

Put chicken in a large stock pot. Make sure you have lots of bones in there. Bones are important.

Add vegetables, chopped into large pieces: onions, carrots, leek, and celery are all good options. I usually just toss in an onion.

Pour in some white wine if you'd like -- I use half a cup.

Add a tablespoon or two of vinegar. The acid dissolves the calcium in the bones, enriching your stock. Cool, eh? Don't worry, you won't taste the vinegar.

Tuck in some herbs -- sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano, a bay leaf. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. (Save the strong seasoning for when you reheat the finished stock to make your final soup.)

Fill your pot with water and set it on the stove. Bring it to a strong simmer, reduce the heat, leave uncovered, and simmer 5 to 6 hours (or more). Add a little water if chicken bones start sticking out above the surface, but not too much -- you want it to reduce. Stir when you feel like it. Don't bother skimming the foamy fat that rises to the surface. You'll do that later.

When it's done, strain out the solids and set the broth in the refrigerator. Leave it there a few hours or overnight. When you check on it, you'll find the fat has conveniently congealed on the surface. See! It does the work for you! Scoop off it off with a shallow spoon or spatula to reveal ... chicken jelly?!

Do not panic. Be proud: You've done well. The bones add gelatin, and that's what makes the stock taste so good. (Gelatin is protein, too.) The gelatin will melt as you heat your stock, leaving you with a deep, rich, silky stock.

Use the stock soon, or freeze it for quick, tasty soup another day. Use ice cube trays or muffin tins to freeze small amounts. You might want to add water to the stock when making soup.


Kurt Blumenau said...

Isn't "chicken jelly" the secret to making Chinese-style soup dumplings?
(When the dumplings heat up in the soup, the jellied broth inside them warms up and liquefies.)
I've always wanted to make those.

Darienne said...

Kurt,I didn't know that, but I just browsed a ton of recipes that are making me swoon. Most of them call for adding gelatin, but I think it would work with a good stock. I'm certainly going to try!

Kathy Burke said...

I always thought the Chicken jelly was what made my soup taste awesome, but I assumed that if it made it taste that good it must not really be good for me. Now I feel even better about all the protein!


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