Basic Chicken Stock

March 23, 2010 · 3 comments

In our house, not having home-made stock in the fridge is equivalent to running out of eggs or wine.  It makes us nervous.

Yes, we keep commercially prepared stock in the cupboard, right next to the apocalypse-ready tins of tuna, canned green beans, and supply of emergency batteries. But as a matter of course, we run towards a “bistro” style kitchen: fresh food, minimally altered.

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This isn’t as precious as it sounds.

The “fresh food” part generally means whatever you can pick up from a lap around the periphery of your average grocery store. The “minimally altered” phrase refers to a non-gooped up, labor-intensive or fussy approach to getting the fresh stuff cooked and onto the table.

This leaves plenty of time to actually enjoy the process of, say, making chicken stock.

I think of stock as roast chicken, re-gifted. And it takes about as much work and commitment as throwing in a few loads of laundry after dinner: a little prep work up-front, checking it at intervals to spend a moment or two on keeping things at the right temperature and moving forward, and a modest amount of clean up and putting stuff away when you’re done.

In fact, you can do both things at the same time and still get ‘er done between “Hi, I’m Ryan Seacrest, and THIS is American Idol,” and “… who will be the NEXT American Idol!”

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Save the bones from the night before. (And yes, apparently it’s perfectly acceptable to use the bones off of people’s plate for the stock pot. It’s going to simmer for a couple of hours anyway… more than enough heat exposure to nuke any “other people’s cooties” that may have you worried.)

If you’re using freshly cooked chicken (and those $5 Friday deals from Safeway are a GREAT way to start!), remove the meat for sandwiches or tomorrow’s chicken soup and give the skin to the cat. For the stock, it’s all about dem bones, dem bones, dem… dry bones.

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And onions. This photo makes me wonder why you never see a recipe call for “the juice of an onion.” Doesn’t it look like you should be able to squeeze it?

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Carrots. A sturdy fat brown onion. Celery. Maybe a handful of parsley. If the Qwik-EE-Mart is out of carrots, check the gas station next door. This stuff isn’t hard to find, it’s cheap, and it’s available year round.

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I already mentioned the parsley, but I just had to squeak in one more shot of it with those crazy blue flowers in the background. See them?

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I love how unfussy the prep is. Chop, chop, chop… whack… whack… and you’re done.

Note the absence of fingers in the pile above. This is an important non-ingredient in chicken stock.

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Add heat to what you wish was your Gramma’s favorite heavy bottom stock pot. What you’ll probably use is a medium weight pot that’s just a bit too small that you got as a wedding gift. If that’s the case, go buy a really great stock pot, then go become a Gramma so you can have a great stock pot to hand down to the next generation.

We don’t mess around with our goal-setting here, ya know.

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Saute, stir, hum…. Hover, inhale, sip… call in your vote for the only one who can really sing…

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… toss in, pour, sniff… relax your shoulder muscles, change wet jeans over to dryer…

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… check, call ‘er done, strain… and start thinking about tomorrow night’s soup.

Basic Chicken Stock

Chicken bones
Brown or yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
Carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
Celery, washed and coarsely chopped
Italian parsley
Bay leaves (2-3)
Back peppercorns (5-6)
Olive Oil
Fresh water

Some folks like to add the raw vegetables to an already simmering pot of chicken bones. We prefer to start with chopped onion sauteed in olive oil in the bottom of a stock pot, adding the carrot and celery to the pot once the onion begins to color. A modest finger-pinch of Kosher salt helps the veggies release their moisture so they can begin to caramelize.

When the mirepoix looks softened up and translucenty, pour about a cup of whatever wine you’re drinking into the pot and stir with a wooden spoon to release the brown bits at the bottom. Add the bones and fill the pot with enough fresh cool water to cover. Add the parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns and gently simmer for about two hours.

Remove stock pot from heat and let cool a bit. The final step is to remove and discard everything but the finished stock. Our way is to fish out all the big pieces with tongs and then pour the rest through a strainer into an 8-cup Pyrex pitcher. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to do something lovely with your homemade elixir.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy P. March 24, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Eric made his first pot of chicken stock here on Sunday — from the bones of a chicken he’d roasted himself! : )

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Louise March 24, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I’m all on the stock-pot(me grandma not my grandma’s) giant measuring cup bandwagon. Tend to go lower on bay leaves and higher on peppercorns. New stove on the premises so we are all making friends with it.

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cynaga March 24, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Your photos are too gorgeous~!

Lovely recipe for homemade stock too. Thanks. ☺

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