Monday, April 5, 2010

Chicken Stock - the basics

Having just emerged from the last bowl of matzo ball soup only a few days ago, I thought I would post this basic technique for making chicken stock. I know it might be better suited to a post in the fall when we are all gearing up for cold weather and flu season, but the real basic cooking techniques are timeless and always useful. 

You can use any piece of chicken to make stock, even just the bones with a few bits of meat on them are good. So, if you roasted a chicken or bought one already cooked, save the carcass or just bones from a leg or two and get ready to make you some stock! For you vegetarians out there ( I know I may have already lost you with the picture of picked-apart poultry and the use of the word carcass in the context of food) but you can make a great vegetable broth using this same technique, just leave out the chicken, and consider adding a few more veggies and maybe some herbs.
There are many ways to make chicken stock. If you are starting with raw chicken, you can brown the pieces first which will add color and flavor to your broth. You can also sauté your vegetables first on medium-low heat to concentrate their flavors and the richness of the stock. For this basic quick stock however, I just filled a large pot with the chicken bones, cold water, some chopped up onion, celery, carrots and parsnip (which gives chicken stock it's characteristic sweetness). You can also add bay leaf or thyme if you have them and garlic if you like it in your soup. If you want to get creative and spice things up a bit,  you could also add a few slices of ginger or lemon peel, and then when serving it, some cilantro, sesame oil and hot sauce like sriracha.

But, back to the basics. You can add any vegetables to the stock that you like, but it is best to reserve starchy vegetables such as potato and celery root, till you are actually making the finished soup because it will give you a cloudy and thickened broth. You might also want to stay away from vegetables from the cabbage family like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage which will add better flavor and nutrients if they are cooked briefly in the finished soup rather than the broth.

Basic Chicken (or Vegetable Stock)
1 large onion
4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
Chicken (remains from a roasted chicken, or half of a chicken, or 1 or 2 legs or thighs raw)
Salt to taste

If using raw chicken pieces:
You may brown them in the pan, then remove them, add your vegetables, season with salt, sauté, and then add water, return chicken pieces to the pot, and simmer covered for about 1 hour.
If using the remains of an already cooked and eaten chicken:
Place the bones and the rest of the ingredients in a large stock pot, cover with cold water, add a few pinches of salt and simmer for 1 hour. 

To make vegetable stock:
Sauté all of your vegetables in a small amount of oil over medium heat. you can brown them if you like a darker broth, or just let them cook down a bit without browning. You may want to add an extra onion and possibly some garlic as well.  Season with salt and add any other herbs you like. Cover with cold water, and simmer for one hour or longer. Adjust seasoning as desired.

To finish:
Pour broth through a fine strainer set over a large bowl. Pick out any vegetables or meat you would like to keep and discard the rest. Chill the broth and skim any fat or "schmaltz" as they say in yiddish off the top. You can use this for other cooking or discard it.

Use this broth as a base for any soup you like. You can keep it in you refrigerator for a few days, or put it in the freezer to use another day.

Have you made soup stocks before? what ingredients do you add to yours?
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  1. I add a few tablespoons of vinegar to the raw chicken soaking in water, to get more of the minerals from the bones into the broth. I haven't noticed any change in the flavor. I'll try browning the chicken parts next time; I bet that's tasty!

    Simmering the homemade stock with a few saffron strands, then adding some chopped spinach and lemon juice makes a delicious soup - one of my favorite recipes out of Nourishing Traditions.

  2. That sounds delicious! It is always great to be reminded of ingredients from other people's cooking! Saffron, my long lost friend! Thanks for reading Sabrina!