You might say there’s nothing unfussy about making your own chicken stock. I would counter that, while it’s pretty fussy to insist on cooking everything with homemade chicken stock, making your own is simple. And, like baking bread or roasting a chicken, there’s something about it that gives a primal satisfaction. This is cooking at its essence. This is what our pioneer foremothers did. This is how you make something from nothing.
This is how you spend a lazy snowed-in day reading a book and watching TV, and still feel like you accomplished something….
Making chicken stock takes several hours, but most of that you can spend ignoring it as it bubbles away on the stove. Browning the bones of your chicken carcass adds most of an hour to the total time, but almost nothing to the hands-on time – and the difference in the results is extraordinary. Stock made from a chicken carcass can be thin and watery, but the caramelization from roasting the bones enriches the flavor dramatically and gives better color too.
Browned-Bone Chicken Stock
2 meaty chicken carcasses
2 carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped
1 medium onion with peel, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
8 cloves garlic, peels on, crushed with the side of a knife
8 cups water, plus more to top up
1 bay leaf
Stems from one bunch parsley
1 teaspoon turmeric, for golden color, optional
1 teaspoon vinegar
Dried and fresh herbs to taste
Start with 2 meaty chicken carcasses, or bones to equal about that amount. You can save bones in the freezer until you have enough. Place in a roasting pan or casserole just large enough to hold them (if it’s too big the juices may stick and burn), breaking carcasses up a bit so they lay flat, and roast at 450 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, until nice and brown. Either throw the carrot, onion, and celery into the pan after 15 minutes, or saute in your stockpot with a little oil.
When the bones are nice and brown, add them to your stockpot along with all the remaining ingredients. Take this list as a guide, but use what’s on hand. I like to use parsley stems because they add nice flavor and it makes me feel frugal; I included celery because it’s good and traditional, but I never have it on hand and rarely use it. If you know what you’ll be using the stock for, you can tailor the herbs that way – cilantro, for instance, if you’ll be making a Mexican or Thai soup. Use a light hand with dried herbs, no more than two teaspoons total, as too much can create a medicinal taste after long simmering.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Let simmer for two hours or more, checking liquid level periodically. If the broth has reduced below the top of the solids, add a little more water.
When the vegetables are mushy and flavorless (having given all their flavor to the stock), it’s done. Strain it into a large bowl, then use right away or cool, package, and freeze for a rainy day.
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