13 April 2010
For the past few months, I've been on a whole roasted chicken kick. I know I'm not the only one out there, right? It's just the perfect thing to make on the weekend. It's super easy and yields a satisfying meal, delicious leftovers, cute little wishbones, and perhaps most important: a carcass for making chicken stock. Holy cooking liquid, far superior to store-bought stock.
Now, I'm NOT a total nut about this, like some people--we definitely have a stash of boxed stock in our pantry--but I can taste the difference. It's fresher, cleaner, more subtle and has a more "restaurant-y" (yep, that's a word) mouth-feel (yep, that too). It's all about the bones. When I have homemade stock on hand, I'll always opt for it. And, doesn't it just feel good to use something that started off looking like nothing special, but then you turn into something that's useful and tasty? Happy risottos, soups, sauces.
So, even though making stock is dead simple, I didn't get around to it, for... ah, six chickens. So, yesterday was The Day. Our freezer had been over-bird-ened (sorry) for some time. I hauled out two huge stock pots and got to work. You've made your own stock, right? If not, here's how simple it is:
1. Put carcass(es) into a big stock pot. These bones may have been in the fridge or freezer, it doesn't matter. Make sure you remove any lemons or cooking herbs from the interior of the bird. Any skin or meat left on the carcass is just fine.
2. Cover with cold, fresh water to cover bones. Bring to a simmer (tiny bubbles rising to the surface--not a boil). Hold at a simmer over low-ish flame for 4 hours or so. You can go longer if you choose, but 4 hours is long enough to get good results, while not so long as to be annoying. Just put it on the back burner, set a timer and go do something else.
3. After this initial simmering, skim any nasty bits off the top.
4. Then add: a peeled and chopped yellow or white onion; a chopped carrot (I don't bother to peel); a couple garlic cloves (I used up my last green garlic); some lightly smashed black peppercorns (1 T. or so), 2 bay leaves, and some aromatic herbs (I used thyme and Italian parsley). If you're making a big batch, scale this up as needed. Approximate is fine. This last time I also added a good squirt of tomato paste to each pot, which is apparently a chef-y thing. Worked nicely: added some color and subtle (non-tomato-y) flavor. Simmer again for 1 hour.
5. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Let cool (I let it partially cool on the counter, then in the fridge overnight).
6. Skim the fat off the top, then package up into containers for freezing for a few months or refrigerating for a week.
My freezer may have lost a half-dozen carcasses (plus, while I was at it, some ancient puff pastry, a handful of mini-quiches, and crunched up, destroyed flatbreads), but it's now gained a handsome stack of frozen stock blocks. Plus the huge jug in the fridge for immediate use. Needless to say, it's time for soup!