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Don’t let on to any French chefs that I told you so, but you can make a delicious and full-bodied chicken stock with just the leftover carcass of a roast chicken and a few vegetables.  There’s no need to stockpile wings and backs in your freezer or — gasp! — spend good money on a whole chicken only to stew it into a dry, flavorless oblivion for the sake of a few quarts of stock.  The roasted bones and leftover scraps are perfectly capable of producing a rich stock that sets up to a soft jelly.  Homemade stock is purely and intensely chickeny, unlike the thin, salty canned stuff (or even the thin, salty, expensive, organic boxed stuff), and makes a simple soup or sauce truly spectacular.

Poor Man’s Rich Chicken Stock

Yield:  About 2 quarts.

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and quartered

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

2 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks

3 or 4 cloves garlic, peeled

Carcass of one 7 lb roast chicken, plus the giblets (use the gizzard and heart, but NOT the liver) and neck, if they were included with the chicken

About 9 c. cold water

8 whole peppercorns

1 dried bay leaf

A handful of fresh parsley stems, if you happen to have them

Trim carcass of any remaining shreds of meat (save this for soup!), pull off and discard large sections of skin and visible fat, and break the skeleton up into 8 or 9 pieces.  I twist off the wing, leg, and thigh bones at their joints, then pull out the back and snap the ribcage in half along the breast bone.  Use a chef’s knife to do this, if necessary — you want the carcass in small pieces that will fit snugly in the pot.

Heat a stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When hot, swirl in olive oil and add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and neck and/or giblets.  Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables and giblets are nicely browned, about 5 minutes.

Pour in 1 cup of the water, scraping bottom of pan with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits.  Add carcass, peppercorns, bay leaf, and parsley stems to pan, and pour in enough of the remaining water to just cover.  Turn heat to high, bring to a boil, then lower heat.  Pay attention to the stock while you wait for it to boil — if it’s allowed to boil too long (and this I know from a sorry personal experience), the fat can emulsify and make the stock greasy.  Skim the froth that rises to the surface.   Let stock simmer gently, stirring and turning over bones once or twice, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

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Strain through a fine mesh sieve.  If you’re using the stock immediately, skim the fat off the surface.  Otherwise, let it cool at room temperature, then refrigerate.  When cold, the fat solidifies and is very easy to remove.  Stock is a staple in my freezer — I usually freeze it in pint containers, but if you’re more likely to use it in smaller quantities, freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop the cubes into a zip-top bag.

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