When I decided I was getting serious about cooking, I asked Santa for a copy of the CIA cookbook. This is not some tome of secret recipes for cyanide and ricin, but the textbook of the Culinary Institute of America. After reading the first chapter and having the everliving crap scared out of me by the food safety warnings, I found a tremendous amount of very useful techniques but not a lot of recipes relevant to the existence of a person not cooking in a commercial kitchen.
I had requested this book because I was particularly interested in figuring out how to make my own chicken stock since so many recipes called for it. Unfortunately, the first item in their ingredient list was 8 pounds of chicken bones. At the time I got the book, I was single and cooking meant either some kind of pasta or (if I had a date) boneless, skinless chicken breasts which didn’t leave me with a lot of bones.
Fast forward a few years and I bought myself a copy of How to Eat by Nigella Lawson which got me hooked on roasting chickens. The brilliant thing I learned from Ms. Lawson is that one should not throw out the carcass of the chicken once it has been stripped of all meat. The chicken still has more to contribute (hello, bones)! You can take that carcass, put it in a freezer bag (1 gallon) and then when you have three of them, you can use them to make stock.
Ms. Lawson’s recipe calls for a bouquet garni and the CIA demands a “Standard sachet d’épices” but those are just really fancy ways of saying herbs in a ball of cheesecloth and since it’s going to get strained in the end, I just throw the herbs in there. It’s not like cheesecloth is going to add anything to the stock. This is actually one case where using fresh herbs is a good idea since they strain out better.
This brings me to my next revelation: chicken stock is boiled garbage. That’s right, you have been paying $5.00/quart for boiled garbage. More if it’s organic garbage. Now, I’ve been all civilized here and used fresh vegetables in the recipe below. But if you are a really cheap assed bastard (and I’m not going to admit to going to these lengths in a public forum), you could take this to a ridiculous extreme and swap out the celery with celery ends from recipes, the carrots with carrot ends, and instead of using a whole onion there’s nothing that says saving up all of your onion skins and ends wouldn’t work if you just dropped a loose whole clove in there. Even the herbs could be frozen. It’s so annoying when you buy fresh herbs for a recipe and then find the rotting remnants in the fridge a few months later. You could keep a ziplock in the freezer for herb remnants sitting right next to your chicken carcasses and onion ends. That’s not how I roll (mostly because I have a small freezer), but if that’s your game …
- Big ass stock pot (mine holds 20 quarts)
- Big bowl
- Lots of containers for freezing (I recommend a couple of pint containers – sour cream containers work well, and a bunch of quart containers – I prefer the nice, sturdy clear plastic ones that the local Thai place uses to deliver soups)
- The picked clean, broken up carcasses of at least 3 roasted chickens. By picked clean, I mean you’ve used up all the meat you can reasonably consume from a roast chicken and you want to roast a new one so you stuck the remnants in a freezer bag and put it in the freezer. Also, don’t worry about the lemons in the chickens. I’ve done this with and without and they really don’t change the character of the stock.
- Large carrot
- 2 celery ribs
- 1 large onion (white or yellow, not red)
- 1 whole clove
- 1 leek
- Sprig Rosemary
- Sprig Oregano
- Sprig Thyme
- Salt if you feel like you need it
Time: About 30 minutes prep, anywhere from 2-4 hours cooking
Yield (because nobody is really eating stock as a meal): Depends how much you reduce it but anywhere from a gallon to a gallon and half of stock
- Drop the 3 carcasses in the pot
- Cover about half way with water
- Cut one end off of the onion and stud it with the whole clove
- Trim the ends of the celery stalks and cut them in half lengthwise
- Peel and trim the ends off of the carrot and cut it in half lengthwise
- Cut the leaf and root parts off of the leek leaving just the light green and white parts
- Add the herbs, onion, celery, carrot, and leek to the pot
- Add water to cover the chickens
- Turn up the heat and bring to a boil
- Once it boils, turn it down to medium and simmer until the liquid has reduced in volume by 10-15%. If you let it go longer you will end up with a darker, more concentrated stock that will give you richer (but less subtle) flavor when you cook with it.
- Turn off the heat, let the stock cool for a bit. How long depends largely on your tolerance for having your hands burned.
- Put the large bowl in the sink and put the colander on top of it
- Pour the stock through the colander and then ladle the stock into the containers. You will probably have to repeat this a few times unless you have an 8 quart bowl.
- Allow the stock in the containers to cool and then pop them in the freezer.