Domesticity Nouveau

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chicken Stock, Chicken Broth

I have to disagree with one of my favorite cooking references, Cooks Illustrated, who says “Rare is the cook who has the time for the slowly simmered perfection of homemade chicken stock.”  WHAT?!?  Chicken stock is one of the easiest things to make and really does not take much active time in the kitchen.  I suppose they could be right if you take into consideration how long it bubbles away on the stove, but that is passive time that you can spend doing something better, like taking a nap, teaching the dog to vacuum, or building squirrel agility courses.

When it comes to frugality, quality and kitchen fundamentals, stocks and broths have to be at the top of the list.  To take scraps from your kitchen and turn them into something more magnificent than you could ever buy at the store is certainly a bit of kitchen alchemy.

So what is the difference between stock and broth?  Well, in my world, not much.  However, traditionally there are a couple of small differences.  Stock is made with more boney bits and broth is made with more meaty bits.  The more bone, the more gelatin is released and therefore the thicker, silkier, and deeper the finished product.  Stock is thicker and heartier; broth is thinner and more delicate.  Broths are for eating straight up, as in chicken soup; stocks are for enriching other preparations, such as risotto, pan sauce or a pot pie. 

Making stock is as simple as making tea; soak something yummy in boiling water until concentrated to your liking, then remove it.  However, there are a few things that can make the difference between good, better, and best.  There are four basic components to your stock:

Meat:  You can toss it in raw, but a quick broil will bring out so much more depth and color to your finished product.  You can also save the bones and scraps from roasted chickens, even the bones that your family has gnawed on, GASP!  They’ll be boiled and cooked long enough that any germs wouldn’t stand a chance.  The Thanksgiving turkey carcass is perfect for this!  Start a bag in the freezer to collect your chicken parts as they cross your path.  If you buy whole chickens and separate them yourself, throw the backs in a bag in the freezer until you have enough.  And if you don’t have scraps, or freezer space to store them, you can easily use a whole chicken; just whack it into a few large hunks with a clever so the bones are exposed and can release their flavor.

Veggies:  Mirepoix, the fancy French way of saying a base of carrots, celery and onion, are part of any good stock.  You can save the outer layer of onions, the tops, bottoms and peelings of carrots and celery in a freezer bag until it’s time to cook.  As with the meat, a quick broil will add more flavor and color, but you can always toss them in raw or frozen.

Aromatics:  These are the flavorings that really add character to your stock.  Peppercorns, ginger, garlic, herbs or other fruits and veggies.    This is where you define the personality of your broth.

Water:  Since this is the most abundant ingredient, it is worth taking into consideration.  If your tap water is less than desirable for drinking, it will remain that way, and even concentrate more unfavorably in your broth.  If you filter your tap water to drink it, I would recommend filtering it for your stock.

A note about salt.  PLEASE don’t add any salt to your stock.  The time for salt is when you are making an actual meal with your stock.  By adding salt your stock you run the risk of it condensing it into a saline solution that fish won’t even swim in.

Every cook has their kitchen failures.  My most recent was putting too hot of broth into the freezer and the resulting broken jar.  In all the years I have made broth, this was my first broken jar.  To avoid this happening in your freezer, there are a few essential steps to ensure your success.  Leave enough head room for the broth to expand as it freezes, about 1 1/2 inches should be sufficient for a quart jar, about 1 inch for pint jars; wide mouth jars are better suited for this process.  Allow your hot broth to come to room temperature at the very least, better to chill further in the fridge, before putting in the freezer.  You must NOT store broth using a water bath canning process, it just isn’t sufficient enough to preserve its freshness, you’ll need to either freeze your broth, or use it within 3-4 days.  I’m thinking there are probably pressure canning methods for broth, but I haven’t ventured into pressure cooking… yet.

Chicken Stock

3 1/2 to 4 pounds chicken bones
2 celery stalks, in chunks
2 carrots, in chunks
1 medium onion, in chunks
5 quarts cold water
Aromatics (see below)

Optional:  Broil chicken bones on a baking sheet, on middle rack, for 10-15 minutes until starting to turn golden brown
Optional:  Broil vegetable chunks on a baking sheet, on middle rack, for 5-10 minutes until starting to brown.  (I do this while the chicken is coming to a boil)

Place chicken in large stock pot and cover with water.  Bring barely to a boil for 5-10 minutes until a thick foam forms.  Turn heat to low and skim as much scum as possible from the top of the liquid and discard.  Add vegetables and aromatics and bring to the barest of simmers.  Slowly simmer from 4-24 hours, reducing volume by 1/3 to 1/2.  Do not stir, I know it will be tempting, but leave the stock undisturbed until reduced.  Put the spoon down, and step away from the stock pot!

When stock is reduced in volume, strain the liquid through a fine-meshed sieve lined with cheese cloth into a large bowl.  Allow to settle, then spoon off the fat that rises to the top.  (You can save the fat to make schmaltz or discard it.)  Ladle the stock into your storage containers, making sure to stir well with each scoop to assure that whatever fat is remaining be distributed evenly between the containers.  Allow to cool to room temperature and place in freezer or fridge. 

When the solid parts in the strainer are cool, you can pick through to claim the chicken meat to use in another dish.


(inspired by China Moon Cookbook, Barbara Tropp)
1” thumb of fresh ginger, sliced into 4-5 pieces
3 scallions, in chunks
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp whole white peppercorns
1 heaping tsp whole Szechwan peppercorns

(inspired by my garden)
3 large bay leaves
5 large sage leaves
Large handful of fresh thyme
1/2 Tbsp whole black peppercorns

(inspired by Grandmas everywhere)
1 small bunch fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 clove of garlic, peeled

1 comment:

  1. This was great, very good read, I have always when making stock from a carcass for instance done it right away, never thought about doing it later, having frozen the whatever and then getting back to it. Great, thanks so much.