Thursday, April 29, 2010

Chicken Stock

Everyone sings the praises of homemade chicken stock - cooking show hosts, restaurant chefs, my mom, my cats...ok not really, but you get the point. It's no secret that homemade chicken stock is far superior to what you buy in the store, it's just that I hadn't gotten around to making any until now. Whenever I'm making a recipe that calls for chicken stock, I never have the foresight to make any chicken stock a day in advance. But, the chicken carcasses were starting to pile up in my freezer so I figured it was about time to do something with them.

I called my mom to ask her for a recipe, because she recently did some sort of class on stocks and showed me the packet of recipes when I was home in March. But she wasn't home when I called and I was too impatient to wait, so I consulted the next best person for this...Ina Garten. Ina's recipe calls for whole chickens, and I had carcasses so I had to adjust a bit. Plus, I didn't want to make such a huge amount (her recipe calls for 7 quarts of water). I don't even have a pot that big. So here is her recipe with my adjustments.

2 whole chicken carcasses, plus leftovers from 2 bone-in chicken breasts
1 large yellow onion, unpeeled and quartered
3 carrots, unpeeled and halved
2 stalks celery with leaves, cut into thirds
2 parsnips, unpeeled and cut in half, optional
10 sprigs fresh parsley
7-8 sprigs fresh thyme
10 sprigs fresh dill
1/2 head garlic, unpeeled and cut in 1/2 crosswise
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Place the chickens, onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, thyme, dill, garlic, and seasonings in a large stockpot. Add 3 to 3 1/2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 4 hours. Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander and discard the solids. Chill the stock overnight. The next day, remove the surface fat. Use immediately or pack in containers and freeze for up to 3 months.

That's the beginning of the stock. I went with the optional parsnips. Now for the gross part. I refrigerated the stock overnight, and then removed the surface fat. Ewwww.

The stock actually looked green when I took it out of the fridge, but as you can see once I started skimming off that layer of fat I had a nice, rich, brown chicken stock.

The only tip I would give is if you're unsure how much water to add, err on the side of less rather than more. You can always add more, or dilute it if it's too concentrated once it's done. But if you add to much in the beginning...not much you can do to fix it. Ina's original recipe called for three 5-lb whole chickens, 7 quarts of water, and double the rest of the ingredients I listed, and actually triple the onions (she calls for 3 onions but I used one because the one I had was pretty big). If you go with whole chickens (or chicken parts) instead of leftovers, you can eat the chicken once the broth is done cooking. I used the stock for the lentil and vegetable soup, and was SO much better than store-bought stock.

P.S. I made homemade granola bars yesterday for the fourth time, and this time I used dried strawberries and Turkish figs instead of dates, apricots and raisins. Yummm.

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