Saturday, February 28, 2009

Taking Stock

One of the key ingredients to making great soup is homemade chicken stock. And here's the big secret - it's far superior to store bought...and so simple to make. When Nancy was pregnant with Gavin she craved soup all the time, and earlier this week I made some chicken noodle soup and noticed my existing supplies of chicken stock had dwindled. So today I made another big batch which I will freeze in pint sized mason jars. That way I will always have some on hand when needed - lovely jubbly.

Many folks save leftover chicken carcasses to make stock, but I find if I use a whole chicken or chicken quarters I will end up with some moist and yummy shredded chicken for use in other dishes such as chicken salad or enchiladas. I don't roast the bones beforehand which would yield a fuller flavored brown stock (which I think is less important than in beef stock), but by leaving the peel on the onion I still get a nice dark color which works well in everything I've paired it with.

The onions, carrots and celery form the "holy trinity" or "mirepox" of aromatics that make your kitchen smell divine as they simmer.

4lbs chicken quarters (or whole chicken cut up)
2-3 large onions, unpeeled and quartered
5 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
3 pieces of celery, cut into thirds
1 head of garlic, unpeeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
Your choice of herbs (basil, parsley, thyme etc)
A small handful of peppercorns

Dump all the ingredients in the largest stockpot you have (I use a 12 quart All-Clad) and add cold water. Cover and bring to a boil, then remove the lid and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain the stock and discard all the solids except for the chicken and carrots. Sieve it through a fine mesh to remove all the fine particles (I like a more rustic soup so I usually skip this step).

Eat the carrots - they're delicious.

Once cooled, shred the chicken and use in other dishes.

Allow the stock to cool and then portion out into containers. Store in the refrigerator overnight so the fat will come to the surface. This can be skimmed off before freezing, though it helps preserve the stock, so you could also leave it on there and just skim it off after defrosting.

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