Here’s a stock tip that is guaranteed to produce high-yield dividends:
One of the most important lessons I learned in culinary school was to make stock. Even if you don’t do anything else different in your cooking making a basic chicken stock will dramatically give your food a powerful flavor boost. And don’t spend your money on pre-made stock–most of the stocks out in the market taste diluted and is heavily loaded with sodium. Oh, low sodium you say? Yeah, the French have a word for it, it’s called–le piss.
It’s not complicated to make your own chicken stock: you just need a chicken, some mirepoix (Fancy French for the trinity combo of onions, carrots, and celery), a few aromatics, and water.
I make a big batch of stock every 4-5 weeks, depending on how much I go through during the month’s gamut of recipes. I recommend preparing the mirepoix and aromatics the night before and if you have a nice hubbie who gets up early on the weekends he can get the stock started, so you can sleep in and wake up to the scent of mirepoix and fresh herbs brewing in poultry broth. By the time we eat breakfast, read the Sunday NYTimes and have our coffee, we’ve got home-made stock ready for our Sunday cook-a-thon.
Bullish Chicken Stock
Makes 12-13 quarts
4-5 lb. Chicken
3 large onions, peeled and quartered
3 large horse carrots, rough chopped
3 celery ribs*, rough chopped
2 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh Thyme
Small bunch of flat-leaf Parsley (8-10 stems)
2 Bay Leaves
3 Tbsp. Salt (course Kosher)
Freshly ground course Black Pepper
Special equipment: a large stock pot. I use a 20 quart pot which yields 13-14 quarts of stock.
1. Rub the chicken interior and exterior with salt, rinse under cold water, and then place in a large stock pot. Fill the pot with cold water until it covers about 1-inch above the chicken. Set the pot on medium-high heat and let it cook to just under the boiling point (about 30-40 minutes).
3. While the stock comes to a boil, use a ladle to occasionally skim the scum off the surface. Add the mirepoix and aromatics after the stock has been cooking for 1 hour.
3. Lower the heat to a rolling boil, and continue skimming the stock and adjusting the heat every 20 minutes to keep it from boiling over. Cook for an additional 3 hours.
4. Strain stock through a fine mesh sieve into quart-size containers. If it’s winter, we’d open the kitchen window and line the containers along the sill to cool. Another option is to place the containers in the sink and fill it with ice to cool, then store in the freezer.
Chicken stock is not only useful for making soups, but adds great depth of flavor to many dishes as well. Also, now that you have a whole chicken, there are endless possibilities. I like to pull the meat off the bones and make a chicken pot pie or a spicy chicken salad. Or you can always pick at it and dip it into a savory, garlic, lime, chili fish sauce!
*If you have a celery heart (the tenderest, inner most ribs of the celery), throw that in as well. A Chef once told me when I asked him if I should throw the celery heart into the stock, “Are you after my own heart? Of course, it is the sweetest part–throw it in!”