Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Stock Answer...

Chicken stock is a funny thing. It's one of the core ingredients in cooking, whether making a soup, a sauce, a casserole, whatever; yet most people don't make it, but rather buy the stuff in the can (or in box). Personally, I don't have a problem with that, although this guy does. But even though I don't think it's a hanging offense to use the canned stuff, I think homemade stock is superior, and since it's pretty easy (if somewhat time-consuming) to make, it's probably something everyone should know how to do.

I also wanted to do stock today as a blog post because I figured it would be a good excuse to laze around the house, baby-sitting the stock, and recovering from my run this morning. No such luck.
But I did manage to squeeze in all the steps necessary, so maybe that shows you can make stock-making fit your schedule.

Stock is really just "parts", plus aromatics, herbs, and water. I get my parts by cleaning out the freezer periodically. Backs, wings, giblets (minus the liver), those leftover chicken thighs I never got around to using, whatever. I've got roughly 8-12 lbs, and they're all destined for the pot.
The aromatics I'm using today are the "trinity" of celery, onion, and carrot, the herbs are a combination of parsley, thyme, and tarragon (I couldn't find bay leaf in my pantry, and it'll be fine without it), and the water is Cary's finest straight from the tap.

I'm following the recipe in James Peterson's "Sauces" cookbook for Brown Chicken Stock, but you really don't need a recipe for stock. In the most basic terms, you take your chicken parts, you rinse them off, and then put them in a single layer in a roasting pan.

Preheat the oven to 400deg, and pop the parts in for 20 minutes. Once they start getting golden, add the aromatics and stir everything up. Put it all back in the oven for 45 more minutes.

When the parts come out, they'll be nice and brown and smell really good. Then you take out your parts and put them in a stock pot (I used a 16qt, the book calls for a 25qt, you decide). Then you skim the excess fat from the roasting pan, put it over two burners on top of the stove, and turn up the heat. Add about a quart of water to the pan, and bring it to a boil, and scrape all those nice brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Once you've got the pan deglazed, you (carefully) pour the water into the stock pot, and then you add about 8 more quarts of water. Bring it to a simmer and let it simmer for about 30-45 minutes, add your bouquet garni, turn the heat down to low, and leave it be for about 3-4 hours. Then you turn off the heat and let it cool.

Once you're done, just strain it with a colander to get all the big solids out, and then strain it thru a mesh strainer to get any finer solids out. What you do at that point is kind of up to you, but what I did was take about 8 ziploc freezer bags, and divvied up the stock among them, and froze the bags.

So that's it. Easy peasy. Your house will smell really good, and the next time you make something that calls for chicken stock, rather than reaching for the can, you'll thaw out some stock, and it'll taste 100 times better.


TheClassic said...

What do you do with the solids you strain from the stock? Seems like a waste to throw them out.

Dave Mackie said...

I'm a wasteful guy, I just dump everything.
Ordinarily, you'd make stock with scraps (like what's left after boning a chicken, etc), so it wouldn't be that big of a deal.
(I usually cut up chicken I buy at the store myself, since it's cheaper to do that than to buy it pre-cut up, and so I end up with a lot of backs, necks, and wings (I don't like wings). For this post, it just so happened that I had a lot of anonymous frozen chicken parts)