The foundation for many soups is a broth or stock and is one of the first things you learn as a young chef. Stock is not only easy to make, it’s one of the few things I freeze so as to have the makings of a soup or risotto always at hand. A sufficiently rich and fragrant stock makes a wonderful soup all by itself or can be the base for a wide range of dishes. I use chicken stock in a lot of my cooking and find that the full flavor of a homemade stock cannot compare to a store bought product, especially when you might want to reduce the stock down to intensify the flavor. Some store bought versions when reduced can taste artificial and unpalatable. I've been asked on multiple occasions what the difference is between broth and stock. Broth uses only the meat of the chicken, meat, etc while stock uses the bones as well as the meat. Stock tends to have a fuller mouth feel and richer flavor, due to the gelatin released by long-simmering bones. Chicken stock tends to have a fuller mouth feel and richer flavor, due to the gelatin released by long-simmering bones.
At times, I have used a whole chicken to make stock, which may seem extravagant, but it produces a very sweet, fragrant full-bodied stock. After an hour of cooking you can lift the chicken out of the pot and remove the breasts and return the carcass to the pot. The poached breasts are delicately tender and delicious; they make a great meal, especially with a little salsa verde.
But more often than not, I use two free-range organic chickens, in which I take the breast meat as well as the leg and thigh portions off and freeze for later use. I take the remaining carcass with the wings, neck and back and roast for a time until they turn a lovely golden color. I find this brings a wonderful depth of flavor to the stock. I have come across many variations of making stock, some more complex than others. This is one method that I have come to rely upon that results in a beautifully rich, clear and fragrant stock.
makes 4 quarts
- 4-5 lbs. chicken bones, wings, neck and back
- 3 yellow onions (I leave the skins on)
- 6 carrots
- 3 ribs celery
- a little olive oil
- 20 black peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- small bunch of thyme
- bunch of flat leaf parsley
- 4 quarts cold water
Preheat the oven to 350°. Lay the chicken pieces on a large baking tray and roast on the top rack of the oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile, roughly chop the onions, carrots and celery and place in a large stockpot or saucepan. Add the tiniest amount of olive oil and sweat over a low heat until the vegetables soften slightly and start to release their flavors.
When the bones are nicely colored, add them to the vegetables along with the black peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme and parsley. Pour in the water and bring just to the boil. Immediately, turn the heat down to low and cook gently for 1 ½ hours, skimming the foam from the surface every now and then. It is very important that a stock does not boil, as this causes the impurities to be dragged back down into the stock rather than collect on the surface where they can be removed.
At the end of the cooking time, you should have a pure, clean tasting stock. Remove from the heat, and strain through a fine sieve. Use as required. If preparing ahead, cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze until needed.