Friday, April 21, 2017

How to Make Great Chicken Stock

One of the main reasons that my food tastes better than it used to is that I use homemade chicken stock rather than store-bought. The collagen-rich stock adds richness and body to pan sauces and soups and generally raises the level of the underlying dish perceptibly.

I use a pressure cooker and you should, too. But my recipe works without it. Either way, it takes just five minutes to get the ingredients in the pot and little maintenance thereafter (none if you use a pressure cooker).

Chicken stock ingredients in pressure cooker - before and after cooking

Bobby Jay's Chicken Stock

I have a million recipes for chicken stock, but here's what I do:

Ingredients (you don't have to be very precise about any of these):
  • 2 1/2 lbs of chicken backs, 1 1/4 lbs of chicken feet (it's REALLY better if you can get feet, but otherwise use wings - much more expensive and a lot less collagen)
  • 1 medium onion, quartered (I like to keep the peel on, which gives a darker stock, but you can peel)
  • parsley (most importantly the stems, but I use the leaves, too) - about 10-15 stems
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp of black peppercorns
  • 1 or 2 whole cloves
  • A couple of medium carrots, cut into medium pieces
  • A couple of stalks of celery cut into medium pieces

Put everything into a pressure cooker, then cover with water. If you don't have a pressure cooker, use a big pot. Bring to a boil under pressure (or not, in which case you need to skim the impurities as the chicken comes to a boil), then cook at pressure for about 45 minutes or simmer slowly for a couple of hours -- three is even better -- making sure the chicken stays covered. You can also put it all into a slow cooker and leave it all day on low, but I prefer the pressure cooker.
NOTE: I don't use garlic or salt. which most recipes call for. I prefer to do that when making the dish in which the stock is used.

When done, strain, then reduce by 1/3. Let cool overnight, then take the fat off the top and discard (or use for schmaltz, if you're into it). 

Chilled stock with fat layer on, then removed, showing gelatinous stock
Next, put the stock into 1/3 cup muffin pans (I use silicone), and freeze. If you've done this right and uused chicken feet, this will have a gelatinous consistency.

Stock in 1/3 cup muffin pans
Store the 1/3 cup stock disks in a big (2-gallon if you can find them) ziploc bag for future use.
Frozen 1/3-cup chicken stock disks
To use, add enough water per disk to get to 1/2 cup, so 2 disks = 1 cup of very rich stock. You don't have to reduce, but my muffin tins are 1/3 cup so it fits if reduced by 1/3. If you have different units to freeze in, adjust accordingly. You probably will have about 18 disks, i.e. 6 cups of frozen stock, or 9 cups of stock once diluted. 

You can also freeze the cooled stock (reduced or not) in freezer grade ziploc bags. Put a cup or two into a quart bag, then gently squeeze out as much air as possible and lay on its side in the freezer.
Homemade stock is so precious that when I am making a recipe that calls for a huge amount of it, such as chicken soup or chicken in the pot, I use homemade stock for half and Swanson's for the remaining half. Totally fine.
Of course, you don't have to reduce or freeze the stock at all. You can use it right away or store it in the fridge for a few days. You're going to boil it anyway when you use it.

Dark stock option: if you want a dark stock, you can roast the bones, carrots, onions and celery in a hot over for an hour or so and then use all (adding the parsley, pepper and cloves) as above. It will be less gelatinous but have stronger taste. I generally don't do this for chicken, but do for turkey stock.

Try it. But seriously, get a pressure cooker; it makes your stock better and faster, and lots of other things, too. And today's pressure cookers are totally safe, despite what your grandmother may have said.

Bobby Jay

No comments: