I did promise, didn’t I? Now that you’ve been breaking down chickens all week, you should have some chicken carcasses lying around, right? Well, hopefully they’re not just lying around. That’s gross. Refrigerate them, for goodness’ sake.
Wherever those chicken carcasses may be, I ask you now to pull them out and get ready to make some incredible chicken stock. I will warn you, though, you’re never going to be able to taste store-bought chicken stock the same way again. Even the best one will still have this slightly off background taste that tells you it isn’t quite the real deal. What is the real deal? The chicken stock I am about to tell you how to make, a staple every kitchen should have.
So I had two chicken carcasses lying around—I mean, in my fridge—so I put them into a big roasting pan.
I’m making a dark chicken stock, by the way. If you want a light one, skip the roasting step. The dark one will be much richer; the light one is good if you want a subtler flavor.
Roast the chicken bones at 375 F for about fifteen minutes so they get a head start on the vegetables you’re going to add.
Meanwhile, roughly chop your veggies. The basic essentials are onions, carrots, and celery, but you could also add leeks, parsnips, turnips, broccoli stems, mushrooms, or garlic—nearly any vegetable. Consider how it tastes and decide whether or not you want that flavor in your stock. I kept it simple this time, and used the basics:
Yes, keep all those skins, stems, and ends on. There is flavor to be extracted from every part of most vegetables, so use as much of them as you can. They go into the roasting pan with the now semi-roasted chicken, tossed with a couple tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil.
Now it all goes back into the oven for another forty minutes or so, stirring occasionally. You want caramelization—some browning—on both the bones and the vegetables.
Next, get your biggest stockpot and put the roasted bones and vegetables into it. Add some herbs; fresh is best, but dry works well too.
I used a small bunch of fresh parsley, about four whole peppercorns, a couple teaspoons each of dried rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and savory, and two bay leaves.
Now, cover it all with the coldest water you can. I add ice cubes and get my tap water as cold as possible. If you think of it ahead of time, put some water in the fridge and get it good and icy.
So, why cold? Starting food in cold water extracts flavor from the food and leeches it into the water once it begins to simmer. If you’re poaching or simmering food in liquid and you’re going to be eating the food itself, not the cooking liquid, start it in warm or hot water so that the flavors will all be concentrated in the food item. Good tip, eh?
Now, crank up the heat on that stockpot and bring the liquid to a simmer. Meanwhile, what about all that browned goodness stuck on the bottom of your roasting pan?
You definitely don’t want that to go to waste, so place your roasting pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Once it’s good and hot, add about ½ cup red wine and deglaze, scraping up all the browned bits on the pan. After two minutes, add the liquid to your stockpot.
From here on, it’s pretty straightforward. Once your stock gets up to a simmer, keep it there and let it cook uncovered for four to six hours. Occasionally skim the foam from the surface of the stock, and don’t let it boil—that will cause the impurities that have risen to the top of the liquid to be mixed back into it. Keep the bones and vegetables covered in liquid at all times, adding more water when necessary. Try not to add too much, though. If the stock seems to be evaporating too much, decrease the heat.
Here’s mine, early in the simmering process:
Here it is about two hours later. See how dark and delicious it’s getting?
When adequate time has passed, you’ll be ready to strain your stock. Having done this a few times, I’ve perfected my own method of doing this: first, I strain it through a colander, just to get out all the big pieces of bone and vegetable. Then, I strain it through a fine mesh strainer, and then again through the same strainer, this time lined with cheesecloth. That does the trick and gets all the bits and pieces out of my stock. Now, this might seem obvious, but I’m going to mention it anyways: strain your stock into another container, not into the sink and down the drain! I say this because every time I strain stock I’ve made, I always instinctually move to strain it into the sink—bad idea!
Anyways, so after straining, hopefully not down the drain of your sink, check out this incredible, lovely product you end up with:
Yes, it’s very dark, and in this case, that’s what we were aiming for. Again, if you want light chicken stock, skip the roasting process. That golden layer on top is fat, so I skimmed that off. When this product gets cold, it becomes completely gelatinous. This is a good thing. That gelatin is from collagen, extracted from the bones you used to make the stock, and equals rich, delicious FLAVOR!
Once again, let me just say, you will never be able to taste store-bought chicken stock the same way again.