Several years ago, I realized that I could make a lovely chicken stock without ever having to bother with raw chicken. I can control the sodium, seasonings, quantity and always have fresh stock in my refrigerator. The miracle of the grocery store roasted chicken; You are going to eat the chicken anyway, why not use the bones.
Despite the charm of Julia Child and my heritage of cooking vast quantities of food for a single event, I have an aversion to touching raw chicken. In general, I’m not a fan of touching raw meat. That said, most sushi is lovely and I will also happily suffer through preparing bacon on a Sunday morning. My weaknesses have weaknesses.
Making stock is not complicated. It does require patience and a day at home. You spend 25 minutes or so doing the prep, and then you add water, boil, reduce to a simmer and disappear for a few hours while the brew does it’s magic. If you have a Sunday when you can let the stock do it’s thing while you watch a game, read a book or practice extreme couponing, give it a try.
The key to this stock is to cook the vegetables slowly in olive oil for about 10 to 15 minutes, then add the bones from a roasted chicken and whatever herbs you are going to use and continue cooking until the vegetables begin to just caramelize. The richness of the stock depends on everything you do BEFORE you add the water. And quantities aren’t as important as balance. Remember, you can always continue to simmer the stock until it’s reduced and the flavors intensify.
Buying a roasted chicken is only slightly more expensive than buying a chicken to roast at home. If you are comfortable roasting a chicken in advance, more power to you. Take the time to remove the cooked meat from the breasts and the thighs and store it in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Large stock pot
Strainer (preferably one that will fit into your storage containers)
Storage containers (Freezer friendly are best. Ball 32 oz Freezer jars are my favorite.)
1+ Tbsp Olive oil (Tip: fill a clean and unused spray bottle with olive oil. As you are cooking, if you find you need more, rather than pouring from the olive oil bottle, just use a few sprays from your spray bottle. It’s easier to control and you only use what you need.)
1-2 large onions
2-3 large carrots
2-3 stalks of celery
pinch of salt (helps the onions cook more evenly)
bones from a roasted chicken
Herbs: sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, savory (any mixture of these, but the basics should include the first three.)
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 gallons of water (more or less to fill the pot)
The instructions above are fairly straight-forward. After adding the bones and the vegetables just caramelize, add the bay leaf and the water, bring to a boil and let simmer for 3-4 hours.
Turn off the heat and let sit for about half an hour. The stock will still be very hot, but you will be able to transfer into the containers at this point. Position your storage containers close to your stock pot, and your strainer over each container as you fill them. Ladle the hot broth into the containers, leaving at least an inch from the top to allow for expansion, if you choose to freeze your stock.
Don’t rush to put your containers in the freezer, or to seal the lids. Continue to let them sit out for an additional half hour to an hour before putting them in the refrigerator and let them chill in there overnight. I wait before sealing the lids completely until Monday morning, but make sure to leave yourself a note or you will have a lovely river on your floor when you pick up the first container. (The things you learn when you’ve had too much wine!)
At this point, are you asking, why bother? Here is a simple reason to at least try. Stock is one of those lovely ingredients that enlivens dishes. But if you don’t know what’s going into it, you also don’t know how to gauge ingredients for other recipes. Too much salt can kill a dish. Also, stock is can be very expensive. $4.00 for 25 ounces is a luxury these days. For about $10.00, the stock recipe will yield about 128 ounces (4 32 ounce containers worth). Directly compared, you would need just over 5 containers of store bought stock. You’ve just saved over $12 and you have the chicken to make other recipes.