Here in central/south Texas, the weather has taken a much welcome chilly turn, which you will never hear me complain about. My porters taste better, my house feels better, my new COUCH is cozier…I was born for winter. Bring it on.
So kiddies, today we’re going to talk about something I ALWAYS keep in my freezer. Always. It’s a staple and I end up basing many of my recipes around it…homemade chicken stock. I mentioned this staple in my stuffed squash recipe. Its cheap, freaking delicious, and it’s recycling! I love feeling like I got as much out of what I’ve bought as possible, and this recipe does just that. Now, you can use a whole raw chicken and roast it or cook it yourself, I’m just not that hardcore yet. What I like to do is wait until I have a recipe that calls for shredded chicken, usually jambalaya, because it calls for shredded chicken, and a good bit of stock, then I use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, pick almost all the meat off the bones, and use them for the stock.
There are a few things equipment-wise you will need: a few standard size ice cube trays, (explaining later) a mesh skimmer, (optional) a large pot, cheesecloth, large strainer, large mixing bowl, (a really deep one, like the biggest mixing bowl you have), a couple gallon freezer bags, (depending on how much you make) and a ladle. Most of this stuff you should have in your kitchen already…if you don’t, you should. and all of it can be found at Walmart…if you must.
WARNING: There will be an excessive use of the word carcass in this post. If that term bothers you…I’m sorry, this may not be for you. Please turn back now.
So what I do is I pick all of the chicken off of the carcass, not being super picky about it being picked clean. Small pieces of meat and skin just add to the flavor of the finished stock. I just leave the whole carcass in the container it comes in, and any small bones i just throw them back in there to keep it all contained. Chicken is just messy. There is no way around it. The only way to pick a chicken is with your fingers, so wash up. It will be slimy, but just remember it all washes off. Wu-sah.
Now grab that big ol’ pot we talked about earlier. The size of this pot will determine how much stock you can make (obviously), so if you need a ton of stock for whatever reason, think about investing in a large stock pot. I did, and I absolutely love it. So dump that whole container of chicken bones and skin and fat and meat into your pot. The whole thing. Just dump it.
Now everything else you add to this pot is optional. Like literally everything but the chicken is optional. The reason being is the entire reason I make stock the way I do is to add flavor. All stock is, is bones and water. that’s literally it. That tiny box you pay $5 in the store for is bones, water, and time. What I do as far as flavor additives are flavors I typically cook with or go well in many dishes, namely ones with chicken (again, duh) Bay, paprika, herbs de provence, thyme, green onion…just throw whatever herbs you like with chicken in the pot with the bones. I usually do a couple bay leaves, a handful of herbs de provence, some smoked paprika, and thyme and rosemary if I have them. The most important to me is the bay.
Next we talk about mirepoix. This is the base for many soups, and stews. All mirepoix is, is a fancy word for carrots, onions, and celery. We add the mirepoix to stock to add more depth of flavor, and also my mom loves to eat the carrots after they’ve stewed in the stock for several hours. Om nom nom. So basically to add the mirepoix to the stock it’s a little different than say making a soup. if we were doing a soup, we would chop all our veggies into bite-size pieces of similar size so the all cook evenly because we would be sauteing them. but for the stock, we will being boiling them over several hours, so we really just need them to fit on our pot. All i do is peel a couple red onions, quarter them, and toss them in there. Then peel my carrot and cut each one into two pieces. Then I like a bunch of celery, so usually about 4 stalks i wipe off and cut in half as well.
Now fill your pot with water and crank the heat up.
I boil my stock AT LEAST 3 hours. Usually more, it just depends on how late at night I started it. When I was living at home, I would start it before my shift at work, and leave it on all shift while my mom was home, then check it when I got back. You can’t overcook stock. the longer it heats, the more flavor is extracted. HOWEVER, it will lose water fairly rapidly once it does finally start to boil, so just keep adding water. Be prepared for your house to smell like chicken noodle soup for a long time.
You are looking for a deep golden brown color to your stock. I accidentally turned a batch green once because of my love for celery, I had grown some at home but didn’t collar it, so it was really tough, but it smelled really fragrant, so I figured it would be perfect for stock making. Well, it was a deep deep green, and after a few hours, so was my stock. I tasted it and it was just fine, but it was green nonetheless.
So once you are satisfied with the color and flavor of your stock, it’s time to strain. To prepare the strainer, locate that large mixing bowl, and set your strainer on top of it. Ideally, it will rest suspended on the top of the bowl. I find this operation is safest in the sink. Now, take the cheesecloth and line the strainer with it. Check the bowl to make sure it doesn’t wobble. If it feels un-sturdy, the massive amount of liquid you are going to pour into it will topple it and you will have a VERY large mess to clean. Or if you listened and put it in the sink, you will lose some of you hard earned liquid gold. So make sure your bowl ain’t going anywhere.
Now, VERY CAREFULLY remove the pot from the heat, and pour everything through the strainer. if it doesn’t all fit in one bowl, get another and strain into that bowl until everything is out of the pot and all of the carcass is chilling in the strainer. Now, pick up your strainer and hold it above the bowl so all the liquid can drain out of the carcass and mirepoix. this is where the best stuff is, so don’t skip this step.
After you have let the liquid drain, set the strainer on top of your pot, and let it drain some more.
Now take a step back and admire that steaming bowl of liquid awesomeness you just made. You. You did it.
Let liquid awesomeness cool a bit, and prepare a shelf in your freezer for the ice trays.
This is my favorite part: Storage.
To store all your golden liquid creation, simply ladle into ice trays and freeze! then store in a freezer zip top bag. So easy right???
To freeze all of it may take a couple days, I only have 3 ice trays, so I just empty them into the freezer bag when I get home from work and fill them up again until all the fresh stock is frozen. To store fresh stock, just cover the mixing bowl with saran wrap and keep it in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks…and not a day longer. This is still chicken, kiddies. After a day in the fridge, there may be some white buildup floating on the top of the stock, use the mesh skimmer to skim it off, and use as normal.
And there you have it. My most essential staple I have a hard time cooking without. Now here’s a bonus recipe for fried eggs my way :]
frozen chicken stock ice cubes
oil (or bacon fat)
salt and pepper
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Crack egg into the oil once it’s hot. Fry until the white is nearly cooked through on the top. salt and pepper the egg and sprinkle with smoked paprika. When the white is nearly cooked, place one cube of chicken stock in the skillet but not touching the egg and cover immediately, this will steam the top of the egg, so no flipping!
Once the egg is cooked to your preferred doneness, Remove from pan and serve immediately with toasted Ezekiel bread. Yummmm