There is nothing like a fresh, homemade stock burbling away on the stove. It smells like comfort, and will pay off in the coming days and weeks as a basic ingredient for your soups, sauces, and other dishes. Here is the theory behind and recipe for my basic chicken stock.
I don’t like to roast chickens from scratch. You have to clean it, dry it, stuff butter and herbs under the skin, and then roast it forever. There are a lot of great roast chicken recipes out there. My friend, Elisa Ludwig, a food writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote a very good piece in 2010 about the “simply delicious – but so tricky to perfect” roast chicken. Personally, I like a spatchcocked bird, like the one in Cook’s Illustrated’s “Crisp-Skin High-Roast Butterflied Chicken with Potatoes” (login required), but I will only make it for special occasions like when I feel like touching a cold, dead bird.
I almost always opt for pre-cooked grocery store birds. The grocery store has a rotisserie, I do not. Whenever we pick up on of these babies, the plan is always to eat, save, and stock. What this means is: 1) eat it tonight as part of a simple supper with fresh veggies, good cheese, and crunchy bread, 2) pull as much meat of the bones as possible to freeze for a future dinner or side like chicken and asparagus risotto, and 3) make stock from the bones.
Makes about 8 cups of stock.
- Bones and skin from a whole roasted chicken
- The top and bottom of a whole head of celery (keep the center sections for snacking or lunches)
- 2-3 medium carrots (or all the baby carrots leftover after last week’s lunches)
- 2 small onions, quartered with skins on
- 1/2 a lemon, cut in 2
- 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
- 1-2 dried bay leaves
Place all of the ingredients into a large stockpot. Fill the pot with water to cover everything by at least one inch. Crank up the heat until the water just boils then turn down the heat and simmer for at least two hours. At 30 minutes and 1.5 hours, skim off any fat that rises to the surface.
After 2 hours, let the stock settle off the heat for about 15 minutes before pouring it through a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Do not press on the bones and veggies or let them crash out of the stockpot into the strainer, this will result in cloudy stock.
You should have a fragrant, light brown liquid that reflects the light (mine looks like it has gold flecks in it, is gorgeous). Let the stock cool and divide into containers for freezing. I like to store it in two cup increments so it is easy to defrost and the right size for cooking up a batch of rice, quinua, or polenta.