As I was making the French Friday's with Dorie, Around My French Table soup, by Dorie Greenspan, I was thinking about a few things I want to share with you. They're about chicken stock. Have we talked about stock before? Of all the things to make at home, I think this tops the list. It's inexpensive to make and so much better than you can buy. About three Thanksgivings ago, I was at my sister's house. We had finished our feast and were dividing the leftovers between the families. Her mother-in-law asked if we would like some turkey. I'll never forget the look on her face when I asked, "Could I have the carcass?" To me, that was the best part to take home. I'd add some carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and peppercorns to the carcass with lots of cold water, and start the simmer. From that big bird, I'd have 7 or 8 quarts of liquid amber stock ready for the freezer.
I usually don't make stock with whole chickens. It's always a carcass from a chicken I've baked. True confession... I even make stock from the deli chicken we pick up in a pinch. The stock is a little saltier, but really good.
In the time it takes you to watch an evening of TV, a few football games, or just putter the day away, you can make chicken stock. Here are the steps, tips and tricks I've learned along the way.
To print this recipe, click HERE
In a big stock pot (as big as you have), add 1-2 chicken carcasses or 1 whole chicken. Wings, necks and backs are great to keep in the freezer for stock day.
2-3 carrots, cut into thirds
2-3 stalks celery, cut into thirds
1-2 medium onion, quartered
1-2 cloves of garlic, smashed
8-10 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1-2 turnips or parsnips if you have them
1 leek, if you have one - cut into pieces and very well washed. You don't want grit in your stock.
If you have any leftover roasted vegetables from your chicken, add those too.
Any combination of herbs including rosemary, thyme, oregano (I add a spring of fresh thyme and a small spring of rosemary)
Fill the stock pot with cold water, about 2 inches from the top. Depending of the size of the stock pot, you'll have a few quarts of liquid.
Turn on the heat, and bring the stock to a very long simmer. You may have some scum float to the top. Skim that off and discard.
Don't stir the stock, just let it simmer undisturbed. Be sure not to let it boil to hard, or that will make if cloudy. You can put a cover over the pot, but keep it ajar. Check if periodically, adjust the heat to maintain the low simmer. There should be tiny bubbles around the edges and near the surface, but nothing too forceful. You can let the stock simmer for several hours. The longer it simmers, the deeper the flavor and richness of the stock. You will loose some of the liquid. It may reduce, but you can add more water if desired.
When you're ready to finish the stock, line a colander with cheesecloth or a clean handkerchief that you don't mind getting "stocky". Using a large bowl or another pot under the colander, gently press a ladle against the surface of the stock removing the broth, and strain through the cheesecloth into the bowl. Try not to stir. You'll get some chicken bones and vegetable pieces in the colander. It's okay.
When you have most of the liquid out of the pot in the second bowl or pot, discard the solids.
Here's an important food safety tip: Get the stock COLD quickly. Bacteria will double every twenty minutes when the temperature is between 40 and 140 degrees F. I make an ice bath with cubes and water, and place the bowl with stock the bowl of ice water. If you have a lot of stock you may have to work in batches. It may also take more than one batch of ice water. When the stock feels barely warm to the touch. Transfer to the storage container, label and place in the refrigerator for three days or into the freezer. I like to put in the the frig overnight, and skim off any fat that floats to the top, then freeze.
When you're ready to use it, I run the container under warm water, release the stock cube, and put it in the soup pot frozen. It melts quickly and cuts the time needed to defrost. For risottos and dishes requiring warm stock, I thaw in the microwave or in the refrigerator overnight.
I use one quart deli containers and freeze about 3 quarts at a time. I bought a case of containers and reuse them as much as I can. Maybe I should put sets of 6 in the shopping area of the website so you can have access to them too.
I want to tell you that Michael Ruhlman, a fantastic writer and chef has invented reusable straining cloths. They come in three sizes and work really, really well. If you're planning to be a stock maker, I suggest investing in these guys.
Now on to the soup recipe!
Our refrigerator is still full of vegetables from our CSA. In addition, one of my cooking school students brought me a bag of the most gorgeous carrots. They're huge! I took a picture of them, and then decided you needed a reference to see how big they really are so I added the pencil. Here they are! That's a regular pencil next to them. Aren't they amazing?!?
I took several liberties with the Around My French recipe, adding a few more kinds vegetables, and a few other herbs and spices. The soup is delicious! I didn't puree mine, though that would be great too. The carrots, celery, onion and potatoes are the heart and soul of the recipe. Any other vegetable you can add are a bonus. I debated on green pepper and decided to leave it out for fear it would be too strong.
Here's my version:
1 pound carrots, washed/peeled and cut into small pieces
3 stalks celery, washed and cut into pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, well washed and sliced (white and part of light green parts)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
3 small potatoes
1-2 small pak choy, chopped with tender greens
1-2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried, or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 -2 sprigs rosemary
2 sage leaves or 1/4 tsp dried sage
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
6 cups (approximately) chicken stock (low fat/low salt if possible)
The ginger adds a subtle note that is hard to describe. I would consider this a secret ingredient with a certain je ne sais quoi.
Heat the butter and olive oil in the bottom of a large stock/soup pot. Add the onions, leek, garlic, and carrots. Cook over medium heat until the onions begin to look translucent. Add the herbs, and remaining vegetables. Increase heat to bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer soup for 20-30 minutes until the turnips and potatoes are tender. Adjust seasonings, adding salt and/or pepper as desired. Thin if necessary with more stock or water. Remove herb sprigs and serve! If you would like to serve a smoother soup, you could use an immersion blender or blender to puree to desired consistency. Serves 6