Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Back to Basics!

Today I found myself being excited about making something that is very basic in the life of any chef or home cook, making chicken stock. Now I know you are thinking, "Brian, this isn't simple! Simple is going to the store and buying the box or can of chicken stock!"
Well let me tell you this, my dear friend, that quart of chicken stock in the store is coming into your home for a price, and that price is around $5! If you take the time to do this at home, you can make your own stock for $1 or less a quart! And this way you know what is in the stock. One thing you have to understand is the difference between chicken stock and chicken broth. Chicken broth has salt added to it during the cooking process. I prefer to make a chicken stock because I want to control the amount of sodium I add to whatever I make, I don't want the manufacturer to decide this for me.

This is a relatively simple process. We all have days where we are just bumming around the house, and this is literally a three or four hour process. Let me walk you through the steps of this...

Here are a list of ingredients to make approximately 6 quarts of chicken stock:

4 lbs of chicken (thighs and drummies)
2 large onions chopped up
2 large carrots peeled and chopped
2 ribs of celery chopped
3 cloves of garlic smashed
2 bay leaves
10 sprigs of thyme

Basic rich dark chicken stock ingredients

I also add any other items I may have in the fridge, for instance today I had the stems of flat leaf parsley that I used the night before in a dish. Any left over vegetables that you may have can also go in the stock, they all add flavor and depth to your stock.

Now, lets get one thing straight, I relish any chance I get to use Bertha, my meat cleaver!

I always look for good sales on produce and meat. Safeway was running a sale on chicken drummies and chicken thighs/legs for 99 cents/pound! AWESOME!  So I took the thighs and happily used Bertha to separate them from the drummies, plus added other drummies. I then arranged them on a sheet tray, rub them with olive oil, and roasted them in the oven at 425 for 40 minutes to bring out their natural flavors.

During this process you can understand why others would be drawn to the sound of a cleaver hitting a meat product...

After you get the chicken in the oven to roast you prepare the other veggies. Peel the carrots and chop them into 1 inch chunks. Now through the rest of this realize that the veggies don't have to be exact, they are merely used to impart their wonderful goodness into the stock and will be strained out at a later time, so beauty is NOT, I repeat...NOT a priority. Chop the onion and celery into 1 inch chunks. Take three cloves of garlic and smash them, don't worry about removing the skins, again this will be strained. Coat a large, deep stock pot with olive oil and add these veggies (carrots, onions, celery, garlic) on a medium/high heat and cook them until they are soft and smelling delicious! 10 minutes is a nice time to cook them. Now realize that you are timing all of this with the chicken that is roasting in the oven.

**One great thing to realize is that you don't have to waste ANYTHING! Use the stems of parsley that you might have, don't throw away the ends of the carrots, celery or onions. It can all be thrown into the pot to add their yummy flavors! **

This is when I like to bring out my super, secret flavor weapon, chicken backs and necks. Now I know you are asking...."Brian, where do I find these disgusting things? And WHY would I use them????" And let me answer both of those questions. First of all, they impart SO MUCH FLAVOR to your stock! And you can find them at any real butcher shop. Call and ask them if they have chicken backs and necks. The shop I buy mine from, they get them in 50 pound frozen blocks and cut me off a chunk. I keep them in my freezer for when I make stock. So I usually roast them for about 10 to 15 minutes with the chicken thighs/drummies.
Once the chicken has roasted in the oven, remove the skin and add the chicken (meat preferably still on the bone) to the pot. Don't forget to add the roasted chicken necks and backs (you can choose not to add these but know that they do add a TON of flavor!). Now add the bay leaves and the thyme bundle. During the summer months I have a pot on my patio that has a thyme bush in it, but if you don't have one or during the winter months it's perfectly okay to buy it from the grocery store.

And fill the pot with water.


Bring the pot to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 3 to 4 hours, adding water as it evaporates. The thing you have to realize about chicken stock is that once it is simmering, you just let it be. Do other things...watch TV, read a book, take care of the dogs. Anything...just let it be. Every now and again come back to the stove, skim the fat off the top...add more water if necessary....but just let it do it's thing.

Once the stock has simmered for 3 to 4 hours, it's time to strain it. I have a small strainer, but any size will work...the bigger the better!

I made a double batch so I had plenty of stock to get ready for the freezer! That's the great thing, if you don't plan on using the stock right away, you can freeze it in quart containers, and it will keep for up to 6 months! Out of today's batch I got 12 quarts! (I know there are only 10 in the picture, it's because I used 2 quarts for tonight's dinner :). )

And that, my friends, is how you make homemade chicken stock! So simple, yet it is better than anything you can buy in the store, and YOU get to control what goes in and how much salt you add when you make your dish! :)

Tonight I was so eager to make the dinner I was planning for Monday night that was sidelined due to the work potluck! :)  So I went to the store and purchased everything needed to make the following meal...

Butternut Squash Soup with Cinnamon Whipped Cream & Fried Shallots served with Braised Cabbage Stuffed with Pork. I had several pots working on the stove top when Michael got home tonight. I encouraged him to take the boys for a walk...as they had been bored out of their minds while I cooked all afternoon!

And, like the good husband that he is, he obliged! So I had plenty of time to put a wonderful meal on the table!

The soup was delicious! And I don't like squash! :) And the cabbage acted merely as a vessel that wrapped the wonderful, deliciousness that is spicy Italian sausage and ground pork with onions! Mmmmm! My mouth is watering again even though I'm stuffed! 

Today was such a good day! The house still smells like chicken stock simmering on the stove, and miscellaneous pork products sending their scents into the air! :) I know I've said this before...but I'm going to say it again. I am the luckiest girl in the world! I have an AMAZING husband, a wonderful home, and I'm able to spend my time in the kitchen creating things that not only fill our stomachs but bring smiles to our faces. 

I hope at least one of you will attempt to make chicken stock and realize how amazing it is! In the words of Julia Childs..."Bon Appetit!" 


  1. omg. love this. and totally agree you are lucky for getting to spend so much time in the kitchen! going to follow this recipe when I do make my own stock!

  2. Mmmmm, this makes me so homesick!!! I can't wait til I am back in my kitchen with my stuff and can make a batch of chicken stock!! I miss my kitchen stuff so bad :(