Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kitchen Witch Basics: Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is liquid gold in the kitchen. Its so easy to make, literally out of scraps, so its uber cost efficent too. Its used in things as simple as rice (to add flavor) or as the basis of a soup or stew. Nothing makes your food taste like you spent a lot of time slaving over it than good chicken stock. I use it constantly in my kitchen and always have at least 8 cups in the freezer waiting for a destination. Once you try homemade you'll understand why its so coveted.

Recently my local grocery haunt had bone in chicken breasts for .99/lb. Being a good Kitchen Witch boning out the breast is no problem, leaving me with an excessive amount of chicken bones to use up. If you, however, are squeamish about boning chicken, have no fear! There are alternatives - I'll tell you about them - keep reading.

Being a budget savvy Kitchen Witch I will freeze vegetable scraps, things like the ends of carrots or celery, to be used for stock. Since the veg is being simmered for 8 hours or more, the softness that freezing causes isn't an issue. Try keeping a zip top freezer bag of the cut ends, you'll be amazed how fast it adds up, and that's money you've paid that you're literally throwing away! Can you tell I'm very anti waste in the kitchen? Ingredients are expensive!

Ok back to the stock! So far we've got scrap bones and scrap veggies. Right about now I'm sure you're thinking "Um, Kitchen Witch, I'm afraid you've lost me here. Between your waste/cost rant and the scraps galore I'm not sure I want to venture to this strange new land". Fear not faithful reader. You don't need to use scraps to make stock, its simply a good way to use stuff that would otherwise become compost fodder or worse yet, trash!

For the boning/raw chicken challenged: use a package of leg quarters. They are very cheap and make excellent stock. And yes my white meat only friends, the dark meat is ok to make stock with. Believe me, I'm a white meat only kind of girl & I use the leg quarters when I'm out of bones, with great success, too.

Chicken Stock
10 chicken breast bones & skin OR 1 pack legs & thighs (also called leg quarters)
1 yellow onion SKIN ON (it adds great color to the stock) with an X cut in the top
3-4 carrots, skins scraped, cut into thirds
3-4 stalks celery cut into thirds
4 garlic cloves, crushed
15 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
2 t dry thyme leaves OR 8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 t dry sage leaves OR 8-10 fresh sage leaves
1 handful parsley, fresh
1 T kosher salt
Water, about 1 gallon, however this will depend on the size of your stock pot

In a large stock pot add the chicken (bones), veggies, herbs & spices. Add water - about a gallon, until ingredients are covered by about 2 inches of water.

Over medium heat bring stock up to a simmer. DO NOT BOIL!** Once simmering reduce heat to low & cover. Skim off any scum that collects on top in the 1st hour or so of cooking. Simmer over very low heat, you want just a few bubbles breaking the surface of the stock, for 8 hours. Stock will have a very rich golden color to it.

Line a colander with paper towels or a clean tea towel. Pour stock through strainer allowing chicken, bones & veggies to collect in colander. Discard bones & veg. (No the chicken left over isn't worth saving. Why you ask? Because its been cooked too long, its completely dry & not worth your time!) An added bonus of the straining/towel method is that most of the fat collects in the towels so you just throw it, and those calories, away. That's waste I can handle!

Transfer stock to 2-4 cup size plastic containers.
Frozen stock stores up to 6-9 months.
Refrigerated stock stores 7 days maximum

**Do NOT Boil, why?? Because boiling causes agitation which allows the fat to emulsify with the stock, and the sediment (herbs, minerals) that normally float to the bottom get trapped in this emulsification, just like Italian dressing. This causes a greasy cloudy stock, which is unattractive and not nearly as tasty as the non boiled version. Trust the Witch on this one, take the full 8 hrs over a very slow simmer and reap the rewards.

Question:My stock is giggly, like jello almost. Did I do something wrong??

Answer: Nope! Not at all! As a matter of fact that gelatin is proof that you've done your job, and done it well, as a stock maker. The gel is the collagen and gelatins that have broken down from the bones & connective tissues of the chicken. Sure, that may sound gross but its really where the flavor is at. You know that 'finger lickin' good' quality of a good gravy or the stickiness that a good stew has? Well my friend, that's collagen! It fools your mouth into thinking its got something fatty & delightful because it coats your tounge with a velvety texture, like fat does. However collagen and gelatin are both fat free, so you get all the flavors and none of the calories or fat. The thicker the stock the more concentrated in flavor it is. If you have jello like stock, congratulations! Job well done!

1 comment:

Remi Coker said...

this is delicious...but I don't (ever) have 8 hours to let this simmer...what do I do?

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