So many of the things I make have chicken stock in the recipe. I use it for soups, sauces, braising liquid, gravy and when some recipes call for water (like grits), I always use stock for added flavor. There are some good store-bought stocks out there (Swanson is always in my pantry). (Note: regardless of which brand you like, buy the low sodium version since they can be very salty and throw off your dish if you are adding salt when you cook). At least once a month I make a big pot of stock and then freeze it in quart containers. They I always have it on hand and I control what’s in there, how much seasoning, etc. From one large pot of stock, I get about 5 – 6 quarts of stock. The unfortunate part is it never lasts a full month!
The stock is filled with lots of veggies, herbs and of course chicken. I use the basics – celery, carrots and onions – along with a parsnip, garlic and thyme, and lots of parsley. No need to peel and chop everything since most of the solids get tossed after it’s done. One trick I learned a few years ago was to use yellow onions – you know the ones with the dark yellow/brown skin – and throw them in peel and all. The yellow peel not only adds flavor but color as well.
Since I make so many chicken dishes, I have lots of scraps and bones which are perfect for stock (like the tips of wings, bones from raw chicken). I save them in a zip top bag in the freezer and when I’m ready to make stock, I toss them in. Along with the scraps, I usually buy a whole chicken and cut it into pieces so it’s easier to handle when the stock is done. Great stock needs lots of bones so throw in the neck that is usually in a bag with the chicken. In addition to the whole chicken, I throw in about a dozen wings which have lots of bones. Bones are the key ingredient as they give off collagen and once you refrigerate your finished stock, you will see it is almost jello-like. That’s the mark of a great stock.
The stock cooks for a few hours on the stove and makes the house smell amazing! Once the chicken is falling off the bone (about three or four hours) you strain it and you’ve got stock. I save as much of the chicken as I can and use it for chicken pot pie, casseroles, salad, tacos and of course soup.
1 Chicken, Large (I use a roasting chicken as big as I can get, usually about 5 lbs.)
1 pkg Chicken wings, whole (small pkgs have about 10 – 12 wings which is perfect)
2 Yellow onions, unpeeled, cut in half
2 Parsnips, unpeeled
3 Carrots, large, unpeeled, cut in half
3 Stalks of celery, including the tops, cut in half
4 Cloves of garlic, smashed
10 Black peppercorns, whole
1 tbs Salt (Kosher)
1 bunch Fresh flat leaf parsley
5 sprigs Fresh thyme
3 stalks Fresh dill
Place everything in a large pot (I use my Cuisinart 5-quart enamel pot) and cover with water. As the stock cooks, it will form foam on top which you can skim off or cut a round piece of parchment paper to put on top of the water which eliminates the foam. I usually cook for between three and four hours and when the chicken is falling apart, you know it’s done. I remove as much of the solids as possible with a large slotted spoon or spider (a Chinese hand strainer) and for the rest, I pour the liquid into a colander lined with cheese cloth over a large pot. I try to mush as much liquid as possible out of what is in the strainer and also from the solids I took out. Don’t forget to save the chicken!
Pour into quart containers and bring to almost room temp before putting the tops on. They will last in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for at least two months. There will be a layer of fat on top when you defrost them or take them out of the refrigerator. This fat has amazing flavor and is great in place of oil or butter in certain dishes. I use it in place of oil in my matzoh balls.