(recipe, Diane Morgan, Dan Taggart, Kathleen Taggart, Georgia Vareldzis)
Homemade chicken stock (broth) is an absolute snap to make. Nothing quite like it comes from a can, and good stock is the single most important ingredient in many soups and sauces. It just takes its time gently bubbling away on the stovetop, producing wonderfully flavorful liquid from pieces like necks, gizzards, back and rib bones, and wing tips — all most likely to be otherwise thrown away.
Start today to develop a very smart habit: Store necks, tails, wing tips, gizzards, hearts, backs, rib (breast) bones — anything except livers — in a gallon-size reclosable freezer bag in your freezer. When the bag is really full, you have enough chicken parts to make a small pot of homemade stock. Squeeze excess air out of the bag each time you add chicken pieces; this helps to prevent dehydration known as "freezer burn."
There are several time-honored methods of making chicken stock. Here is our simple approach to a basic stock that can be used for Western-style or Asian cooking.
- 4 qt. (about 4 pounds) chicken parts
- 1 medium unpeeled carrot
- 1 medium unpeeled yellow onion
- ½ rib celery, with leaves
- ½ tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves and stems
- 4 unpeeled cloves garlic
- 4 whole scallions with green tops
- 3 slices (about the size of a quarter) unpeeled fresh ginger root
- Select a heavy 4-quart saucepan or a 6- to 8-quart stockpot. Fill it almost to the top with raw chicken parts and cover with cold water, leaving 2 inches of space at the top of the pan. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce heat so that the liquid simmers steadily. Skim off the brown foam rising to the top, using a soup skimmer, small tea strainer, or serving spoon. After 5 minutes or so the foam will become white; no more skimming is necessary.
- Add Western or Asian seasonings if desired. Cover pot loosely and regulate the heat so that the liquid just barely simmers. Simmer the stock for 4 to 8 hours, adding water if necessary to keep the bones covered.
- Remove bones and meat, draining them thoroughly in a colander or strainer set over a large bowl to catch all the juices. Discard bones and meat and pour the collected drippings into the stockpot. Pour the stock through a fine strainer into the large bowl, then back into the stockpot. Set the pot into a sink filled with cold water, changing the water after 10 minutes and again after 20 minutes. Cover the pot and refrigerate overnight.
- Before using the stock, scrape the congealed fat from the surface using a slotted or large serving spoon. The stock is now ready to use. If the stock is needed immediately after it is made, use a gravy strainer or a wide, shallow spoon (held just under the surface) to remove the liquid fat.
Homemade Chicken Soup
- In a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, sauté 1 small sliced onion, 1 small sliced carrot, and 1 rib sliced celery in 2 tablespoons butter until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Pour in 2 quarts homemade chicken stock, add ½ teaspoon dried thyme, several sprigs parsley, and a few grinds black pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are soft but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Taste for salt, adding as much as necessary to brighten flavor without making the soup "salty." Add 1 or 2 cups diced leftover chicken, and, if you like, stir in a couple of cups of cooked rice or noodles.
Canned chicken broth is a time saver as a substitute for fresh chicken stock, and we often do use it. Buy the low-sodium variety, if available. Read the ingredient list and buy a brand without MSG, if possible. Always taste what you are serving before adding salt when using canned broth; it has plenty of salt already added, so using more before tasting can lead to disaster. If you are reducing (boiling down) a liquid that includes canned broth, remember that you are increasing its salty taste as well.
To save homemade stock: Refrigerate up to 3 to 4 days. If not used, reboil for 5 minutes, cool, and refrigerate again. Or freeze in a large, tightly covered container (if using glass with screw-on lids always leave 1 or 2 inches of space at the top). Or pour into ice cube trays, freeze, and cover tightly; this allows you to add small amounts of quality stock to dishes you are preparing later with no added work.