Saturday, May 14, 2011

How to Make Chicken Stock

Making stock is one of the first things you learn in culinary school, and for good reason. Stock not only provides a great way for us to utilize all the meat bones we accumulate, but it also serves as a base for all kinds of soups, sauces, aspics, and more. Making your own stock at home may seem like a daunting task at first, something only done in culinary schools and restaurants, but once you know the basics, you'll see there's really not much to it!

The type of stock you make largely depends on what kind of bones you use (bones are used to flavor "stocks", not meat. If meat is used it is "broth) for example: chicken bones for chicken stock, beef or veal bones for a brown stock, fish bones for fish stock. The except to this rule would be that vegetable stock uses only vegetables and aromatic herbs for its flavor.

In this post I'll be making a basic chicken stock using the bones from 2 whole chickens that I fabricated. Click here for how to fabricate a chicken. When you cut the meat off of bones, the bones can be frozen and saved until you are ready to prepare your stock. You will also notice that stock has a rather long cooking time for flavor purposes. For this reason, stock is usually made in large batches and then put into small portions for later use. At school we make about 36 gallons in our huge steam-jacketed kettle then pour it into gallon-sized bags and freeze it so that we always have some on hand. Figure out what is most convenient for you!

A few notes on making stock:
Besides bones, there are two other main flavoring agents, the mirepoix (meer-PWAH) and the sachet (sa-SHAY). A basic mirepoix, as used below, is a combination of onions, carrots, and celery in a ratio of 2:1:1. For different recipes a mirepoix may also include parsnips, leeks, or other vegetables. You don't need to get to fussy with the exact measurements of the mirepoix, just pretty close. I usually add more mirepoix if I'm short on bones. The size that you cut the vegetables for the mirepoix depends on how long you intend to cook the stock. For the moderately-sized recipe below, you just want the veggies in medium chunks. If you are pinched for time and want them to cook faster, cut them smaller. If you are making a very large batch of stock that will cook for 6 or 8 hours, you want heftier chunks.
As for the sachet, you basically just need a coffee filter or a piece of layered cheesecloth that you are going to fill with aromatics, tie up, and put in your stock. The basic spices are given below, and again, you don't have to worry about being exact with the amounts, it won't make a huge difference if you add 5 peppercorns instead of 3 or 2 bay leaves instead of 1.
The one thing you do NOT want to add to your stock is salt! Stock is meant to be used as a sort of blank canvas in cooking, thus you would add it to your recipe and THEN season it to your liking. The reason concentrated stocks and bouillon cubes have so much salt is because they are so concentrated and because they need to be preserved.
Finally, if you want a lighter stock you can skip the roasting instructions given below and just put everying in the pot to simmer. Roasting will give a bit richer of a flavor and a nicer color if that is what your are looking for. You may also have to simmer the stock longer to get enough flavor if you choose not to roast the ingredients.

§  1 chicken (3 ½ to 4 lbs.), fabricated (How to fabricate a chicken)
§  4 lbs chicken bones
§  3 qts water
§  ½ lb mirepoix:
§  4 oz chopped onion
§  2 oz chopped carrot
§  2 oz chopped celery
§  1 sachet* with:
§  1 dried bay leaf
§  A pinch of dried thyme leaves
§  A few black peppercorns
§  A few parsley stems or a pinch of dried parsley
§  1 dried clove

1.       Cut all the bones into 3-4 in pieces.
2.      Place the bones in a roasting pan in a single layer and roast at 400 F for 30-45 min until well-browned.
3.      Place the roasted bones in a large stock pot and cover with the water. Deglaze the roasting pan by pouring a bit of hot water into the pan and lightly scraping the bottom clean. Pour the water and the browned bits into the stockpot with the bones.
4.      Dry off the roasting pan and place the mirepoix in it. Turn the over up to 425 F and roast the mirepoix for 15-30 min (depending on the size of the vegetables), until well-browned, but do not let them get mushy. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a simmer.
5.      Add the roasted mirepoix and the sachet to the stockpot and continue simmering the stock for at least 3 hrs, skimming occasionally, until fragrant and it no longer tastes watery.
6.  Strain the stock in a strainer or china cap and let the liquid cool. Skim off any fat from the top and then package the stock and store it in the refrigerator or freeze it if you do not intend to use it quickly.
*Putting the aromatics in a sachet is not really necessary since you will be straining out the stock later anyways, but this is the way stock is classically made and it DOES make it really easy to make sure you get all the little pieces if you aren't using whole leaves

For this recipe that is only cooked for 3-4
hours (not very long in the stock-making world)
you don't want the vegetables too big, but a
little larger than your normal dice or slice
will be fine. Just remember: the more stock
you're making or the longer the cooking time,
the bigger the pieces.

You're basic mirepoix (there should be twice as
much onion as celery and carrots, but the onion
is covered up here so you can't tell)

The sachet, ready to be tied up.

Roasted bones.

Into the stock pot they go! Don't forget to add
the brown, tasty goodness on the bottom
of the roasting pan! That stuff is full of flavor
and is called the "fond" in culinary school speak.

Time to roast the veggies.

Bring the bones and water to a simmer.

Add the roasted veggies and their fond. (You
probably want them a bit browner than above,
but I didn't have to time to get them all the way
done, just FYI)

Now sit back and let it simmer away!

That is some gooood looking
chicken stock!

The kitchen and the stock should smell like
chicken noodle soup when you are done and
the stock should taste kindof like unseasoned
chicken noodle soup.

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