I am a stock Nazi. I don't care. I cannot go by a can (or worse yet, a BOX) of stock in the supermarket or see it advertised on television without making this noise: ffff. Please. Really? Canned stock? Really? Stock in a BOX? No. Begone. Please.
Making stock is effortless. In fact it's almost like doing nothing, only it smells better...the most return for the least effort of just about any activity I can think of.
Want to cook from scratch? You absolutely must have stock. You want high nutrition, amazing depth and complexity of flavor that you simply cannot get otherwise? Stock, baby. It is a necessity. It keeps for months in the freezer, it's highly nutritious, it tastes good, it's the starting place for so many different things....really folks. Please. Make stock. Your life will be so much better.**
Stock is a natural companion to thrift. I buy full body fryers and fish, and primal cuts of red meat when it's at all possible to do so. It's cheaper to buy meat this way ultimately, and it only takes a few moments to whack into cuts and pitch into the freezer, thus ensuring that the meat is cut to your liking along the way. Plus, you end up with a lot of trims...bone, scraps of meat and fat, skin and cartilage. All this is valuable stuff. None of it goes to waste. Frozen and labeled, and then thawed overnight in a pot of cold water; that's the beginning of stock.
The most useful, versatile stock of all in home cooking is chicken stock. I've been stocking off once every couple of months ever since 1979 using the recipe that follows, a recipe I got from people who know what the hell stock is all about. It straight up kicks ass.
This recipe will yield not only 1 and 3/4 gallons of nutritious, useful stock, but an entire chickens' worth of cooked meat, which you can use for any number of lovely things. If you can keep your finger out of your nose I will include a nice recipe for chicken salad at the end here.
Truthfully? You really ought to be paying me for this. You really should. Seriously.
Dave's Delicatessen CHICKEN STOCK
RECIPE MEASUREMENT CONVERSION TABLE THINGIE FOR FOREIGN PERSONS:
You will need:
One whole body chicken, minus the liver but plus the giblets and heart. ( Fry the liver up for a treat. It's good for you.) For me its easier to work with a whole body chicken than one that's already cut up, but it really doesn't matter as long as all the parts are present.
carrots, 1 cup chopped
celery, 1 cup chopped
white onion, 1 cup chopped (it MUST be a white onion. no substitutions here)
1 large bay leaf
plain tap water
salt, to taste
fresh garlic, or shallot
also: One 2-gallon size pot with a lid that fits tightly, big enough to put the whole chicken into and cover with water.
-Place the chicken into the pot and fill it up with cold water. Cover it to keep the farm animals out of it and put it aside for a few hours where it will stay cool. This will draw the juices from the chicken and open up the fibers in the meat.
-Now put the chicken-pot onto the stove top and turn the heat on beneath it to it's lowest setting.
DO NOT COVER.*
-Over the course of a half an hour, slowly bring the heat up on the water until the surface of the water just begins to break a hard, rolling boil. (Depending on the heat of the day this can take more or less time..the important thing is that you slowly bring the heat up. Slosh the chicken around gently every now and then so the water washes all around it and everything comes up to the same temperature at the same time. This is called mechanical convection!! It's science!) What this highly complicated process amounts to is wandering around doing whatever chores and taking an occasional peek at the chicken, giving it a nudge, and giving the heat control another tweak upward.
-The moment the top begins to roll, turn the heat completely OFF, wait for the bubbles to subside, then cover the pot tightly.
-Slide the pot off the hot burner and onto a cold one. Let it sit, covered tightly, for ONE HOUR.
-At the end of the hour, take the chicken out of the pot. It should be just cool enough to handle. Drain, returning the drippings to the pot, and then strip the chicken, reserving the meat to one side. Retain all the skin, the fat, the cartilage, and the bones. Pretty does not count; nor does perfectly stripping the carcass.
-Crack any large leg bones. Return the stripped carcass to the pot of water (bones and cartilage) as well as the giblets and heart, and turn the heat onto its LOWEST setting. AND LEAVE IT THERE.
-Top up the pot with more cold water to bring the level up to the 2 gallon mark.
-Add the bay leaf.
-If you are using garlic or shallot, add these now, raw. Scored or chopped, it doesn't make any difference. It's up to you how much.
-Chop coarsely: 1 cup carrots, 1 cup celery, 1 cup white onion. The object here is to create more cut area than skin area but don't worry about pretty, or size.
-In a large frying pan (not nonstick) saute' these vegetable ingredients in batches in a little plain vegetable oil. You want them soft, not browned, and not swimming in juices, so keep the batches on the small side so the pan doesn't crowd. As each batch finishes, dump it into the soup pot with the chicken carcass. What this does is burst the cell walls in the vegetables so that the flavor, nutrients and juices can be readily released into solution.
-If you build up a little fond by the end of this process, deglaze the frypan with a little of the warm stock and add this back into the pot.
-Now take the chicken skin and fat and put it into the frying pan. Turn the heat on to medium. Let it fry in its own oils until it is a beautiful golden color, turning it until its all browned. It might stick together in a big clump; that's fine.
-Lift the browned skin out of the pan, let it drip for a few moments, and then lower it gently into the warm stock. It might sizzle a bit. This browned skin adds rich, delicious layers of chicken flavor and gives the stock a pretty yellow color.
- Dump out the fat, then deglaze the bottom of the frying pan with some of the warm stock, and return that to the pot. Additionally, you can strain the fat for any leftover crumbs and add those to the stock as well. Now you can discard the fat, or render it to make schmaltz. You get to look up how to do that, though.
-Let's say its about 3pm by now. Leave the stock pot go OVERNIGHT. On the lowest heat setting, remember, uncovered, stirring occasionally. I mean, don't bother waking up at night to stir it, although you could if you were up already, but yeah.
-Seriously. All night. No kidding.
-No, it won't all cook away. You'll only lose 1/4 to 1/3 of the liquid to evaporation, depending on the ambient humidity.
THIS IS IMPORTANT: You will be tempted, but NEVER NEVER NEVER LET THE STOCK RETURN TO A BOIL, OR EVEN SO MUCH AS A RIPPLY SIMMER. Some faint steam will rise from the surface. Thats IT. Keep it stirred. This is the 'secret' of good stock.
Heres why: What happens if it boils is that the dissolved juices, sugars and proteins you've been working so hard to extract from all your ingredients will combine and bond to the dissolved haemo-proteins from the chicken (this turns grey and is called floc when it congeals) and when you strain that out, you'll strain out everything else along with it and lose the entire reason why you made this in the first place. Don't worry; your stock will be perfectly clean and germ-free despite never having boiled because it will have spent so much time at a scalding temperature. Remember too: when you go on to use your finished stock it in other things, you'll be cooking it again at a higher temperature anyway.
-In the morning, pour through a colander to strain out the bones and the vegetables. Pitch these. There's nothing left of them to speak of, although chickens and other birds love it because there's easily assimilated, dissolved calcium in it.
- Now strain it through something fine, like a clean cotton sacking towel, a cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer, to get the greyish, cardboardy looking fragments (the congealed haemo, or 'floc', remember?) out of it. Don't bother trying to get it perfectly clear, but DO strain as much out as you can. If you leave the floc in, it will give the stock a rankish, livery taste. It's gotta go.
-Cool the stock, and then put it in the refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and can be lifted off in pieces, which can take a day. (Are you making schmaltz? Add this fat to it!) When the stock chills it will turn into jelly. It's supposed to!
You'll taste this, and it will taste kind of weak, like chicken tea. It's supposed to. This is not broth, bouillon, or soup. It's a separate thing entirely. Stock is the starting place for all those things, and many others besides, but it is not an end in and of itself. If you reduce it down and add salt, you can get a very 'souplike' flavor from it, and that's what you would do if you were to make a soup with it anyway, so there you go. But stock is meant to be just an ingredient. I know. It took me years to get this; I thought I was doing it wrong. It's not supposed to be terribly salty or chickeny, like the canned or boxed stuff. That is WRONG. That's why when you make things with canned stock it ends up tasting bitter and gasoline-ish, because canned stock has been boiled to death, using substandard ingredients, and then over salted and over-seasoned and finally steam canned in fucking plastic-lined steel. It's CRAP. It's inferior. And its expensive!!
By making your own, you have just saved yourself about 25 dollars and a whole lot of space in your recycle bin. Freeze it in 16 oz containers. To use it at canned strength, use 32 oz (two containers) and reduce to roughly 1 cup (more or less, to taste.) And salt it up, of course.
Bonus recipe for non-nosepickers:
This is a really informal recipe here. You can swap around the ingredients or omit whatever you don't like. Get all crazy with it. Simply chopped chicken and mayo is good, for you minimalists out there, but this is how I like it:
cooked chicken meat, chopped into small dice
onion, coarse mince
celery, coarse mince
sour cream, for binding, to taste, and/or mayonnaise
cashew nuts, 1 cup broken pieces
dried dill, 1/8 tsp
salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste
garlic, to taste
Mix and chill. Spread it on sandwiches or fill up a hollowed out tomato with it and serve cold. Is so yummish!
why do i keep insisting 'do not cover'? because when you cover liquids that you're going to be keeping on the fire for awhile, it keeps certain compounds from volatilizing out of the mix. These things will then just lay in there and lend it a distinctive 'stew' or 'crockpot' flavor. Its not necessarily a bad thing, but its simply not what you're looking for here. when you do finally cover the chicken, you're doing it to retain heat. The 'active' cooking has been completed.
** This is not to say that I don't use mix. In the absence of base (a super reduced version of highly seasoned stock, like a syrup, that requires huge amounts of materials and time and energy to make) I make do and call it well fought. I'll use powdered mix before I'll use a commercial liquid base, though, since you KNOW everything's dead in the powder...God only knows what was swimming around in the base pot. I don't trust the shit. I've worked in factory food before. Since I don't make a lot of complex sauces, though, base rarely becomes an issue.