I’ve spent a few Thanksgiving holiday weekends over the years nursing a cold, so I wasn’t too surprised to wake up this morning feeling a little bit run down. Between school and volunteering in order to get some more kitchen assisting experience, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately. This weekend is the first one I’ve had in a while to catch my breath. I’ve been tackling those little projects around the apartment, like cleaning out the freezer.
For the practical exam that we had to take at the end of the second level of our culinary program, I had bought a few chickens to practice butchering skills. I’d packed up the parts and had put them in the freezer thinking that, at some point, I’d make stock with them. Today seemed like as good a day as any to tackle this culinary project.
Making stocks was one of the lessons we learned early in the Culinary Techniques course. Now that our group has moved into the level where we cook the family meal each lesson for students and staff, we make stocks every night in large volume so that others in the school can use it as needed for their recipes. It’s kind of made me fall in love with the process of creating these richly fragrant bases for adding to sauces, cooking risottos or turning into soups. So, I gathered up the ingredients and set aside a couple of hours to let the stock simmer away, giving me the perfect opportunity to figure out my Christmas card/gift list.
Basic Chicken Stock
Prep Time: about 2 1/2 hours
Yield: about 2 1/2 quarts or 2.36 litres of stock
2 1/2 lbs. or 1.15 kilos Chicken parts (body, wings)
5 pints or 2.5 litres Water
12 oz. or 340 grams Onion, cut into large chunks (approximate)
7 oz. or 200 grams Carrots, cut into large chunks (approximate)
5 oz. or 140 grams Celery, cut into large chunks (approximate)
1 Bay Leaf
6-7 Parsley stems
10 Black Peppercorns
Place chicken parts and water into a deep pan. Make sure that the water covers the chicken completely. Bring the mixture up to a simmer over low heat. Skim off the impurities that rise to the top of the liquid and discard them.
Add the onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf, parsley stems, and peppercorns to the pan. Keep the liquid on a low simmer and let it cook away for about two hours, until the chicken has released its flavor into the water.
Once the stock has simmered a couple of hours and has taken on a light chicken-y taste, ladle it into a bowl and place the bowl in a water bath to cool it down. Then, if not using it right away, pour the stock into containers to store and to freeze it. The stock will keep for several months in the freezer.
Note that I did not add garlic, thyme or salt to this recipe, as some recipes call for. This is because I wanted the stock to have as neutral a flavor as possible so that I could have the flexibility of using it in many different kinds of dishes, including just to make soup to fight off the winter sniffles.