Do you ever notice how the Food Network chefs recommend using homemade chicken stock when possible? If you check out Ina Garten’s cookbooks or watch Tyler Florence, you’ll quickly discover their recipes calling for ‘chicken stock, preferably homemade.’ Even if you’re not a fan of the Food Network, you may have heard the praises of homemade stock sung by non-celebrity chefs or family cooks. At first, if you’re like me, you may react with general indifference. Who really has the time? Who really has the chickens? The store-bought varieties must be close so why bother with ALL that work?
Well, you may be surprised just how simple making chicken stock is and how much better the taste can be. Sure, it takes a commitment upwards of four hours or more, but the resulting product really makes the simple work worth your time and effort. Okay, you might still be wondering about the chickens. The recipe I use (Alton Brown’s) calls for 4 chicken carcasses, and that’s a lot of chicken bits and pieces you may not have sitting around the house. There’s an easy solution to this problem! Do you ever buy rotisserie chickens at the grocery store? At our house, we love a rotisserie chicken. It’s quick, easy, and provides multiple meals fresh from the container or repurposed into chicken salad, soup, or enchiladas. Bonus! They can also fulfill the chicken stock base requirements. Once you’ve exhausted the chicken’s usefulness (ie. all that’s left are skin and bones), wrap up the leftovers in some aluminum foil and toss them in the freezer. Repeat this process until you have collected 4 chicken carcasses, about two months of grocery shopping for us.
Now that you have your chickens, all you need is a few vegetables, herbs, a bunch of water, and a big stock pot. I typically wait until I know I’m going to be around the house all day to make the stock because you do need to skim the film off the top of the boiling goodness every 15-30 minutes throughout the cooking process. I would post the recipe I like in my blog if I wasn’t concerned about copyright infringement and breaking the law. So, just pop on over to Alton Brown’s recipe (courtesy of the Food Network) for specific ingredients and instructions. I will say in advance that I have altered Mr. Brown’s recipe slightly. Before plopping the chicken carcasses into the stock pot, I roast them in the oven for 30-45 minutes at 350-degrees to wake up the bones and juices. I can’t really say what kind of difference this makes if any, but I figure the extra roasting can’t hurt. And don’t let the 14-hour and 30-minute time scare you off. I’ve successfully made chicken stock in as few as 4 hours using the same recipe.
When all is said and done, you will be stocked (ha, ha – very punny, I know). What might you do with a gallon or more of chicken broth? One of the obvious choices is to make chicken noodle soup. Believe it or not, a quart of homemade chicken stock also makes a great gift. Think about using chicken broth in place of water, too, because as Alex Guarnaschelli often says, “water does not add flavor.” This proves especially true in recipes where any extra bit of flavor helps, such as with any form of rice or rice-based dish. There are even recipes for French Onion Soup using chicken stock instead of beef stock. The possibilities are endless, and with a freezer full of such homemade yumminess, you may never go back to store bought chicken broth again.