Passionately Pursuing the Good Life

Monday, May 10, 2010

Life List Number 93: Make Chicken Stock – Those sensitive to chicken parts are advised to look away

Homemade chicken stock has been on my “to do” list for quite some time. Problem is, just like any basic recipe, there are a thousand different variations and schools of thought on how to do it. Do you start out with raw or cooked chicken, for example? Whole chicken or just parts?

Frequently, I consult Ina Garden (aka “The Barefoot Contessa”) for standard recipes. But my jaw dropped when I saw that she required three whole chickens to make her chicken stock, and that the chickens would all be discarded afterwards. That’s damn expensive chicken stock!! Not to mention wasteful. Isn’t one of the essential premises of making stock to extend the life of your “scraps?” But I guess if you have the cha-ching to live in the Hamptons, then your reasons to make stock have little to do with economics.

Recently I stumbled upon a delightful little blog called “Foodie With Family,” and was instantly impressed by her post about chicken stock. She touts the value of boiling chicken parts that have bones in them not just for the flavor but for the nutrition that comes out of them. She’s also a big believer in using (shudders) chicken feet.

So on an errand day we stopped by my favorite place in Los Angeles to buy poultry, Puritan Poultry at the Original Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax. I bought two pounds of chicken backs, but I chickend out (ha ha..get it????!) and decided to forgo using chicken feet this time around (baby steps). As for the economic part of this project I already felt miles ahead because two pounds of chicken backs cost me right under $4. That’s almost the cost of just one carton of the store bought stuff. Sweet!

I followed her recipe pretty much to the letter. I cut a few of the backs in half before I put them in the pot, which turned out to be completely unnecessary as they virtually disintegrate after cooking for four plus hours. You throw in the chicken, cover it with water and turn on the heat. After it comes to a boil you take a big spoon and skim off the, er, scum. Just for you, here’s a scum shot:


After you complete the de-scumming, you throw in some lovely veggies and a few peppercorns:

Then you just let it perk away on the stove for at least four hours. It may have not looked like the prettiest thing, but it definitely smelled good!

Not winning any beauty contests...

Once everything has had ample simmer time, you strain it and either put it in containers or back in a pot. Once it sits in the fridge overnight the fat will solidify and you just pop it out. And, just for you, here’s a fat shot:

I packed them up in various sized containers and tucked them in all snuggly into the freezer for future use. My first use for it was in my favorite carrot ginger soup. I forgot to defrost the stock ahead of time, but a couple minutes on defrost and a couple on full power in the microwave and it was just fine.

Overall I’m really happy with this technique. I may, just for posterity, try an added technique which involves sautéing the chicken parts for a few minutes before adding the water to give it a little more depth of flavor. In any case, what resulted was a clean, fresh tasting chicken stock that works very well in whatever you are adding it to. And the cost can’t even compare to the store. Four dollars worth of chicken backs got me the equivalent of about five of the cartons from the store. Woo hoo!

And for putting up with the chicken backs and scum and fat footage, here is the recipe for my favorite carrot ginger soup. Just for you!


3 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped (about 5 cups)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, minced

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

3/4 cup of whole milk

1/4 fresh orange juice

Bring broth and carrots to a boil, covered, in a large saucepan (this will streamline the process once you add it to everything else). In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and a little salt and cook until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the ginger and cook until "fragrant," about a minute. Carefully add in the hot broth and carrots. Simmer until the carrots are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. In batches, puree the soup in a blender until it's nice and smooth. Return to pot and add the milk and orange juice. Simmer briefly, and then taste for salt and pepper.