I’ve mentioned the importance of homemade stock over store-bought products. There are countless recipes for stock on the internet, but I thought I’d post one here.
There are two types of stock: white and brown. The main differences between them is that the bones and vegetables are roasted when making brown stock, and tomato paste is an ingredient. Both should be made with raw bones, a detail I’ve noticed is missing from many recipes. You want raw bones because the prized ingredient in stock is collagen, a natural protein found in animals. Collagen is used to make gelatin, which is then used to make an assortment of commercial products from marshmallows to jello and some low-fat yogurts. This gelatinous material is what gives homemade stock the thick, rich flavor found in many restaurant sauces. Not only do commercial stocks lack collagen, they are often full of salt and even sugar. Real stock should be salt free, so you have the option to season your dishes to the desired level.
Stock pots come in a variety of sizes; mine holds eight quarts, which is kind of small. Stock isn’t difficult to make but it takes time. You might as well make it in large batches.
I made chicken stock this weekend. I bought three whole chickens, broke them down, and used the carcasses in the stock. The next day I used the dark meat for coq au vin, which you can make following the exact recipe I posted for beef bourguignon. Just swap out the beef chuck for legs and thighs.
Another option for making chicken stock is to buy bulk raw chicken wings, which are sold in the freezer section at most grocery stores.
Anyway, for chicken stock you need:
- raw chicken bones, enough to fill your stockpot halfway
- cold water
- mirepoix, at least 1/2 – 2/3 as much as bones
- bouquet garni (bay leaf, fresh thyme, fresh parsley)
- whole peppercorns
- Start by getting your Mise en Place together: Chop the vegetables, have the herbs ready, and clean up the chicken bones. It’s fine if they have some meat on them but try to remove as much fat as possible. Fat adds an unpleasant flavor.
- Add the bones to your stock pot and cover them with cold water, by about 2 inches. The water absolutely must be cold. Cold water helps release the collagen. Hot water cooked the bones on the outside and seals in the good stuff.
- Slowly bring the stock to a boil and then immediately bring it down to a low simmer.
- Using a ladle or large spoon, skim the foam and fat that rises to the surface. You want to skim as much as possible before adding the other ingredients.
- When the water evaporates down below the bones, add more water to cover them again.
- Add mirepoix, peppercorns and loose bouquet garni. NO SALT.
- Simmer for at least 3-4 hours. 8-12 hours is optimal. Check periodically to make sure the stock is still at a gentle simmer, but you can go about your business while it’s cooking.
- Strain the stock 1 or 2 times through a fine mesh strainer. Before putting it in the fridge, cool in an ice bath.
- Once the stock is cold, any residual fat will rise to the surface and you can skim it off. It will make things easier if you finish cooling the stock overnight in one large container before dividing into smaller containers.
Stock can stay in the fridge for a few days but will stay in the freezer for months. I use small disposable Tupperware containers that are portioned out. I like using cup and half-cup containers, personally.
Give this a try! It will seriously improve the quality of sauces, stews and side dishes such as rice pilaf. It’s the perfect activity for a lazy weekend. You can be especially creative on a snow-filled Sunday: