According to my Culinary School Instructor, the difference between a professional cook and a home cook is their ability to make and use stocks and sauces. So today, I am showing you a classic Chicken Stock which is the foundation of many great sauces.
Before I started Culinary School, I was the home cook who ALWAYS used canned stock. It is just so easy, I don’t even have to think about it I just pour it in. BUT the more I focus on eating organic healthy food, the more I read labels on the back of my food. When I can’t pronounce the ingredient in my food, I sure as hell don’t want to put it in my body because I am basically poisoning myself from the inside out.
There are 4 types of stock: Beef or Veal Stock, Chicken Stock, Vegetable Stock and Fish Stock. You also have the option to make either a brown stock or a white stock, depending on what your needs are. The difference between brown and white is: for brown stock you ROAST the meat bones and Mirepoix with tomato paste before you add them to the pot. For this recipe, I am making a white stock, if you would like to compare the process to a brown stock, check out my Beef Stock recipe.
Yes it is a long process, which takes 4-6 hours, but you can control the flavor and you know that only fresh and organic ingredients are going in your food and your body. Because stock is such a great base for a lot recipes, I make a huge batch and freeze it in individual size containers and it lasts for several months.
The basic formula for ANY broth is: Veggies or Meat or Fish of choice + Mirepoix + Aromatics (Bouquet Garni). I will address each below.
MEAT: For chicken stock, I started with 1 whole, 6 pound chicken. Say hello to my ugly little friend.Ugh GROSS. There is nothing more disgusting to me then raw chicken. Just looking at it. EWW. So I thought I would share that experience with you. See that part of the wing that kinda looks like a hand on the end of the wing? Just cut that nasty piece off on both sides.
You can also use chicken bones instead of a whole chicken. The chicken neck and back will add the most flavor to your broth. I found that finding just bones is a lot harder to do then I expected (I literally went to 3 stores and a butcher shop). Later I will show you how to “fabricate” a chicken, which basically means to cut it up like the professionals do. In that case, you can just use the good pieces of the chicken for dinner and save the bones in the freezer just for stocks and broths.
When I made Beef Stock I learned that Whole Foods is usually the best bet to find and buy just bones because they have a huge meat department.
Drop this little dude in the tall pot and cover the entire chicken with water. About 4-5 quarts or 16-20 cups of water. Just make sure the chicken is completely covered. Once you bring the liquid to a boil, REDUCE the heat to medium-low and maintain a slight simmer. The French refer to this as “FRÉMIR” which means “to tremble”; bubbles should break through to the surface infrequently. You want to cook this LOW AND SLOW to extract the most flavor.See that funky junk on the top of the water? The professionals refer to that as the FOND. You want to skim the liquid frequently to produce a clear stock. The French call this process “dépouiller”. If you were to leave the fond in the stock, it would sour and spoil more quickly.
MIREPOIX: The base flavoring for every stock, chicken, veal, beef, vegetable, fish or shellfish, is the Mirepoix. “Mirepoix” is the french cooking term for the classic flavor ratio of Onions, Celery and Carrots, which is always 2 Onions to 1 Carrot, 1 Celery. So for this recipe, I used 2 large onions which produced about 2 cups chopped. 3-4 large carrots, which produce 1 cup chopped. Finally, 1 half a head of celery (leaves included because there is a lot of flavor in those pretty leaves), which produced 1 cup chopped. You can either leave the skin on your onions and carrots OR peel them. If you leave the onion skin on, it may add additional color to your broth, which may be less desirable depending on how you use the stock. Some chefs prefer to peel because they think it extracts more flavor, others like to shorten the process and not waste their time peeling and just throw it in skin on.
You also don’t need to worry about chopping the Mirepoix into tiny pieces, because we are going to strain it anyway. So big chunks work just fine. Add the Mirepoix to the stock pot at the best time to extract the most flavor. This time will vary depending on what type of stock you are making. Fish and vegetable stock, for example, don’t cook as long as a chicken or beef stock so the Mirepoix would be added much sooner. For chicken stock add the Mirepoix about 2 hours before the stock is finished cooking. This allows the most extraction of flavor without the flavor breaking down, which can happen if cooked for too long. The less time you are cooking your stock, the sooner you would add your Mirepoix. BOUQUET GARNI: Aromatics are the last ingredients for the stock formal. A “Bouquet Garni” is made up of aromatics which are fresh herbs and vegetables. For stocks, the classic Bouquet Garni is 2-3 sprig of thyme, 3 or 4 sprigs of parsley, 1-2 bay leafs. You can wrap these aromatics in a leek leaf tied with twine to make a bouquet garni. You can also wrap the aromatics in cheese cloth and add 1tsp of cracked pepper and garlic and you have created a “Sachet d’Épices”. It just depends on the flavor profile you are going for. For white stock, I am using a classic Bouquet Garni. Because I am straining my stock, I wasn’t too concerned with making a classic Bouquet Garni, plus I didn’t have any twine. So I just dropped the aromatics in the stock pot. You want to add your aromatics about 45 minutes before the stock is ready, again to get the most flavor before it starts to break down.
After about 4-6 hours, my house was filled with the most beautiful fragrant smell I could imagine, kind of like the smell of Thanksgiving. When I tasted my stock, I was expecting a flavor similar to the smell, however I was shocked with the bland flavor. BUT THAT WAS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS GOING FOR. You don’t want your stock OVERLY flavorful because the stock should just be uses as a base. You add in your other flavors like salt when you are cooking your main dish and using the stock as your base for depth of flavor. The main difference between a chicken stock and broth is the use of additional salt and pepper. This is done when you are trying to achieve your final flavors before serving.
After all this time, the last stage of the process is straining the stock and cooling it as FAST as possible. I used a fine mesh strained lined with paper towels, you could also use cheese cloth. If you have skimmed you stock and cooked it low and slow, it should a very clear stock. The clearer the stock the longer the shelf life. To cool the stock as fast as possible, I put a measuring cup in an ice bath and poured the stock in to whatever measurement made the most sense for individual size serving, either 1 or 2 cups. By making individual serving sizes, I only have to freeze and reheat my stock once. Once the stock is cool, I put the servings in the freezer where it will be good for about 6 months.
Hopefully you will give this a try at home. It is so nice that I always have stock in my freezer, it gives me a reason to get adventurous and make more flavorful sauces. I think you will discover, it is a great basic skill that will give you a base for some serious skills in the kitchen.
Yields about 1 gallon
6-8 lbs of chicken bones or one whole chicken
4-6 quarts of cold water
1 lb of Mirepoix (2 large onions, half a head of celery, 3-4 carrots)
1 standard bouquet garni or sachet d’épices
Place whole chicken or chicken bones into large stock pot. Cover the chicken or bones completely with cold water (about 4-6 quarts or 16-24 cups of water). Cook for 3-4 hours and skim the liquid frequently. Add the Mirepoix and simmer for an additional 2 hours. Add the Bouquet Garni about an hour before finishing the stock. Strain the stock and use immediately, OR rapidly cool the stock in an ice bath and put it straight into the freezer to defrost for later use.
*You could use additional aromatics like garlic, mushrooms, tarragon, and rosemary, but be careful not to overly flavor your stock with these ingredients as they have stronger flavor profiles.
*For an asian flavored chicken stock you could add additional aromatics like ginger, lemongrass, and chilies.