According to Mastering Stocks and Broth (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017) stocks and broths are the foundation of good cooking, yet information on their use is often relegated to the introductions or appendices of cookbooks. Hard to believe, since most passionate home cooks and professional chefs know that using stocks and broths — both on their own and as the base for a recipe — can turn a moderately flavorful dish into a masterpiece. Mastering Stocks and Broths is the comprehensive guide to culinary stocks and broths that passionate home cooks and innovative chefs have all been waiting for.
The beauty of chicken stock: It is venerable as an ingredient as well as satisfying on its own. Chicken stock is good to have at the ready in any kitchen. Use it to cook grains, sauté vegetables, baste meats, or make a simple pan sauce; or throw it in a thermos as a sipper throughout your day. Chicken stock blends into a dish, adding essence — a soothing salinity — without overwhelming other elements. A rich chicken stock should take on a golden hue, and yet be clear enough to allow you to see the bottom of the pot.
As with all other meat, it is crucial to locate a farmer who raises chickens on pasture, preferably on a rotational grazing schedule alongside cattle. Seek out slow-growing heritage breeds that are suited for your climate—these chickens have a physique that ensures a more fulfilling life and results in better bone composition. For example, the Dominique, America’s first chicken breed, is a beautiful bird with intricate black and white plumage and is known to be calm and friendly. This breed, valued for both eggs and meat, does exceptionally well in the cold climate of the Hudson Valley.
If not using the whole bird, look for backs and necks to provide most of the bone content for stocks and broths. The addition of chicken feet is key to a foundation full of body. Feet are optional but recommended for stock — both basic and roasted — and required for bone broth.
- 6 pounds (2.7 kilograms) chicken bones (necks and backs), preferably pastured
- 1 pound (455 grams) chicken feet, preferably pastured (optional)
- 4 quarts (3.8 liter) filtered water, cold, plus water for rinsing and/or blanching
- 2 quarts (1.3 kilograms) ice cubes
- 1/2 pound (225 grams) white onions, cut into large dice
- 1 pound (455 grams) leeks, dark green parts removed, cut into large dice
- 1/2 pound (225 grams) carrots, cut into large dice
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 black peppercorns
- Sea salt to taste
1. Rinse the chicken bones and chicken feet under cold water until the water runs clear. Make sure that all visible blood is removed from the bones. Check the bones to locate and remove any organs that might still be attached. The rinsing of blood and removal of organs will help eliminate proteins that could cloud your stock.
2. If the water does not become clear from rinsing, blanch the bones before proceeding. To do this, place the chicken bones, not including the feet, in a large stockpot, and add enough cold water to cover the bones by a few inches. Turn the heat to medium-high, and slowly heat the liquid. Using a fine-mesh strainer, skim any scum that rises to the surface. When the liquid starts to ripple, before it breaks into a boil, remove the pot from the heat. Do not boil the liquid; boiling in this first stage will extract flavor that should be preserved for the long simmer.
3. Drain the bones in a large colander and rinse under cold water. Thoroughly clean the same pot. Return the bones to the pot and add the chicken feet. Top with filtered water. Heat the pot over medium-high, and slowly bring the liquid to a tremble, skimming as soon as scum appears. When the liquid ripples, reduce the heat to medium-low and maintain a simmer, or smile. Never let the liquid boil, as impurities will be sucked to the bottom of the pot and emulsify into the liquid during the long simmering time.
4. Continue to skim as necessary while the water is rising in temperature. When the liquid comes to a gentle boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the ice, and skim to remove the thickened fat. Continue to skim while the bones are simmering; the first hour of simmering is when most of the impurities will be apparent. A well-skimmed liquid will prevent impurities from emulsifying the stock. Simmer for 2 hours, skimming often.
5. When the bones have completed their initial simmering time, add the onions, leeks, carrots, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, and peppercorns to the pot, and slowly return the liquid to a simmer. The aromatics will rise to the top, making it more difficult to skim, though it is important to continue the clarifying process. Skim by capturing particles that gather near the bubbling part of the liquid, leaving the vegetables to simmer mostly undisturbed.
6. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked through but not broken down, skimming often, about 90 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the pot on the stove to rest, about 10 minutes. Any floating particles will settle to the bottom of the pot during this resting period.
7. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a container large enough to hold the liquid contents of the pot. Line the strainer with cheesecloth. Carefully ladle the stock from the pot into the strainer, stopping short of, and discarding, any cloudy stock toward the bottom of the pot. Periodically remove the solids that accumulate in the basket to minimize impurities that could be forced through the strainer. Taste and season with sea salt.
8.Chill the stock in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally to expedite the cooling process. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze in smaller containers for longer storage.
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This excerpt is adapted from Rachael Mamane’s book Mastering Stocks and Broths: A Comprehensive Culinary Approach Using Traditional Techniques and No-Waste Methods (Chelsea Green, 2017) and is printed with permission from the publisher.