Saturday, December 5, 2009

Homemade Chicken Stock (for the Soul)

I know, I know. Who wants to spend time making chicken stock when you can buy a perfectly decent stock at almost any grocery store?  Well, suppose you have a chicken carcass lying around. Sorry, that imagery may have been a little too grotesque, but it comes with the territory. We had recently eaten a Costco rotisserie chicken, (which is pretty darn delicious, by the way), so we had all those chicken bones, a measly amount of meat, and a heaping amount of gelatinous post-roast drippings. My husband is not one to let something go to waste, so he immediately got that telling twinkle in his eye: time for stock!

Making stock is perfect when you're hanging out at home in your tube socks like Tom Cruise, and you have a few hours of love to put into a pot. There's something that never ceases to amaze me about starting off with water, a chicken carcass, chopped up veggies, and some seasoning, and ending up with a delicious magical liquid. This stock can be used in all sorts of applications from risotto to sauces to, of course, soup. What's even better is that the stock can be frozen, in any quantity, for months. Just toss it in the fridge to defrost the night before, or use the defrost setting on the microwave.

I think what made this version of stock particularly good is that the Costco chicken was so well seasoned to begin with. All of that salty goodness seeped osmosis-style into the liquid. Now, don't plan on going too far away while the stock cooks. Every 15 minutes or so, you'll need to skim the scum.  The scum is really just proteins that rise to the surface looking like a bubble bath gone wrong.

Here's the Alton Brown recipe to get you started, but the great thing about stock is that you can adapt it to whatever you have on hand.  Ordinary chicken, Christmas duck, Thanksgiving turkey or even a turducken (we've made stock from the first three, but not the latter, so proceed with caution). We didn't have any of the herbs Alton calls for on hand, so we just left them out and still had great results. There are so many other variations: beef, veal, vegetable, lobster, shrimp, but I'll save those for another time.

I promise you won't be sorry if you invest the time to make some stock (sorry about the Wall Street pun, but it was completely intentional).

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