Chicken stock is versatile, freezes well, and a great way to get more use out of a roasted chicken. There aren’t many rules for making good stock, but keep your flavour profiles simple, you can always add different spices when it comes time to actually using the stock. Not only is stock great for making soups but it can be used in reduction sauces (not just gravey), or to cook your favourite type of grains.
Going Veggie: If you are a vegetarian skip the chicken and bump up the vegetables. Vegetable stock generally needs to cook for a shorter length of time, but all other instructions apply.
You will need:
- Chicken bones (if you are just one person or don’t have time to make stock immediately, put your bones together in the freezer and wait until you either have enough bones or enough time)
- One onion, the white of one leek, two shallots, or a small bunch of green onions
- One or two carrots
- Two or three stalks of celery
- A small bunch of fresh herbs
- A large stockpot
For maximum flavour you should use chicken bones that have been roasted. If you debone your chicken before cooking the meat, roast the bones separately until they are golden to add more flavour. The vegetables listed above will give you a basic and neutral stock. Feel free to improvise with what you have on hand, stock is a perfect use for vegetables a little past their inspired stage; they may be limp but they still have flavour. Avoid anything that looks like it shouldn’t be eaten. Ideas include celery root (instead of celery), mushrooms, cabbage, garlic, tomatoes, turnips, parsnips, asparagus ends, or just about anything else you can think of.
Place all of your ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with water. Place on the stovetop and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turndown and simmer for at least two hours. You can cover or not cover the stock at this point, depending on your preference. My mother always covers hers at the beginning to intensify the flavours, and then removes the lid later in the cooking process to let the stock boil down for maximum flavour.
Once the stock has cooked long enough for you (again this can be anywhere from 2-6 hours) remove from heat and let cool slightly. Strain out vegetables and chicken before removing excess fat from stock. The best way to do this is to refrigerate your stock overnight. The fat will form a layer on the top of your bowl, which can be easily scraped off with a spoon. Remember – fat is full of flavour and important for our bodies to function properly, so the goal here is not to eliminate fat, but simply moderate it depending on your personal preferences. For a rich and delicious soup I will sometimes leave my stock with full fat.
Stock can then be used immediately or divided and frozen. If freezing, choose an amount that you would commonly use; 1-2 cups for cooking grains or making sauces; 3-4 cups for making soup. Freeze either in durable tupperware or in heavy-duty zip-lock bags. If freezing in zip-locks lay flat while freezing, (this goes for freezing anything in zip-locks) so that you can stack frozen goods easily.