Today I’ll be starting at the beginning (they say it’s a very good place to start) with a very basic kitchen requirement: stock. I’ve always thought it would be a pain to make, taking ages but if you’re in the kitchen anyway it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of actual hands on attention and it really does make a difference. You can freeze bones or the carcass from a de-boned chicken as well (you can use the carcass from a roasted chicken but this won’t impart as much flavour as an uncooked chicken) so then when you’re in the kitchen for a good amount of time you can pop a stock on. It’s so easy and adds proper depth to sauces and tastes like you’ve put loads of effort in, even if you’re just having a bolognese. There’s something so satisfying about getting such a useful thing out of a load of old bones that would otherwise just be rubbish.
One thing that I have read over and over while I’ve been researching stock making and so I’ll repeat here is that the quality of the stock reflects the quality of the ingredients used. So not for all the bendy bits of carrot or off cuts of celery and onion in the bottom of the fridge after all, or if you do use this kind of thing maybe add something really fresh as well to even the taste out a bit.
To make a stock is to take the flavour and gelatine out of the bones, heightening the flavour with the use of aromatic herbs (bay leaves, whole peppercorns, fresh thyme, celery leaves) and non-starchy vegetables (usually leeks, carrots, celery, onions) As a stock it can be used as a base for sauces, soups, chilli, pasta sauce, all sorts really and so you can put whatever you cook with the most into it. Whole cloves of garlic, star anise if you’re into Asian broths, lemon zest, whatever you want just not starchy vegetables like potatoes because these will make a cloudy stock which is not the ticket. Oh and don’t add salt because it gets really concentrated and not in a tasty way.
1 large chicken carcass & any bones from thighs, drumsticks, 2 whole wings if you’re not going to eat them, 1 stick celery. 1 medium carrot. 1 large white onion. 1 leek. 3-4 bay leaves. Sprig of fresh thyme. Handful parsley stalks. Celery Leaves from 1 bunch of celery. 20ish whole black peppercorns.
It goes like this: Chicken carcass, wings and sundry chicken bones (from the thighs etc) into a roasting tray having had excess skin removed. No oil, into medium oven gas mark 5/ 190 degrees for an hour until golden brown and caramelised. Chop vegetables into 5cm chunky pieces, you don’t want them too small as they’ll cook into the stock and make it cloudy. Add the vegetables to the tray for the last 20mins to caramelise. When you’re adding the vegetables to the tray give the bones a turn so they caramelise evenly. It’s really important to not use any burnt vegetables as it they’ll give a really acrid taste to the stock. To make a white chicken stock miss this roasting stage out, it’s the only difference but produces a lighter flavoured stock good for white or delicate sauces.
In the biggest pan you have, (I use a 5l one) put the bones, vegetables and aromatic herbs and cover with cold water and bring to the simmer. As the stock simmers the bubbles bring fat and grease to the surface along with them so dip your ladle lightly into the centre of the surface of the stock and concentric circles towards the outside of the pan so the bubbles and scum accumulate around the sides of the pan so you can remove as much of this as possible. Don’t boil the stock or the stock won’t be clear in colour. This doesn’t mean see through-clear by the way just not murky. I’m sure you knew that already but it took me ages to figure it out! It takes at least 3 hours for a good flavour to develop in a chicken stock and for the deepest flavour 4-6 hours so keep an eye on it but there’s no need to obsess, just make sure it’s not boiling and top up with cold water when the water level drops, making sure the bones are under the water level the whole time. Cold water encourages fat to rise to the surface so you can re-skim whenever you top up. After the amount of time you’ve decided, drain it using as fine a sieve as you have and you can store the stock as it is or, and this is what I like to do, boil the liquid down to one tenth of its original volume. It will go sticky and once it’s cooled it will have a jelly like consistency from the collagen in the bones. This will store in the fridge for 3-5 days. Or even better pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze so you can pop one out whenever you need stock. Use as if a cube of stock powder. Tada.