Chicken Stock

Chicken Stock

There is no more heinous waste-crime in my book [and it’s quite a thick book, but this one is written in red, and underlined] than to throw away the remains of a roasted bird before they have visited the stockpot. I once went for Sunday lunch with a large group of friends to a pub which served whole roast chickens to share, and insisted that the resulting five carcasses be wrapped and bagged for me to take home – there was chicken stock in the freezer for weeks! Age of austerity or not, there’s no way you should just bin those bones.

  • The carcass, skin and any juices / jelly / trimmings from your roast bird
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • A glug of white wine / vermouth / brandy / dry sherry
  • Salt
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • Bay leaves
  • Any other herbs of your choosing

Firstly place your carcass etc. in the pan and turn up the heat for a while before adding any of the other ingredients. The skin and bones will start to sizzle and spit and release their aroma and flavour. Now throw in your choice of booze and allow this to quickly bubble away. Vermouth and wine [the end of last night’s bottle is fine] work well, brandy gives good depth of flavour to the finished stock, or chose something else if you have a specific job in mind for the stock. For instance when making the chicken, garlic and brie pie posted here I used a fino sherry which on its own partners very well with brie, and I wanted to see if they got along just as well here[*].

Throw in the holy trinity of aromatic veg, the onion, carrot and celery, and give all a good stir. The choice of herbs is also dependant on what you want to do with the finished article but I always add a bay leaf or two and some parsley stalks if I have them lying around, which of course you do if you’re using the leaves elsewhere! Again when making the pie I knew there’d be thyme involved some added some to the stock too. There’s no need to spend time making neat little bouquets garnis with the herbs, you’ll be straining everything through a sieve so just plonk everything in the pot. Pop in the peppercorns and a generous helping of sea salt then add enough boiling water to submerge the contents of the pan and return to the boil. Skim off any scum which floats to the surface and having reduced the heat allow this to simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour.

Taste your stock as you go and don’t be scared to up the seasoning until the flavour is as you want it; if you’ve ever been disappointed by the flavour of a homemade stock the most likely cause is excessive caution with the salt. After an hour the solids will have done their work and you can strain off the liquid and discard them, but for additional richness and intensity you can continue to reduce the stock if you wish. And there you have it – the starter for soups, risottos, sauces and so on – for not much more than an hour of your time, the price of a few vegetables, and some leftovers which would otherwise be wasted. And you won’t have me turning on your doorstep and waving that book!

[*] They did!


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