The first product from The Freezer of Doom was homemade chicken stock. All right, I know you’re thinking, dude, I don’t have time for that kind of homemakery-stepford-wifey-restaurant-chefy kind of work. But you do.
The chicken stock starts with carcasses of roast chickens, that I put in freezer bags after we’ve carved most of the meat off of them (I don’t pick them clean, because a little meat adds flavor). I also freeze carcasses that are left over after I have portioned a whole chicken (learn to do this!!!). The dead simple version of chicken stock is carcasses in a big pot of water to cover; simmer until the flavor is lightly chickeny. This stock method creates a lovely stock with no need for my attention, in about 2 hours. I sometimes put it on the stove to work its magic when I’m in the kitchen cooking dinner, and it’s ready to strain and put away before bedtime. I don’t add anything to it, not even salt, because that keeps my options open when it’s time to use it.
For an extra bit of richness and depth, use a meat cleaver to hack the carcasses into 2 to 3 inch chunks, put all the pieces in the pot over low heat and put the lid on. This is going to sweat all the chicken juices out of the pieces, adding more flavor to your stock. Hacking up the carcasses allows the bones to release collagen, which will give your stock richness. These steps add about 30 minutes to the process, but the flavor is worth it. Water is added next, and simmering begins.
If you are feeling ambitious, brown the chicken pieces before you sweat them, add a chopped onion to the sweating pot, and add a couple of bay leaves to the water. You will come away with chicken stock that is every bit as wonderful as a restaurant chef’s, in about a third to half the time.
The flavor deepens the longer the stock simmers, but at some point, the chicken pieces are spent, nothing left to give, and it’s time to simply strain and package the stock for storage. It’s really hot straight from the pot, so I let it cool on the counter until I can pick up the containers without crying out in pain, and then refrigerate until cold. I am lucky to have a fridge in the basement, so I don’t have to find room in my main fridge. I also take advantage of the refrigerator-cold nights and my screened-in deck, and chill my stock outside (free cooling!). Another option is filling an ice chest about 1/3 full with ice and water, and submerge the stock containers in it up to their rims, but not covered, with water. The chilled stock goes into the freezer the next day, and I’m all set for a while, with stock better than any I can buy in a store.
Chicken stock is as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. Don’t get me wrong, I do keep some organic bouillon base handy, in case I need a quick cup of broth for a recipe and didn’t plan for it by defrosting homemade stock. But homemade chicken stock really can’t be beat for flavor, texture, richness, and comfort. Try making some soon, and I’ll see you on down the Road.