One of the reasons why fine restaurants can bring their splendid tastes to our pallets is due to their abilities to make everything from scratch. You will be surprised how much of a difference basic procedures like making various stocks can create. One of the most common is chicken stock which is used in so many different recipes.
But let me explain first the difference between chicken stock and broth. In general, beef, chicken, vegetable, fish, etc. stocks are liquids filtered of any meat or bones whereas broths have some vegetables and/or meat in them and are therefore heartier and can be eaten directly.
The combination of onions, carrots, and celery used to make stocks is commonly referred to as mirepoix – literally meaning in French a combination of these ingredients, but it can contain other vegetables.
Professional cooks also refer to sachet d’epices as a combination of spices that are usually tied up in cheesecloth to allow for the easy removal after cooking in a stock, broth, etc. In the recipe below, I will not wrap the spices, because I will later filter them.
Ingredients (prepares about 1 gallon of stock):
- 8 pounds – chicken bones (can be a bit meaty including gristle, joints, and some trim (see photo below) – about 4 5-pound chickens will provide the requisite bones if you cannot get them from your butcher)
- 6 quarts – water
- 1 teaspoon – salt
- 1 ½ - medium to large onions cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2 ½ -- medium carrots cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2 ½ -- medium celery stalks cut into ½ inch pieces
- 3 – Italian parsley stems
- 2 – thyme sprigs
- 1 clove – garlic crushed slightly but not minced
- ½ teaspoon – black pepper (cracked peppercorns)
- 1 – bay leaf
The bones need to be cut up into about 3-inch pieces which require a very sharp knife (see photo below about how to sharpen).
Sharpening knife with steel.
The knife should be large enough to cut through the bones by pounding down hard on the back of the knife. Once you have cut up the bones, rinse them and place into a large pot (see photo below).
Bones of one 5-pound chicken cut up with meat removed.
Add cold water so that it covers the bones by about 2 inches and bring to a simmer. The precise French terminology is frémir which means to tremble. In other words, the liquid should have bubbles just breaking the surface. I find that somewhere between medium low and medium is the correct point but, of course this will differ from burner to burner.
The stock just after the cold water has been added.
Once it begins to simmer properly, allow to simmer for 4 hours frequently skimming the surface of the stock (see photo below) which will give you a clear stock.
Skimming the stock – I also use a fine tea filter.
Simmering for 4 hours – note the clarity of the liquid from the skimming.
Add the mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery) along with the spices and simmer for an additional hour.
Mirepoix and spices added to the stock.
Stock after cooking for 5 hours.
Once completed, I use a colander placed in a large pan and pour the stock through it to remove the large particles. Then I place double thick cheesecloth into a smaller colander and repour the stock through that (see photo below).
Using a small colander with cheesecloth to filter the stock.
Let the stock cool and then refrigerate or freeze for later use. Once you refrigerate, the grease will separate and you can skim it off the top.
Cooling stock – fat will be skimmed after it has cooled in the refrigerator.
It's good to get a fresh way of lokiong at it.