DIY Brown Chicken Stock! : On Making Stocks.

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Making your own stock is one of the simplest and most useful things any cook can learn. Observing a few things you can make flavorful stocks very easily. In this post I’m going over how to make brown chicken stock and cover a few more general related tips. Making stocks… I took this subject for granted for the longest time. Yeah, those were the bouillon cube days… long gone… well, sometimes I use them as well as store bought stock, they happen to be very very practical and there are some good brands out there, but when I have the time and material at hand. I make my own stocks.

For me there are a few reasons to make your own stock:

1. Minimizing ingredient waste:

Finding a great application for scraps, carcasses, skins, peels. Things that you’d otherwise throw away can find a good place in a stock pot. Say you roast a chicken, well, most everything you end up not eating can be used for making chicken stock. The skin provide incredible flavor and so do the giblets.  Always make sure your ingredients are fresh and never use spoiled anything.

2. Controlling flavor:

You have a lot of control. You can use leeks instead of onions if you feel like it, maybe both. Or not use the chicken livers if you don’t like their taste. You can skip using salt all together and keep your stock unsalted until it is time to season when you’re ready. With store bought stuff, food ends up tasting like whoever came up with the recipe on the box/can. When I was getting into cooking, one of the things I that remember improved  everything was the fact that I stopped using bouillon cubes or canned stock. All of a sudden  food stopped tasting the same all the time. It was liberating! I know this might be obvious to most of you, but it wasn’t to me at the time.

3. Storability:

Storing a liquid is a lot more convenient than storing a bunch of bones in the freezer, right? how about  vegetables? they wilt pretty fast, right? Freezing vegetables can be time and space consuming, some lend themselves better than others to be frozen and you’ll need to read about the proper way them prep them for storage. Up to you and the application you have in mind. Stock freezes wonderfully. If you know you have a bunch of veggies you wont be able to use and are every likely to end up in the trash can, you can make stock and freeze it.

These seem to me like pretty good reasons to put those knorr cubes away and tackle this issue armed with a knife and a pot!

Ingredients:

Leftover chicken from a roast or chicken giblets, excess skins, fatty bits and carcass

Mirepoix Veggies: 1 white onion, 1 or 2 celery stalks, 1 large carrot, bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig, 1 rosemary sprig.

You can get pretty creative with the veggies and the herbs, don’t get too creative with seasoning though. Keep that to a minimum.

No salt. No pepper. (at least that’s my recommendation)

Method:

Place some chicken bones, skins, giblets on a roasting pan (or roast a whole chicken!). Make sure you dry them with paper towels. We need them dry so they roast quickly. If they’re wet, they’ll steam instead. Line the tray with tin foil. Less mess. We’re gonna make a brown stock, which means browning our ingredients. Yields a deeper flavor and color. Sometimes we don’t want that, and we will simmer our ingredients without browning in which case is called a white stock. Fish stock is called a fish fumet and are usually white stocks as are shell fish stocks.

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You can toss the chicken in some olive oil, vegetable oil, or melted butter or coat it with a brush like I did. Whatever fits your style. Coating the chicken with fat will speed up browning and make it more even. 

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Roast for about 30 minutes at 400F. Check a few times making sure nothing is burning. Baste if needed. Turn any piece that might be looking to dark. I can’t stress this enough. Anything burns, might as well throw the whole thing in the trash.

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Place the roasted chicken parts inside a stock pot or in this case, a pressure cooker. I basically grabbed the tin foil, and transferred the whole thing into the pot, fat and all. If there are a lot of browned bit stock to the foil, I suggest you degalze that and add it to the pot as well. You can crack the chicken bones if you want better access to the marrow inside. It adds more flavor this way.

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Fill the pot with enough water to cover the chicken and simmer for about 2 hours max if using a traditional stock pot. In the pressure cooker, is about 40 minutes to an hour at 15 psi. A very important thing to keep in mind. Overcooking any stock will yield a bitter stock. Calcium from the bones will cloud the stock and over denaturing of proteins will give an unpleasant flavor.

A quick guideline for traditional approximate cooking times:

Beef stock (from bones): 6-8 hours or 2 1/2 pressure cooked.

Beef trimmings: 1 hour or 20 minutes pressure cooked.

Chicken stock: 2 hour or 40 mins pressure cooked.

Fish stock (non-fatty fish bones/heads): 20-30 minutes. Why bother pressure cooking, is so quick already 🙂

Shell fish stock (crab, shrimp, lobster heads and shells) : 15-20 mins. Why bother pressure cooking, is so quick already 🙂

Vegetables: 1 1/2  hours. 30-40 mins pressure cooked.

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When the time’s up, the stock is pretty much ready. You can at this point dispose of the chicken, it will pretty much have no flavor left in it. Where are the veggies? Well.. that’s coming up. You can render stocks separately and then combine it or do them at the same time. Sometimes I don’t have aromatics at hand. Being able to extract the flavor of one ingredient in the absence of the others is very convenient. I would still recommend combining all the ingredients together when making stock, but for the purpose of this post, I think separating them is kinda cool.

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Strain the stock and pour it into a container. You could line your strainer with kitchen towel to better filter out any solids. While the stock is hot, the fats and the liquid gelatin are sort of floating around together, but once you chill it, the fats will surface and solidify.  The underneath substance is basically chicken gelatin that should be fairly liquid since the water content is still very high. Chilling the stock is the way to go in my opinion for de-fatting. Why remove the fat? well, chicken stock yields a lot of fat, we wouldn’t want all of that in say chicken soup or a risotto. We can remove it, store it and use it later if we want. But the stock should mainly be chicken flavored water.  Once the fat is hard, scrape it away with a spoon or whatever weapon of your choice.

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Chicken stock to the left. Rich chicken schmaltz to the right.

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Vegetable stock can now be rendered and combined with our chicken stock to add more flavor complexity. The procedure is similar. I made a white veggie stock, which means, I didn’t caramelize the veggies. I simply added them to the pot, added enough water to cover them and pressure cooked them for about 30 minutes which is enough to extract all the flavor. There’s no fat in this stock, so no de-fatting required.  I used some leeks, carrots, celery, garlic.. I even used a salad green mix that I knew I was probably gonna throw away. It had iceberg lettuce, radishes, sugar peas, etc.

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Once I had both stocks ready. I reduced each of them by half to intensify the flavor, and then added vegetable stock to the chicken stock by the tablespoon until I was happy with the flavor. Tasting food without salt is probably a good exercise to better understand the subtleties of flavor. I think we become a little to dependent on salt to taste flavor in ingredients and preparations.

With this chicken/vegetable stock I put prepared a chicken noodle soup which I will be writing about in the next post. Until then, I hope you’ve enjoyed this simple chicken brown stock 101 post. More coming up soon! Take care fellow cauldron stirrers!

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