Chicken stock is an essential ingredient in the arsenal of the enthusiastic home cook. It is used in soups, stews, risottos and casseroles, as well as a whole host of other dishes. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in modern times when a recipe calls for chicken stock for many people to reach for one of those little dehydrated cubes and a jug of hot water. While it may take some time to make proper chicken stock from scratch, the cooking time is largely hands off and the difference in quality in both the stock and your ultimately prepared dish is night and day.
There are any number of ingredients which can be incorporated in chicken stock but there are only two principal methods used in its preparation. Essentially, it is made either from raw chicken/chicken bones or the bones of a chicken which has been roasted. Both work very well in most recipes but the intensity of the flavor and the color can be drastically different, with the roasted chicken stock more intense in both instances. The good news is that both methods can be made allowing the meat of a whole chicken to be enjoyed as a by-product.
Chicken stock made from a raw, whole chicken requires a prepared, whole chicken and a selection of vegetables, herbs and seasonings. This recipe is tried and tested many times and you may wish to give it a try. You will need:
1 4lb chicken
1 large carrot
1 large white onion
2 sticks of celery
1 small bunch of parsley
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp coarse sea salt
Wash your chicken inside and out under running cold water, making sure you remove any giblets that may be contained in the body cavity. Sit it in a large stock pot. Peel the onion and quarter it. Wash the carrot and roughly chop it but there is no need to peel it or even scrape it. Similarly, wash and chop the celery sticks. Add all the other solid ingredients to the pot with the chicken before pouring in enough cold water to comfortably cover everything. Put the pot on to maximum heat on your stove until the water boils then reduce to simmer for one hour.
After one hour, the chicken meat will be cooked and the liquid in the pot is perfect chicken broth. Chicken broth can be used in many recipes but stock requires considerably longer cooking time. Remove the chicken from the pot very carefully with perhaps a large slotted spoon and a carving fork and allow to cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones by your chosen method and return the bones to the still simmering liquid. Cook for a further couple of hours or until the liquid is reduced by half. Switch off the heat and allow to cool significantly before removing the larger solids with a slotted spoon and straining through a fine sieve. When the stock cools completely, it will have a gelatinous quality, very different from chicken broth.
The second method of making chicken stock involves using the cooled bones of a roasted chicken. The procedures are similar, in that the bones are added to a stock pot with the vegetables, herbs and seasoning and the water which is brought to a boil. Simmer for three to four hours until the liquid is reduced by half. Cool, remove the bigger solids with a slotted spoon and strain through a fine sieve.