Monday, November 15, 2010

Chicken Stock (and Leek Soup)

I woke up a few days ago and realized Thanksgiving is already next week!  I know this is going to sound stupid (because it's been on my calendar all year), but it kind of snuck up on me.  So I decided this was a good time to make some homemade chicken stock to use in a variety of dishes (soup, stuffing, mashed potatoes).

Roughly chopping the vegetables makes it really quick 
(you can even throw in the onion skins and celery leaves)

I was a vegetarian for a long time, so honestly, cooking with meat is still relatively new to me.  So for me, homemade chicken stock was a bit of a revelation.  I made it one day as the base for Matzo Ball Soup and I was hooked. 

So now I save all the chicken bones whenever we eat chicken for dinner (I throw them in a large ziploc bag in my freezer). When the bag gets full, I make stock and freeze it so we always have some on hand. I usually throw in a few actual pieces of chicken with the meat still on too (the stock gets so rich, it actually becomes thick and gelatinous when it cools in the fridge).

I don't follow the recipe below exactly, I just eyeball the amounts (I usually make a giant pot which probably yields more like 24 cups).  But this recipe is a good basic guide.  The only difficult part of making chicken stock is straining it.  Do yourself a favor and get a large, very fine sieve if you make it regularly (you can also use cheesecloth, but it's a bit of a hassle).

Last night I also made a nice Leek Soup with some of the freshly made stock, so I'm including that recipe down below too.  If you make it, don't forget to discard the bay leaf before blending the soup...I did that once and then I got panicky after reading all kinds of internet rumors about eating bay leaves (everything from them being poisonous to cutting up your insides like tiny shards of glass).  Side note: we did eat it anyway and nothing bad happened, but you better believe that I pureed the hell out of that soup first.

Makes about 10 cups

1 (3 1/2- to 4 1/2-lb) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 carrots, quartered
2 medium onions, left unpeeled, trimmed and halved
6 fresh parsley stems (with or without leaves)
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
8 black peppercorns
4 qt cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

1.      Bring all ingredients to a boil in an 8- to 10-quart heavy pot. Skim froth. Reduce heat and gently simmer, uncovered, skimming froth occasionally, 3 hours.
2.      Pour stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and discard solids. If using stock right away, skim off and discard any fat. If not, cool stock completely, uncovered, before skimming fat, then chill, covered.

Gourmet, September 2003

Makes 8-10 servings
leeks etc., simmering away
8 medium leeks (about 3 lb.), chopped & cleaned (white & pale green parts only)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 stick unsalted butter
1 small potato (about 6 oz.)
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock or 48 oz. reduced-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
1 Turkish bay leaf (or 1/2 California bay leaf)
1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy cream

1.      Wash sliced leeks in a large bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift out and drain well in a colander.
2.      Cook leeks, onion, carrot, celery, salt, and pepper in 4 tablespoons butter in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, then add to onion mixture along with wine, stock, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes
3.      Stir in parsley and simmer soup, uncovered, 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf and keep soup at a bare simmer.
4.      Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook roux, whisking, until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups simmering stock (from soup), whisking vigorously (mixture will be thick), then whisk mixture into remaining soup and return to a simmer, whisking.
5.      Blend soup using an immersion blender (or in batches in a blender) until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

Note:  Soup is best when made 1 to 3 days ahead (to allow flavors to develop).  Chill soup, uncovered, until completely cooled, then cover.  Reheat, thinning with water if necessary. 

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, May 2007
blending the soup with the immersion blender (aka "the thunderstick" at our house)
preparing to freeze containers of leek soup and chicken stock

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