Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chicken, Day Two: Stock.

I haven't always been a fan of chicken.

We ate a lot of chicken in our house when I was a kid. Too many of my younger years spent trimming, cutting, cooking and eating boneless/skinless chicken breasts. Chicken salads, chicken stir fry, chicken fajitas. Lord have mercy.


I'm over it, though. I really like chicken now. It's so versatile. Buy a whole roasting chicken at the market and you can make several meals out of it - or at least two meals - depending on the size of your family and the size of the chicken. This is a great way to stretch a budget.

Meal #1: Roasted chicken. There are about 30 million recipes for roasted chicken if you do a search on-line. When I am cooking I have two requirements: easy and quick. Those requirements probably eliminate half of the recipes. When I roasted a chicken the other night I just stuffed it in the roasting pan, drizzled olive oil on it, then sprinkled it with a mixture of salt, black pepper, oregano, basil, paprika and cayenne pepper, then rubbed all that into the skin. I baked it at 400 degrees for about a half hour, then turned the heat down to 350 and baked it maybe another hour, until the internal temp was 180 degrees. It smelled amazing, the skin was a beautiful crispy brown, and those spices made their way into the meat just enough to give it a great flavor and just a hint of kick. It was GOOD.

Meals #2 and #3: Chicken noodle soup and chicken salad for sandwiches. These are my favorites at this point because my kids will eat homemade chicken noodle soup (particularly if I make biscuits to go with it), and I like to have the chicken salad in the fridge for myself for lunches. It's also great to have some leftover chicken stock in the freezer for yet another meal later. You could make more soup, add it to your mashed potatoes for some flavor, cook your rice in it, or any number of other possibilities.

So here is how I made my easy and (relatively) quick chicken stock. With pictures. Because I take pictures of everything. Which makes my family laugh.

Anyway. Chicken stock!
I saved everything that was left in the roasting pan after the roasted chicken dinner and after I pulled the leftover meat off the bones. Olive oil. Salt and pepper. Onions and carrots I had in the fridge. The carrots I didn't bother peeling, just washed them really good and chopped them up. Easy, remember? Celery I begged off the neighbors because I didn't have any and I didn't want the carrots and onions getting lonely. Plus they take nice pictures together, don't they?

In the pot with all of you! I turn on the heat and pour some extra virgin olive oil in there first. I go a little crazy with the olive oil because I love the sound of the sizzling veggies. And it tastes good. And I don't like my onions sticking to the bottom of the pot. I ground some sea salt and black pepper into the pot, too. It doesn't have to be fancy schmancy salt and pepper. It doesn't even have to be salt and pepper. I just thought they'd make a nice addition to all the spices that were already on the chicken.

When the onions looked limp and the veggies weren't sizzling so much anymore, I added the chicken carcass and all the spicy, ooey gooey goodness that was left in the roasting pan. It all adds flavor - all the bones and the leftover tidbits of meat. Cover it with water. I think this took about eight cups. Then turn up the heat 'til she boils!

This is the part when my younger child comes in from playing outside and says, "It smells like chicken nuggets in here!" and I say, "Oh, but it's much better than chicken nuggets, baby."
I let it boil for maybe 15 minutes, then turned the heat down and tried to forget about it for a couple of hours while it simmered. But I'm a checker and stirrer, so I can never forget about it. It's OK, you can't really ruin chicken stock with too much checking and stirring.

Mmmmm. Look at all that golden goodness. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Do you hear me? Let. It. Cool. At least a little.

When it's cool enough that I can pick up the pot and pour out the ingredients into a strainer without scalding myself, I do so. I should note here that my goal is not to have a clear broth. My goal is to create some sort of yummy, flavorful liquid with which to do some future cooking, so I don't get too cranked up if a few pieces of onion slip through the strainer. I'd probably fish out any errant celery, but that's just me. The carcass and whatever ends up in the strainer gets tossed. Goodbye, carrots. You served me well.

Yum! I ended up with six cups of stock to put in the freezer, plus a little extra to ... I don't know ... maybe make some soup for lunch today. I put it all in the refrigerator to let any fat settle, and I'll scoop that off the top before the container goes in the freezer. 

See how easy that was? It might not seem like much, but I get a lot out of this whole process. I get the joy of feeding my family good, wholesome meals for a very small investment of time and money. I get the pleasure of a house that smells of those home-cooked meals. If I do little extras like making chicken stock regularly, I get a freezer full of meal basics and bases that I can pull out at a moment's notice or when I'm too tired to start from scratch.

It sure beats ordering pizza. And I never thought I'd say this, but it beats having cereal for dinner, too.


  1. Wow, six cups! I've always wanted to make my own stock, but I so rarely buy chicken on the bone...I"m so going to try this the next time I buy a whole chicken:D

  2. Thanks, Bobbi!

    Glad I inspired you, Michelle! Whole chickens are definitely a great deal.