Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stocking Up

With the arrival of fall and cooler weather, it's a perfect time to enjoy some warm and hearty soup. In order to make soup, you need some sort of base liquid, such as a nice chicken stock. Of course, the best stock is the homemade variety, so today I set out to make some for myself, adapting a recipe for turkey stock from the latest issue of Bon Appétit by substituting two chicken carcasses for the turkey.

A stock is basically a liquid made from simmering a few ingredients in water. All stocks are made with some sort of animal bone, often chicken or beef. The main flavor of the stock comes from the cartilage and connective tissues in the bones. The collagen in the connective tissues is transformed into gelatin during the simmering process and contributes to the resulting mouthfeel of the stock. Most stocks also contain other flavoring agents, such as mirepoix, an onion, celery, and carrot mixture (often in a 2:1:1 ratio), and aromatic herbs, such as parsley and thyme. The recipe from Bon Appétit is comprised of these components.

First, I had to prepare the mirepoix. In general, a rough dice will work; I had roughly 1/3 inch cubes in my mirepoix mixture.

I didn't have a large onion for which the recipe called so I used three medium onion halves (which conveniently allowed me to use up all of the cut onions in the refrigerator):

This recipe called for four aromatics: fresh parsley (left), dried thyme, a bay leaf, and whole peppercorns (right, clockwise from the top):

Not owning a true stock pot, I pulled out my Le Creuset dutch oven, heated up some vegetable oil, and softened up the mirepoix.

Ater a few minutes, I added the two chicken carcasses with enough cold water to cover the bones and the aromatics:

I simmered the stock for about three hours. By the end of that time, the bones were very soft and easily crushed. Removing the pot from the heat, I strained out the solids in a stainless steel bowl using a colander. I used a potato masher to press out the liquid from the mass of bones and aromatics. I let the stock cool down for a while and then used a separator ladle to remove the layer of fat that had floated to the surface.

Here's the final result, after the fat was skimmed off. (Gotta love those Cambro containers!)

I ended up getting about 7 cups of stock, so I topped it off with water (as the recipe suggested) to 10 cups. The stock can be stored in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer if you want to use it in the future. I'll be using mine tomorrow!

Edit: The San Francisco Chronicle today published an article in which Bay Area chefs share their opinions on the best way to make stock. (10/31/2007)


Karen said...

I am very curious to know how you will be using your chicken stock...

Loren said...

Ah, but that'll be a surprise for you, my dear...

tesha said...

Thanks for providing a great stock recipe - and pictures too! I plan to make lots of homemade soups this fall and winter. Perhaps you can come by for one of my cool weather treats!

Loren said...

Mmmm... Homemade soup sounds great!

Jeremiah said...

Awesome format and pictures. Thanks for taking the time to document your cooking!