I thought we might just kind of slip right past Winter this year, considering it was warm enough (in the 70’s!) to sit outside and have Thanksgiving dinner just a week ago. However, Winter is definitely now on its way with temperatures in the 20’s at night.
At the Bunkycooks, now would be the time to
pull out those fuzzy pajamas and crank up a roaring fire start making some of my favorite dishes for these freakin’ cold nights this time of year. These include homemade soups, stews and braised dishes. The key, to me, to a rich and satisfying dish that will totally knock your socks off in the flavor department is homemade chicken stock!
I am talking about the kinds of dishes that you serve with a lovely green salad, a crusty loaf of French bread and a great bottle of wine. This will be all you will want or need for an evening’s dinner on a frosty night. Well, maybe a roaring fire, a warm body (Mr. B) and a big binkie wouldn’t be so bad either! ;) Can I add a cute and shaggy dog to that list?!
Yes, you can certainly substitute store bought chicken broth in recipes (and I do it for certain things or if I am out of my homemade stock), but until you try your own stock in dishes, you will never know just how good truly amazing they can really be! This is one of the secrets in any good cook’s kitchen and in restaurants. One way they create complex flavors is by adding homemade stocks.
It takes a bit of time to make your own stock, but for the most part, you just let the stock cook away on the stove. You can go about your business (like baking cookies or playing on the internet) and come back hours later (with a bit of checking in between) to rich and luscious homemade chicken stock! Wait until you smell the house while it simmers away…it’s like chicken soup on steroids!
The difference in this and the store bought variety is that it is gelatinous, dark and flavorful because you have simmered fresh aromatics and whole chickens together for hours. You can also adjust your seasonings, especially the salt, which is very important to me. (That is why I always use low-sodium chicken broth when I do buy it). You can always add salt, but you cannot take it away.
You will need a 20 quart stock pot to hold all of these ingredients. This will allow for just a bit of space at the top of the pot.
As much as you might want to try to salvage the cooked chicken from this recipe, do not do it. It is not edible. All the goodness is now in the stock. What is left of the chicken is not fit for man nor beast my dog.
Strain the stock into another pot once it has cooked for 4 hours and then chill overnight. Remove the fat from the top of the stock. The stock will be very thick and gelatinous. I like to warm it up to redistribute the seasonings and then ladle into freezer-safe containers.
Be sure to use it in a day or two or keep it in the freezer for up up to 3 months (preferably). It will keep up to 6 months, but you will want to make oodles and oodles of delectable dishes with this, so my bet is it won’t last that long!
Homemade Chicken Stock
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style, Ina Garten
Makes 8 quarts
3 (5-pound) chickens, preferably organic
3 large yellow onions, unpeeled and quartered
6 carrots, unpeeled and halved
4 stalks celery with leaves, cut into thirds
4 parsnips, unpeeled and cut in half, optional (I always use them. I think they add great flavor.)
20 sprigs fresh parsley
15 sprigs fresh thyme
20 sprigs fresh dill
1 head garlic, unpeeled and cut in 1/2 crosswise
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
Place the chickens, onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, thyme, dill, garlic, and seasonings in a 16 to 20-quart stockpot (I use a 20-quart stockpot). Add 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
Simmer, uncovered, for 4 hours. Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander and discard the solids into a clean pot. Chill the stock overnight.
The next day, remove the surface fat. * I suggest warming the stock to redistribute the seasonings before ladling the mixture into containers.
Use immediately or pack in freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to 6 months (although 3 months is preferable). I also place them in freezer bags so they are airtight.