It came to my attention recently that people are scared of a lot of things in the kitchen and one of those things is stock. I’m a huge fan of a good stock, it appeals to all my miserly tendencies, makes the house smell amazing and can make any soup, risotto, sauce and much more taste a million times better. It’s not hard to make, just so long as you follow a few simple rules (and unless your James who nearly set his kitchen on fire once in pursuit of a perfect stock)
Here’s a recipe for a Chicken Stock I’ve just made from the carcasses of a roast we had recently – you can add whatever veg / herbs you have to hand, for example a fennel bulb could help to make a nice stock with a bit of a difference (potatoes or anything else starchy are not good). This recipe would work equally well with the bones from your Christmas turkey.
2 roast chicken carcasses, stripped of most of the meat
1 leek, 2 carrots, 2 onions, 2 celery stalks, a handful of parsley stallks, 2 bay leaves, 6 sprigs thyme, 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
Chop the veg into large chunks (you want them to withstand a few hours of cooking, without falling apart) and then put all the ingredients into a large saucepan. Cover with cold water and slowly bring up to the boil. Once it gets there, turn the heat down and let the pot simmer for a few hours, skimming the surface occasionally. Remove from the heat and strain. At this point, you can either return the stock to the pan and bubble it down to store it or use it straight away as is. The reduced stock will obviously be more intense in flavour – you can freeze it if you like and when it comes to using it, just dilute it a bit with water.
- Don’t let your stock bubble too furiously and don’t stir it, the bubbles should just break the surface – in an ideal world, you want it to be as clear as possible. Essentially this is only really relevant if you want to use it to make a sparkling jus, consomme, etc or if the bones are from a fatty animal.
- You need to skim it occasionally to get rid of the impurities. The best way to do this is to pour in some cold water and then all the bad stuff will rise to the surface. Use a large spoon and drag it over the surface to get rid of the badness. The French, the masters of a good stock, have a special word just for this process; depouiller.
- Make sure the water is always covering the bones, so that you get the maximum flavour out of them.
- There are two types of stock, a white and a brown. White is when the bones / veg haven’t been cooked and brown is if they have. This recipe is a bit of a mix of the two. Most butchers will give you bones if you ask nicely and to make a brown stock with those you just roast them with the veg in vegetable oil until they are nice and golden and then proceed as above, discard any that are burnt as they will make the stock bitter. The flavour will be deeper than a white stock.
- Chicken stock generally needs about 3-4 hours cooking time. Veg stock 30mins and fish the same. The meatier stocks, so veal, lamb, beef – need longer around 6-8 hours. The longer they have, the more flavour there will be.