Weir Cooking in the City: Homemade Chicken Stock

There are certain dishes that you just can't make well without homemade stock. Pasta in Brodo, the Italian soup that is basically pasta in broth, depends on good stock. So do risotto and sauces. (Canned stocks don't have as much flavor and have too high a concentration of salt.) I consider good stock such an essential ingredient that I always have it on hand in my freezer. I mean, culinary speaking, I would feel naked if I didn't. So when I make it, I make a ton (maybe not a ton, but at least gallons). Besides, it's really easy to make.

This is my basic recipe. It makes a good-quality stock with lots of flavor:

1. For each 5 pounds of chicken bones (backs, necks, and breast bones), add 1 onion, 1 carrot, 3 sprigs of parsley, a pinch of fresh or dried thyme, and 1 bay leaf.

2. Put everything in a stockpot and add enough water to cover the bones by 1 to 2 inches, even if the stockpot goes up to the ceiling and you have only inches of bones.

3. Bring everything to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low and let simmer (I like to say simmer, but I really mean shiver or tremble). Cook, uncovered, for 5 to 6 hours. The only thing I do during this time is to replenish the liquid to the original level as it cooks down.

4. Strain the stock; discard the bones and vegetables; place the stock in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator until cool (preferably overnight). The next day, skim off all the fat, put the stock in plastic containers, an freeze for up to 1 month.

When I'm making chicken stock, I like to use the back, neck, and breastbones of the chicken (which I get from my butcher) rather than chicken parts with meat on them. This is because the flavor in stock comes from where the meat attaches to the bone and not from the meat itself. You can use wings, but they produce a lot of fat because of the skin. Some Chinese cooks use chicken feet, but that produces a really gelatinous stock. So I like to use the bones.

I don't like to add celery to stock, because it's quite strong in flavor. But if I did, I'd just add a one-inch piece. If I happened to have leeks in the house, I'd add one; but, honestly, I never have extra on hand, so I don't. I might add a few peppercorns for flavor, but I usually forget them. I try to keep it simple.

Recipe ©2004 Joanne Weir from Weir Cooking in the City, reprinted by permission.