The key to any good soup is a great homemade chicken stock. And while I admittedly resort to the boxed versions when I’m in a hurry and I’ve run out of my freezer stock, it doesn’t hold a candle to the deep, rich, clean flavor of homemade. Plus, take a look at some of those boxed versions and you’ll discover that many of them include added sugar (something which, frankly, surprised me). You can rest assured that when you make your own stock, it will be made with fresh, whole ingredients and no nasty, unpronounceable additives.
The other great thing about chicken stock is that it really is simple to make. It just takes hands-off time. Long, slow, bubbling away on the stovetop time. But all you need to do is chop a few ingredients and throw them all into the pot.
To make a flavorful stock, you want to use bony chicken pieces that have a little meat on them. I like using wings, backs and necks (just ask your butcher or at the meat counter if they have the backs and necks, they often do). If you want, you can use chicken legs along with wings. I’ve also made stock with a whole cut-up chicken (but then I like to pull off the good meat partway through so I don’t waste it). Or you can use the bones of a roasted chicken after you serve it for dinner.
Add to the chicken pieces some aromatic vegetables. I tend to stay classic here with onion, carrot, celery and some parsley. But I’ve also been known to throw in a chopped potato or yam, or part of a leek or a few mushrooms. Just don’t add any vegetables that will make the stock taste bitter, like cabbage or tomatoes.
I typically don’t skim my stock, and just strain it at the end. If you simmer it very gently, it shouldn’t be an issue. But feel free to pull out a large metal spoon and skim any debris off the top while it simmers if you like.