Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dig In - Chicken Broth (or is it Stock?)

Broth. Stock. Stock. Broth.  These terms are pretty much interchangeable.  If you want to put a fine point on it, broth is usually considered a bit milder and lighter than stock.  For today, let's just talk about chicken broth and agree that we could just as well call it chicken stock.  Another day we will talk about merits and how to's of vegetable broth.

No matter what you call it, a good broth is the essence of any flavorful soup, sauce or risotto.  It can also be served as is, as a plain soup.  Homemade broth is better than storebought.  You can control the amount of fat and salt and you will know what went into it.  Homemade broth is made from real food, not chemical additives.  As Marion Cunningham put it, "  . . . there is no true replacement for the full bodied flavor of good homemade stock or broth."  And everybody knows a rich, long simmered homemade chicken broth is good for what ails you.

I think knowing how to make chicken broth is a basic life skill.  If you have children in your life - teach this to them.  They will be better prepared when it is time to enter the cold hard world.  Think of it as another kind of health insurance.

Broth takes a long time to cook, but the amount of labor involved is negligible.  There are a few basic  do's and don'ts you need to know - but after that you can feel free to improvise.  The stockpot is a place you can practice both frugality and imagination.  Frugality because you can use bits and pieces of various vegetables and meats and bones that might otherwise go to waste and imagination because a wide variety of seasonings and vegetables may be used in chicken broth.

Always start with cold water.  Bring rapidly to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.

Skim the foam (not the fat) off the top with a ladle or skimmer right after the broth boils.

Add salt early in the cooking process- but not too much.  You can always add more later.  About 1/2 t. per quart of water would be a good place to start.

Simmer partly covered - you lose less nutrients but still allow for some reduction of liquid and thus concentration of flavor.

Use flavorful vegetables like: celery (especially tops and leaves), carrot, onion, garlic, mushroom stems, dill and parsley stalks and leaves.  I sometimes use cleaned potato peels or potato cooking water.

Leave vegetables in fairly large chunks - they are less apt to fall apart and cloud the broth.

Taste as the broth cooks.  Be judicious in adding salt.

Cool broth after straining and before refrigerating.  To speed cooling,  leave the cover off and put stockpot into a sink of cool water.


Don't add vegetables until the broth has come to a boil and the foam has been skimmed.

Don't use strong flavored vegetables like cabbage or turnips.

Basic chicken broth recipe
4 pounds of chicken parts - wings, necks, backs, feet. (feet are especially prized as a broth ingredient) You could also use a whole chicken.  More meat = more flavor.  If you use a whole chicken, you may want to remove the breast meat about an hour into the simmering process.  You can use it for soup, sandwiches, salads or casseroles.  The rest of the meat can also be removed from the carcass at the end of the cooking process and used for another purpose.

Add chicken or chicken pieces to a large pot.  Add cold water to barely cover - at least 4 quarts.

Bring water quickly to a boil.  Skim off foam.

Add vegetables:
1 large onion, cut in half
1 bulb (not clove) garlic, cut in half
2 carrots, chunked
2 celery stalks and tops - cut into large pieces
A few springs of parsley
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
15 peppercorns
2 t. salt

Simmer, partly covered, 4-5 hours.  Strain broth.  If a very clear broth is desired, strain again through a tightly woven, wet cotton dish towel or napkin.  Cool, then refrigerate.  Fat will congeal at the top and can then be removed.  Store in refrigerator up to one week.  Freeze up to 3 months.  If you freeze in a wide mouth container you can use broth without waiting for it to thaw.  Just warm the outside under running water and the frozen broth will slide right out.

Tomorrow:  Hands On - Grating

1 comment:

  1. I'm not the biggest fan of chicken, so I found a recipe for turkey noodle soup. I make the broth the same way but use huge turkey legs rather than chicken. I suppose I could look for turkey bits like the chicken bits you mentioned above, huh? Anyway, I agree that the broth is so much better than store-bought. Worth the time, for sure. I can't wait to hear about veggie broth!