Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Greatest Chicken Stock(s)

Well, I don't think that 2 chicken stocks that are homemade can ever be the same - do feel free to add a comment if you want to challenge that!

A good habit

For the last few years I have developed a habit (I know I have to go to the clinic every week to check in and discuss with the therapists) for using the carcass of a chicken to make a stock. Ever since I discovered that you can freeze fresh chicken stock (thanks JB) it became a winner. Not only is it possible to squeeze every last flavour out of a roast (however good it turns out to be) but you also use up waste and create something you will need later. 

Variations on a theme

I have tried many things from garlic, onions, herbs, salt, pepper, frying off, dry roasting, adding vegetables, the residual meat juice etc. to be honest I am not sure that 2 are ever quite the same - but I can say that recently I've had a breakthrough that makes the stock tasty. And I think I will be sticking to it.

So what do I do and what seems to make a real difference?

As you may pick up, I am a bit of a reduce, reuse, recycle fan. So making stock from a leftover roast carcass was a no-brainer. Boiling the carcass with some other bits is OK but some small tweaks can make a significant difference to the flavour and value of the stock. 

The things listed below are what I have done for a chicken or turkey carcass but I am pretty sure they will make a difference to any meat stock / leftover carcass or bones if you use them to make a stock. I haven't perfected a vegetable stock but if I do, you will see it on this blog first!

1. Roast the carcass for about 20 mins

When you have taken the meat off the bone, whilst the family and friends (guests) are enjoying the meal, throw the carcass, bones and skin onto a baking tray (spread out) and put it back in a high oven. You will need to watch it a little to ensure the bone ends don't burn but I am guessing it will take around 20 mins.

2. Add Roasted Onions and Garlic 

It might be an acquired taste but adding fully roasted garlic and onions adds a depth (I have no idea what that really means but the pros say it!) to the flavour - it definitely makes it taste nicer. I would typically add 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and 1 large onion. 

I would suggest you peel and chop the onion into 4 and peel and crush the garlic - not sure you have to worry too much about the finer skin on either as it doesn't stay in the stock!

3. Don't add vegetables

I have added both cooked and uncooked vegetables in the past - and neither seem to make any difference at all. 

4. Add leftover meat juice and gravy

Juice from the roasting dish and any leftover gravy should be added to the roasted carcass, onions and garlic in a large boiling pot / slow cooker / pressure cooker. 

To ensure we get all the flavour, I tend to fill the roasting dish / pan with boiling water and add that to the stock too. 

5. Herbs and Spices

Other than water (enough to cover the carcass) the only other things that I add to the stick pot are:
  • 2 bay leaves
  • some mixed spices
  • a few whole pepper corns
  • a generous  dose of salt (about a good teaspoon for a litre of water - ish)

6. Cook properly

I've realised that I have got to know when things are cooked - I rarely use a timer (sometimes this backfires!). 

My preference is to use a pressure cooker as it uses less energy and retains the moisture of all the ingredients. When cooking stock I try to leave it cooking for at least 1 hour - if you forget and it cooks for longer it really doesn't matter!

It is ready when it looks like all of the meat will drop off the bones when you pick them up. Or when it looks rich and glossy on top. Or when it smells like you are re-living the delicious meal you cooked earlier!

What next - how to store

Early on I used large ice cube containers to batch up and freeze - after a while I realised that 1 ice cube was never enough so it seemed pointless to separate into such small portions. So I now use the small containers (about 250-300ml). One of these in 500ml of boiling water is ample for a good chicken stock. 

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