Chicken Stock² & Chicken Stock³ (Chicken Stock Squared & Cubed)
It’s that frustrating time of year again. Winter is still creating icy havoc, the cold and flu season is going strong and lots of people are “feeling puny”, as they say in the South. Schools in my area have been closed for a week, not because of snow, but because of illness. Sniffles, sneezes, aches and pains---it makes you want to wrap up in a warm blanket and plop down onto the couch with a steaming and restorative bowl of homemade chicken soup. You may have to open a can if you weren’t prepared for feeling “puny”, but if you’ve got a stockpot, a chicken and some time to simmer, you’re on your way to being cured!
If you know me, or my Southern Yankee kitchen, you know that I am a hard core stockaholic. I have no problem with that admission. In fact, the more I say it, the happier I feel. Making stocks and broths is one of my favorite pastimes and this is a perfect day to indulge. I have developed a way to make the richest, tastiest, most chickeny chicken stock you have ever tried, and here is how I do it: You need a 10 quart stockpot (or the biggest pot you have), a whole chicken (2-3 pounds, or an equal amount of chicken parts—on the bone with skin) and water. This is not a recipe as much as it is a technique. It takes some time, but it is mostly passive time and you can go about your business while the magic happens. I recommend not straying too far from the kitchen, though, because the aroma is heavenly!
Fill your stockpot two-thirds full with good (pure, filtered if necessary) water. Bring to a rolling boil. Using tongs---the longer the better---GENTLY lower the chicken into the boiling water until it is fully submerged. Wait two minutes. Again using tongs, carefully remove the chicken from the water and place on a large plate next to the stove. Try to drain some of the water from the chicken cavity as you lift it, but be slow and cautious, because the water is VERY HOT. Return the water to a rolling boil. Lower the chicken back into the boiling water, again submerging. As soon as the water comes back to a strong simmer (does not have to be boiling), turn off the heat, cover the stockpot and set the timer for one hour. After one hour, lift the chicken out of the stockpot and place on a (different, clean) large plate to cool.
At this point, you have a fully cooked chicken and a pot of very light chicken stock. When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, begin to break it down. I just dive right in and use my hands. It is by far the easiest way to get it done, but back in the day my catering partners did not enjoy handling “chicken google” as they called it, so it became my task exclusively. I suppose you could try using utensils. If you do, let me know how it goes. Start the heat going under the stockpot. Remove the skin from the chicken and return it to the stockpot. Take as much meat off the bones as you care to and return the bones to the stockpot. I remove the wings and add them to the pot and finally every bit of bone, skin, meat or “google” that you might not eat goes into the pot. Bring the stock up to a light boil and skim any “scum” that might form on the top. Reduce to a simmer, cover the pot but leave the lid slightly ajar and let things simmer away for at least two hours. You can easily simmer for most of a day, adding more water if necessary. The aim is to extract as much flavor and nutrients as possible.
The cooked chicken meat can be used right away for a myriad of dishes, or it can be refrigerated or frozen. After simmering two hours (or a day!) you have Chicken Stock² Squared. That is the light chicken stock, doubled down with the bones and skin. Remove the bones and skin and strain the stock through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve into containers to refrigerate or freeze. I buy a sleeve of plastic quart deli containers from a local restaurant supply store, but you can use any size lidded container or freezer bag you like. Don’t forget to label the container with the contents and the date. You should have between 4 and 6 quarts of stock if you used a 10 quart stockpot. A bonus item in this process is schmaltz.
Schmaltz is pure golden liquid chicken fat. Using a ladle or spoon, you can skim the schmaltz off the top of the stock before or after straining. It will last in the refrigerator for a very long time and is perfect for sauteeing vegetables or hash brown potatoes. I also like to use it to make a roux for a chicken and sausage gumbo. The possibilities are endless.
And now, my best kept (until now) secret. The next time you want to make Chicken Stock² Squared, cube it! Triple down on the chickeny goodness by replacing some of the water in the stockpot with Chicken Stock² Squared broth from this time! Chicken on chicken on chicken! A steaming bowl of Chicken Stock³ Cubed, with just a little sprinkle of salt is unlike any stock you can get from a can or a box or a store or maybe even your Grandma! Delicious and good for you, too! You’ll be feeling better in no time!