chicken broth

There are so many ways to make chicken broth. At home, we always took the carcass of a roast chicken plus anything that was scrapped after supper and submerged it in boiling water with a half an onion, some carrots, and some celery. This simmered for a long time and we used it for broth. I always made broth that way, but lately have adopted this method, which loosely resembles what I’ve read in many other cookbooks.

It’s true that there is no substitute for the rich color and flavor of the broth when you use raw chicken. Some people use wings and legs and toss everything, which you can do. I use a whole chicken, which I cut up into eight pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast pieces). Sadly I do not have a large stock pot that holds the whole chicken, so I divide it between two large soup pots and divide all the aromatics evenly between the two pots. If you have odds and ends of vegetable scraps (turnip peelings, parsnip ends, chard stems, onion peelings) you can quite happily throw them in with the rest of the ingredients and enrich your stock.

The key is to start with decently hot pans and render all the fat from the chicken before you add water. This creates a marvelous fond on the bottom of the pan and gives you a good amount of chicken fat for sauteeing your vegetables before you add the water. I do not skim the fat off of my chicken broth. It tastes so good, and I cannot believe that it can be bad for you! (This is obviously my totally uninformed opinion, but there you have it.) I tend to freeze this in small (1 cup or smaller) containers, as I use a little chicken broth in virtually everything—from pasta sauces to pot pies to fricassees. If you have a freezer full of good chicken broth, it makes it much easier to make supper our of what is in your fridge.

Chicken broth

  • 1 whole chicken, cut up (about 4 lbs) or 4 lbs thighs and wings
  • 1 onion, cut into eighths
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1- or 2-inch lengths
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1- or 2-inch lengths
  • 2 clove garlic, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 or so stalks of thyme
  • a large handful of parsley stems
  • salt, to taste
  • about 8 quarts of water

1. If you have a very large (12 quart or larger) stockpot, use it. If not, use two 4- or 6-quart soup pots. (If you are using two pots, for the rest of the recipe, divide all ingredients evenly between the two pots.)

2. Place chicken parts, with the side with the most skin down on the bottom of the stock pot. (Divide one of each chicken part between your two pans.) Turn heat to medium or medium-high—enough to render the fat and fry and crisp the skin to a golden brown. (If the heat is too low, the chicken will steam instead of crisp.) This takes at least 10 minutes. Flip chicken to the other side. Brown the second side. At any point if the chicken fat begins to smoke, turn the heat down a bit.

3. Place onion, carrots, celery and garlic in the pan. Make sure the vegetables come in contact with the bottom of the pan as much as possible. Let the vegetables caramelize. Stir occasionally, and try to loosen bits of chicken and skin that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.

4. When vegetables have just started to turn brown, add the rest of the ingredients, and sprinkle with salt. Pour in water, up to within about an inch of the rim of the pan. This should be about 8 quarts in total. Bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape loose all the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

5. When the pot reaches a simmer, set it so it is just perking, with only two or three bubbles slowly breaking the surface every few seconds. Let it perk for four or five hours, skimming the scum from the surface at first. During this process, replenish the water periodically. (I keep a kettle at boiling to pour already boiling water into the stock to keep it cooking.) At the end you want the water to be an inch or so below where you started.

6. Taste the broth and adjust the salt. The broth should be palatable but not taste salty. When finished, strain chicken from the stock. Pour stock through a strainer into a fresh pan if you are going to use it right away. If you are freezing it, strain into small containers and cool before freezing.

Note: The cooked chicken is delicious pulled apart warm, on bread, with a little grainy mustard or anything else you have in the kitchen. (Chopped gherkins, mayonnaise or aioli, what have you.)

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