making chicken stock

I'm going to assume, dear readers, that most have you have made chicken stock before. Is that too assumptive? I figure if you're reading a food blog, you are one of those who is willing to take the extra steps for a great meal. Don't get me wrong- I always have at least one box of commercial stock on hand. I'm not magical. But when I have time to make my own- absolutely yes.

Just in case you never have, let me tell you: it's easy. It's quick (to prepare). The results are soooo much more flavorful than the ones you get in the store. Making chicken noodle soup with homemade chicken stock is transcendent. It's a revelation.

You can freeze it in large containers, in ice cube trays, or not at all. Do with it what you will. But try it at least once, if you never have. You probably have all the parts you need in your kitchen right now!

The best tip I've gotten for making stock? Cook the stock inside a colander, so when it's done, you don't have to strain it...just lift the remnants out. It changed my life. By that I mean, please try it. I want to change your life.

There are many recipes out there. Here's how I do it.

First, you need a chicken carcass. Glamorous, I know. Here's the thing: I bought this rotisserie chicken for dinner a few nights ago. We ate some of it, but not nearly all. The rest of the meat will be another dinner. The bones are making stock. The circle of chicken. 6.99 for three meals? Sign me up.

I use celery, carrots, fresh thyme, and onion. Slice the celery and carrots on the bias, and be sure to include the celery leaves. Chop the onion in half, then chop each half into quarters. Leave the skin on- they lend the yellow color to the stock.

Plop everything in the colander in the pot (or just the pot). Cover with at least 8 quarts of water.

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Add two bay leaves and some peppercorns.

Bring the pot to a boil, then immediately turn it down to a simmer. You don't want it to cook on anything higher than a simmer, or your stock will be cloudy.

Cook for from 1-3 hours, depending how deep of a flavor you want. I like mine at the three hour mark.

Delicious. No really, it is. Don't mind the looks. Now, the magic of the colander:

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Incredible. Seriously. As opposed to pouring the lava-temperature liquid out of a heavy pot into a strainer set in a bowl, this is the best thing ever.

Let the stock cool in the pot for about an hour until it has dropped in temperature enough to be ladled into your storage containers. The food code gives restaurants four hours to take liquids from above 130 degrees to 40 degrees or below, and those are the standards I follow in my kitchen as well.

Once it has cooled enough, ladle the liquid into your choice of storage containers. As attractive as it looks in a cute little pint jar, those aren't super practical. I use plastic containers with good lids. 

Let the stock cool in the containers on the counter a fair distance away from each other for at least another hour. If they feel slightly warm to the touch, it's okay to put the lids on.

I label everything. I use dry erase marker on my plastic lids, then just wipe it off when they're ready to be washed. Having everything dated is a habit from the restaurant- but it is incredibly helpful when you can't remember which day that steak was cooked, or how long those cooked mushrooms have been sitting in the fridge. Jokes- I never have mushrooms left over!

The top two are destined for the freezer- I labeled them as well, in case I make seafood, mushroom, or beef stock. The bottom one went right in the fridge, to be used sometime this week. I use chicken stock like water around here.

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So, that's it! Go forth, oh ye of extra chicken bones, and make stock. Then make soup or something fabulous. It will be delicious.

Just in case, here's the recipe: