Let’s face it: there have been many days when I bought chicken stock at the grocery store. But a wonderful article by Mark Bittman got me thinking more about where I waste money in the kitchen. I previously bought chicken stock all the time. It was used in cream or bean-based soups, risottos, sauces, etc. I love making broth from scratch, but I rarely have room to keep much of it in the freezer — so I just assumed the grocery store stuff was better than water. Of course, I never used it in broth-based soups (like chicken noodle) because … umm, it’s terrible.
Ever actually taste it? Yes, it is really, really terrible.
After reading the Bittman piece, I got a little annoyed with our culture. We all complain about the price of food, the price of organic vs. traditional produce, the price of grass-fed vs. feedlot — but how often do we really think about the money we are wasting on processed or pre-made groceries that are just plain bad? How much money might we have left over to shop from local, organic farmers if we stopped wasting so much money on junk?
Bittman basically says that you shouldn’t waste your money on stocks and broths because plain water simmered with a few vegetables and garlic tastes better anyway. And I always knew that this was true, but I still wasted my money. Well, no more. I am carving out freezer space so I can have chicken broth on hand that actually is delicious for chicken soup. What a novelty.
It did dawn on me, however, that many people have probably never made their own chicken stock. It is so super simple — and it is a great refrigerator clean up activity. Give it a try and remember that this is not really a recipe — use what you have. And you can use a few chicken pieces or a whole bird — the whole bird giving you a lot of meat to use for other dishes or chicken salad.
- A few chicken pieces (this time I had 2 leg/thigh pieces in the freezer and two wings from a whole chicken I bought)
- 1 onion, in large chunks
- 3 carrots, in large chunks
- 3 stalks of celery, in large chunks
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
- A few turnips or a rutabaga (great use of CSA root veggies!), in large chunks
- Fresh herbs (rosemary, parsley, dill, etc.)
- Sea Salt
Place everything in a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium low and cook for about an hour. I usually then remove the chicken pieces, allow them to cool a bit, and then take the meat off the bone. (If you let them cook in the broth too long, the meat gets mealy and tough — the white meat especially). You can then put the bones back in the stock and let it simmer a while longer if you like — but I usually find an hour makes a plenty flavorful stock. Put a large colander inside a larger bowl (a big, cheapo metal bowl is great for this) — I usually do this in the sink and strain the stock into a colander so solids stay behind and broth ends up in the bowl (discard solids — they have given all their life to the stock).
If you want to make chicken noodle soup, put some strained stock back on the stove and bring it to a boil. Add some pasta, chopped onion, carrot, and celery and cook until just tender. Chop some of the white meat chicken and add it to the broth. Finish with salt, pepper, and fresh dill.
*Freeze the broth in tempered glass or stainless steel containers. It is best to freeze it as broth and then make chicken noodle soup up fresh from the broth — the noodles absorb too much liquid when frozen.