In our house, rotisserie chickens from the grocery store are a time- and effort-saver. A whole fryer chicken usually sells for less than $1/pound. A typical rotisserie chicken is about double the cost, but we often get three weekday meals off it, so it's worth it to me. The chicken meat is used in salads, pasta dishes, quesadillas, sandwiches, pot pies and stews and, when the carcass is picked clean, it's time to make chicken stock. (Of course, you can also do this with a chicken you've roasted yourself.)
Chicken stock from scratch couldn't be easier. It allows you to control the flavor and salt content, and it freezes well. You will need:
- 1 chicken carcass with some skin/meat left on the bones
- 1 yellow onion with skin
- 2 carrots, ends trimmed off but not peeled
- 1-2 ribs celery, preferably with the leaves
- 1 bay leaf
Put the carcass in a 4-quart pot. Cut the onions, carrots and celery into a few large pieces and add to the pot. Cover with cool water. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Let it simmer away until you have about 1 quart of liquid left (about 90 minutes or so). Then cool slightly (for safety) and strain the stock into a freezer-safe container (be sure to leave room for expansion as it freezes). You can also let the broth to cool in the fridge so you can skim off the fat. Discard bones and vegetables.
A few tips:
- The onion skin adds a rich brown color to the stock as well as flavor. The celery leaves add a depth of flavor too. I sometimes keep a Ziploc bag of onion skins and celery leaves in the freezer so I will be sure to have them when I'm making stock.
- The holy trifecta of carrots, onion and celery is what the French call mirepoix (pronounced “meer-pwah”), but feel free to experiment. If I have leftover scallions, parsley, shallots, turnips or other vegetables handy, in they go. There are no real rules for making stock — only guidelines.
- Carrots add sweetness; reduce them if you like an even more savory stock.
- Play with herbs and spices. Add a few peppercorns if you like a bit of spice. Thyme goes well if you're using turkey bones. Think of what you'll make with the stock and season accordingly.
- I prefer to make my stock without adding salt (although there is some in the store's spice mix) and then salt to taste later when I am using the stock in a recipe.
- Set a timer to remind you to check the stock periodically.
- If you're in a climate where you can grow your own bay leaves, this recipe is even cheaper to make.
Homemade chicken stock beats even the best canned/cartoned stocks. I haven't experimented with making beef, vegetable or seafood stock, but it's on my list of things to learn. Maybe somebody has a recipe to share?
As a frequent beneficiary of this chicken stock, I can vouch for its quality. It's darned handy to have a couple batches in the freezer. This is a fun and tasty recipe to use for stew, pasta, and more!