I’ve been making homemade chicken stock pretty much since I started cooking. In college, it was just an economical way to stretch a $5 rotiserrie chicken. The problem is, I never graduated from my original technique: take all of the meat off a rotisserie chicken and reserve for another use; toss chicken carcass into giant pot with a halved onion, a carrot or two, and a stalk of celery; fill giant pot with water; simmer for hours; strain and freeze. The result of that method is certainly broth, it’s just not that good. Cloudy, thinly flavored, and a little gray – it’s fine for adding to a stew or sauce but certainly not something I would sip on it’s own.
It wasn’t until I spent six weeks in Asia last winter that I discovered that good stocks and broths aren’t only the backbone of a soup or a sauce, but culinary achievements in and of themselves. Of course, I knew this before going to Asia – I consume enough food literature to know that a good broth should stand on its own, needing no other embellishment to be enjoyed. But I didn’t really internalize how good a broth could be until I’d experienced the dumpling soups in Hong Kong, which consisted of broth, dumplings, maybe a few noodles, and that was it. No veggies floating around in these soups, or creams to thicken them, or salty slices of kielbasa. Then we moved on to Japan and consumed ramen for basically every other meal. There, broth took on another dimension of deliciousness – although for ramen it’s not so much about clarity and purity as it is about richness and salt.
Since coming home, over a year ago now, I have been pouring my heart and soul into making a perfect homemade chicken stock. I know precisely what I want to achieve: a stock that’s golden, clear, richly flavored, with just enough fat to lightly coat your mouth after a spoonful. I’ve been doing lots of research, and experimenting, and taking detailed notes on each batch.
After a recent batch, which I always seem to be putting away boiling hot at 10pm on Sunday night, Trevor looked and me and said “I can’t believe you make stock every weekend.”
“Not every weekend,” I corrected him. “But often,” he said. “It’s not like you tried it once and said ‘yep, I’ve made stock.’ You’re more like a Russian grandmother: ‘on Sundays I make stock, to feed the family and use up the chickens'”
That’s pretty much the long and the short of it.