The Stock Market

You may remember that a few days ago I posted about my camera dying mid-recipe and so I would be unable to post about the chicken stock/soup that I made.  While…I uploaded the pictures tonight and I realized that I had photographed enough of the process to warrant a post.

So, let’s talk about stock, shall we? Not stocks – I’ll save the investment lesson for another day – but chicken stock.  It really is the foundation of so many wonderful things, and is one of those things that every cook should master.  Why don’t more people make their own, then? You may have your own reasons, but my theory is that it’s because (a) people don’t know how, (b) people think its too hard, and (c) people think its too time consuming.  Well, its your lucky day because right here in Canada’s Test Kitchen I’ve tried many different methods, never use a recipe, and can usually turn out something pretty decent.  However, the times that stand out the most are the ones where I’ve made the stock and then let it simmer for hours with onions, carrots, celery.  Unfortunately, I don’t always have the time or desire to do this, but once you’ve had the real deal its pretty hard to go back to the stuff that comes out of a carton.  Before you start thinking I’m a total snob, let the record show that I’m actually a fan of a few brands of store-bought stocks or stock bases, and depending on the usage I think they can be just as good or better than the homemade kind. However, sometimes you just feel like homemade is best, you know?

I know what some of you are thinking – why not just make a big batch all at once and freeze it? Well, aren’t you smart! Why haven’t I ever thought of that?!?! Kidding.  That would be completely logical and something I would have done a few years ago, and actually, now that I think about it, I probably did do that a few years ago.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a deep freezer (I know – the horror that is my life) and my (small) freezer is packed with enough random ingredients as it is (or does everyone have frozen, pulverized lemon grass in their freezer?) so while I love the idea of making homemade stock on a rainy day and freezing it so I can make homemade soup on a moments notice it has yet to happen.

Do you have any freezer space you’d like to donate to me? Perhaps I should set up a new page.

So – refocusing – my challenge du jour: make chicken stock that doesn’t require 3 hours of simmering.  Since I’m feeling ambitious, my goal is going to be to make it in under an hour. Feel like joining me? Or like placing bets? Do YOU believe?!?!

The goods:

Canola oil, a whole chicken that has been cut up (please see below), a few onions, boiling water, salt, and some bay leaves.

Should be easy enough, right? Time’s a ticking so I better get moving!

To make good chicken stock we need to first start with a good chicken.  Starting with a whole chicken, remove the breast meat from the chicken, and set it aside.  Hack the rest of the chicken apart into 2-inch pieces.  Why? Because we want this stock to be produced quickly, and this is the easiest way to do it.   I know its not pretty, but hopefully the end product will be worth it.

Let’s be practical though: How does one cut up a whole chicken, anyways?  Well, there are really 2 different options:

1)      Become good friends with your butcher and bribe them ask them to cut the chicken up for you.

2)      Bite the bullet and do it yourself: remove the legs and wings first; set aside.  Separate the back from the breast and then split it and set the breast meat aside. Using a meat cleaver, hack the back crosswise into three or four pieces, and then halve each piece again. Cut the wings at each joint so it gives you three pieces.  Are you tired yet? I hope not, cause we have more work to do still. Split the leg and thigh at the joint, and then hack each piece apart to give you three or four pieces.

Alright, now that that is out of the way we can get the party chicken stock started!

In a large stockpot, heat about 1 TBSP of vegetable or canola oil. When it’s hot, add the chicken breast halves and brown on both sides. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, while the chicken is sautéing dice up the onion.  Medium-sized pieces sound good to me.

Oh look!

The chicken is nicely browned.  Let’s remove it and throw the onion into the pot in its place. It’s been benched long enough. Two or three minutes should do the trick – starting to smell good in here!

Let’s remove the onion…

…and now add about half of the chicken pieces to the same pot.  After about 4-5 minutes they should have started to turn opaque.

Yup! I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this looks good, but its what we’re looking for.

Remove this batch of chicken, and repeat the same process with the other half of the chicken parts.  When this batch is opaque, add the first batch of chicken and the sautéed onion back to the pot with it so everyone is reuinited again.  This stock is powerful. Its going to change some lives; I can just feel it.

Reduce the gas to low and put a lid on the pot. We’re going to cook it for about 20 minutes so that the chicken can release its juices.

How are we doing for time? Anyone keeping track? I sure hope someone is – this IS a competition after all! About 15 minutes after you put the lid on the pot, stick the kettle on to boil. We have a schedule to stick to, so no wasting time allowed!

Looks like our 20 minutes is up; time to check on the chicken…

Perfect.  Increase the gas to high, and add 2L of boiling water along with the sautéed chicken breasts, 2 bay leaves, and about 2 tsp of salt. Let it come to a simmer, and then cover and cook until the chicken breasts are cooked through.  I think 20 minutes should do the trick, don’t you?

And that is pretty much the end of my photographic journey through stockland (I shed enough tears for all of us, don’t worry). Once 20 minutes has elapsed, remove the chicken breast, and set aside until they’re cool enough to handle.  When they are, remove the skin and shred the meat.  Refrigerate it separately from the rest of the stock. Meanwhile, strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer or a cheesecloth lined colander into a clean bowl or pot. If you have the time, refrigerate the stock to defat it since the fat will rise to the surface and harden so it can be easily removed.

And that’s it! Homemade chicken stock in under an hour. Yay!!! It IS possible, and it IS delicious.  Will you make extra and freeze it so I can have some next time I need it? Thank you in advance for your co-operation.

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