After a gruelling week at work, the serenity of a Sunday afternoon is precious to me. Get up late, brew a pot of coffee or tea, stare awestruck out the back window at the shivering green backyard, listening to the light “thuck” of my bamboo wind chimes…
it’s so chill.
When I’m in this deeply zen mood, I gotta cook some low, slow, deeply soul-satisfying stuff. So, I throw on some Ahmed Jamal CDs, grab the biggest bugger of a pot I can find, loot the fridge for vegetable scraps, roast some bones, and make chicken stock. A little chopping, and some patience are all the skills necessary to produce enough good-quality stock for a week’s worth of soups, stews, and whatever. As an added bonus, it makes the house smell incredible (only baking bread tops simmering stock).
Stock is the foundation (you might say “the bones”) of great food, so where do you get the bones ? I usually buy whole chickens, whether from the farm down the road in Black Creek or at the local Megalomart, and process ‘em myself. It only takes a couple minutes to go from whole bird to legs, breasts, bones and bits. Pop ‘em in a freezer bag whenever you do this and Shazam! After a couple of chicken dinners you’ve got enough bones for stock. No stress cooking…. Wait, who’s going to make breakfast?
Sunday Afternoon Chicken Stock
- 2kg (4 ½ lbs) Chicken Bones (Necks, backs, wings, legs, it’s all good stuff. If you buy your chickens with feet attached, throw ‘em in too!)
- 2 large Onions (peeled ‘n chopped)
- 2 medium Carrots (peeled ‘n chopped)
- 2 Celery Stalks (washed, chopped up)
- 5.5 liters (1.45 gal) Cold water (interestingly, the same amount of blood in a human body… neat)
- 3 Garlic Cloves
- 1 tsp. Whole Black Peppercorns
- Bouquet Garni (see below)
The Bouquet Garni is oldschool… Like, Escoffier oldschool. It’s just a handful of herbs (usually parsley, thyme, and bay) tied with string and cast into the simmering stockpot for flavour and aroma. In home kitchens (and even some pro ones) this technique is largely forgotten, which I think is tragic, ‘cause this is where things get really zen.
While the stock is doing it’s thing on the stove, head out into the herb garden and pick a handful of whatever looks at you funny. Parsley, Thyme, Savoury, Tarragon, Fennel, Rosemary, it’s all good. Wrap the stems together with butcher’s twine and you’ve got a little piece of culinary history. Each bouquet, and therefore each stock will be unique depending on what’s growing in your garden.
(Pssst… Preheat oven to 400°F)
- Toss the Chicken bones into a roasting pan with a dash of olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Spread them out in a single layer and fire ‘em into the preheated oven on the middle rack to roast for about 20 minutes. Pull out the roasting pan when the bones look golden brown on top and lift the bones out (the bottoms should still be a bit pale and drippy with roasted goodness). Add the onions, carrots and celery to the bottom of the pan. Flip the chicken over, (pale bits up) and back into the oven it goes for another 20 minutes.
- Transfer the golden bones and veg into a large stockpot and cover with the cold water. Discard the fat from the roasting pan, but add a little water or white wine to the bottom and scrape the little golden nubbins out (known in French as Sucs from the Latin Succus or Sap) and add ‘em to the pot as well. Put the pot on med-high heat and bring it to a boil. Don’t walk away, just chill in the kitchen and keep half an eye on that pot. Once it comes to a boil, immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the garlic cloves, peppercorns, and bouquet garni to the love pot and simmer the stock uncovered for 5 hours.
- Set up a ladle and two small bowls; one empty, the other filled with cold water beside your stockpot. Use the ladle to skim off the protein scum that rises to the surface of your stock, and deposit it into the empty bowl. Give the ladle a dunk in the water bowl to cleanse it and repeat this process whenever you wander by the stockpot. This extra little bit of attention will ensure your final product is clearer with a more vibrant colour.
- About 2 hours in, fish out the bouquet garni (it should be bobbing around the surface) and discard it… It’s worked as hard as it’s gonna work on a weekend.
- Strain the stock through a sieve into a container large enough to hold it’s golden majesty, and discard all the solids. Taste the stock and adjust seasonings as required, it probably needs some salt. Cool the stock as rapidly as possible using an ice bath, stirring, or just leaving uncovered on your kitchen table until it’s near room temp, then cover and refrigerate.