China Moon Chicken Stock

Aka Single Stock

Making stocks in a restaurant kitchen is a near-religious experience. The pots are towering, the vapors waft steamily around their rims, and submerged in the depths is a holy mix of bones and aromatics decreed by the chef on the first day of the restaurant’s creation. There are strict rules for their skimming and straining, and novice cooks are often judged on their care in tending them.

The reason for all the sanctity is well taken! A stock is a primary building block, and the sauces and soups put forth in a restaurant are only as good as the stocks from which they began (see Stock Shock).

In the case of chicken and stock and China Moon Cafe, I was thwarted from the start by a double tribal allegiance. While the ghost of my Jewish Grandma Millie spoke in one ear of the need for onion, carrot, celery, and neck bones—adding that one also needed a few chicken feet thrown in for extra lushness—the ghost of Po-fu, my mentor in Taiwan, spoke with Confucian righteousness of the need for whole chickens cooked with ginger, scallions, and Szechwan peppercorns. What was a filial Jewish-Chinese girl to do but listen to them both? Hence the East-West aromatics in our chicken stock.

In China Moon, we let the stocks simmer overnight. In a home kitchen, a chicken stock will be ready to strain in 3 to 4 hours. Fortunately, homemade chicken stock keeps well. It may be refrigerated for up to 3 days and frozen for about 2 weeks or more.

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Ingredients

  • 4 pounds fresh chicken bones
  • 20 cups (5 quarts) cold water
  • 4 quarter-size coins fresh ginger, smashed
  • 2 fat scallions, cut into 1-inch nuggets
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon Szechwan peppercorns

Method

  1. Rinse the chicken bones under cool running water to dislodge any blood. Put the bones in a non-aluminum, heavy 8-quart stockpot. Add the cold water and set the pot over high heat. Bring the liquid to a near boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until a thick foam rises to the surface.
  2. Use a large shallow spoon to skim off and discard the scum. Continue skimming until the surface is mostly clear. Add the ginger, scallions, celery, carrot, onion, and all of the peppercorns, and reduce the heat to maintain a weak simmer. Simmer the stock undisturbed until the liquids are reduced by about half, 3 to 4 hours. Do not stir the stock while simmering and do not let it boil.
  3. Strain the finished stock through several layers of wet cheesecloth. Spoon off the fat that rises to the surface. Refrigerate, uncovered, until the remaining fat congeals. Discard the fat, seal the stock, and refrigerate or freeze for later use.
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