Basic Homemade Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is the all-purpose base for soups and sauces. Its chief ingredient is inexpensive; it is light and delicious; and it marries well with other foods, enhancing and sustaining them. I have found this basic Chinese homemade chicken stock to be precisely that: the essence of chicken, with fusion complements of ginger and spring onions. It works very well with Thai flavours.

A stock so prepared serves as a reminder that stock can also be used as a clear soup. I find that the richer stocks made with ham or pork bones are heavy and not quite suitable for my cooking preferences. This simple stock reflects what I believe works best for any dish, fusion or otherwise.

Many of the commercially prepared canned or cubed (dried) stocks are of inferior quality, being either too salty or containing additives and colourings that adversely affect your health as well as the natural taste of fresh foods. However, many supermarkets now carry stock that is quite acceptable, usually without the additives. Stock does take time to prepare but it is easy to make your own -and homemade is the best.

Your first step on the path to success with any cooking is to prepare and maintain an ample supply of good chicken stock, as many recipes in this book rely on it for just the right finish. I prefer to make it in large quantities and freeze it. Once you have a supply of stock available you will be able to prepare any number of soups or sauces very quickly. Here are several important points to keep in mind when making stock:

  • Good stock requires flesh as well as bones to give it richness and flavour. So use at least some chicken meat in it.
  • The stock should never boil. If it does it will be cloudy and the fat will be incorporated into the liquid. True flavours and digestibility come with a clear stock.
  • Use a tall heavy pot so the liquid covers all the solids and evaporation is slow.
  • Simmer slowly and skim the stock regularly. Be patient – you will reap the rewards each time you prepare meals on the solid basis of this delicate stock.
  • Strain the finished stock well through several layers of dampened cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer.
  • Let the stock cool thoroughly, then refrigerate. Remove any solidified fat before freezing it.

My method of careful skimming ensures a clear stock, essential for good soups and sauces. Remember to save all your uncooked chicken bones and carcasses for stock. They can be frozen until you are ready to use them.

If you find the amount in this recipe too great for your needs, make half.

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Ingredients

  • 2 kg (4½ lb) uncooked chicken bones, such as backs, feet, wings
  • 675 g (1½ lb) chicken pieces, such as wings, thighs, drumsticks
  • 3.4 litres (6 pints) cold water
  • small piece fresh ginger
  • 9 whole spring onions
  • 1 head whole garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Method

Put the chicken bones and chicken pieces into a very large pot. (The bones can be put in either frozen or defrosted.) Cover them with the cold water and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile cut the ginger into diagonal slices, 5 × 1 cm (2 × ½ in.. Remove the green tops of the spring onions. Separate the head of garlic into cloves, without peeling them.

Using a large, flat spoon, skim off the foam as it rises from the bones. Watch the heat: the stock should never boil. Keep skimming until the stock looks clear. This can take from 20 to 40 minutes. Do not stir or disturb the stock.

Now turn the heat down to a low simmer. Add the ginger, spring onions, garlic, salt and peppercorns. Simmer the stock on a very low heat for between 2 and 4 hours, skimming any fat off the top at least twice during this time. The stock should be rich and full-bodied, which is why it needs to simmer for such a long time. This way the stock (and any soup you make with it) will have plenty of taste.

Strain the stock through several layers of dampened cheesecloth or through a very fine-mesh strainer, then let it cool thoroughly. Remove any fat which has risen to the top. It is now ready to be used at once or transferred to containers and frozen.

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