Elixir of the kitchen gods

Foundation: Homemade chicken stock can improve anything, from soups to stews to sauces.

March 05, 2000|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

The elixir that makes soup a cure-all or transforms rice into pilaf is a rich chicken stock -- a leisurely infusion of chicken, lots of aromatic vegetables and herbs. Making homemade stock takes time, although considering the results, it's time well-spent. Besides, once the stock makings are simmering, they need almost no attention for several hours.

The results will be more flavorful, more robust, and more economical than canned broth or bouillon cubes. And once you discover the benefits of having a supply of homemade stock in the freezer, you'll use it at least once a week for soups, stews, sauces, rice, pasta, and for poaching, braising and deglazing poultry, fish and other foods. To be sure you don't run out, set aside time every couple of months to stock up on one of the most valuable liquid assets in the kitchen.

What makes this stock "rich" isn't the chicken fat (that gets skimmed off) or even the butter. It's the slow simmering, followed by gentle boiling to concentrate the stock. Because no salt is used in making the stock, you can easily adjust the saltiness of dishes in which you use it.

Rich Chicken Stock

Makes about 12 cups

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium leeks, cleaned well and thinly sliced (use part of green tops)

1 large carrot, thinly sliced

1 rib celery, with leaves, chopped

1 stewing chicken (about 5 pounds) or 5 pounds backs, necks and/or wings

3 sprigs parsley

1/4 teaspoon each dried thyme and whole peppercorns

1 bay leaf

pinch dried marjoram or basil

4 quarts water

salt (optional)

In a large, deep kettle (8- to 10-quart size) over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, leeks, carrot and celery and cook, stirring often, until onions are soft but not browned. Add chicken pieces, parsley, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaf, marjoram and the water.

Bring slowly to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until broth has a rich flavor (3 1/2 to 4 hours).

Strain broth, discarding solids. Return broth to kettle and boil gently, uncovered, until it is reduced to about 12 cups (30 minutes to 1 hour). Taste, and add salt if desired.

Refrigerate stock overnight; skim off and discard congealed fat. Freeze stock in airtight containers; or cover and refrigerate, and use within 3 to 4 days.

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