Friends are a great source of encouragement.
A few months ago, with the support of Kath I decided to start another blog called The Cooking Basics. The idea was simple, to focus on the basics of cooking – for example – stocks, sauces, cooking techniques and really anything and everything you could learn to make you a better cook. I got so far as my first post but then sadly, life got in the way. The idea always lingered on my mind but it was almost impossible to work on two blogs at the same time! Last week, after a nudge of encouragement from Ellie, I decided to pursue this idea again. She suggested I make it a regular feature in this blog instead. So, welcome to the first post of The Cooking Basics – what could be more basic than chicken stock?
Knowing how to make a good stock is an essential skill everyone should learn. The idea is simple, extract as much flavour from the ingredients as possible by simmering these over a low heat for a couple of hours (depending on the stock you are making). A great stock is the starting point for many soups, sauces and even braised dishes. And while it does take some time to cook, there’s almost no excuse NOT to make your own stock. It’s cheaper, healthier and more importantly, tastes heaps better than any store bought stock you can get your hands on.
I normally prepare my chicken stock over the weekend. They keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days, otherwise, I freeze them as they can keep indefinitely in the freezer.
There are a number of variations for chicken stock. A brown chicken stock is made using roasted chicken bones. A white chicken stock is made from raw chicken bones which are first blanched to remove impurities which can cause a cloudy stock (not what you want).
The main ingredients for the white chicken stock are:
Chicken Bones – usually a combination of wings, necks, carcass
Mirepoix (meer-pwah) – a combination of aromatic vegetables which include carrots, onions and celery (leeks are sometimes used as well). These are coarsely chopped into uniform sized pieces. The size of the vegetables will depend on the length of cooking time. The longer the cooking time, the larger the pieces used. The ratio for a mirepoix is as follows: 2 parts onion, 1 part carrots, 1 part celery.
Bouquet Garni – used to lightly add flavour to the stock, a basic bouquet garni will contain thyme springs, a bay leaf, parsley stalks and peppercorns.
Ratios – as a rule of thumb, the ratio for a basic chicken stock will be as follows:
2 Parts Water : 1 Part Chicken : 0.10 Part Mirepoix
So for example, if you have a kilo of chicken, you need to add 2 litres of water and 100 grams of the mirepoix.
Storage – Stock will keep 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator. Otherwise, place them in storage bags or ice cube trays and freeze them for up to six months.
Basic White Chicken Stock
- 2 kilos chicken bones (necks, wings, carcass)
- 4 litres water
- 200 grams of chopped carrots, onion and celery (100 grams onion, 50 grams celery, 50 grams carrots)
- 1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, a few thyme springs, a few parsley stalks, a few peppercorns)
- Rinse the chicken bones and put them in a large stock pot (enough to cover the bones, vegetables and water).
- Cover the bones with enough water and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, you will notice the coagulated blood come to the top of the stock pot, this is also referred to as scum. Turn off the heat and drain the bones and rinse them well. These first two steps are known as Blanching
- Place the bones back into the stock pot along with the mirepoix and the bouquet garni.
- Fill the pot with the 4 litres of water and bring to a boil. Once the water has boiled, reduce to a simmer. Make sure you don’t allow the stock to boil as this makes the stock cloudy. Simmering refers to keeping the heat low enough so that the liquid barely bubbles.
- Allow the stock to cook for around 3 to 4 hours, skimming any scum that rises to the surface.
- When done, strain the stock into a bowl and allow to cool and store (see above) until ready to use.
If you’re learning how to cook and would like me to feature a certain basic recipe, technique or ingredient please feel free to email me or leave a comment.
I’m off to Melbourne this week for some classes at Savour School. I’ll have limited access to email but have got some posts lined up for the week – make sure to stay tuned!