superlative chicken stock

October 20th, 2008 · 57 Comments

when i first read ‘the making of a chef’ by michael ruhlman, i remember being struck by the last line in an early chapter where he wrote something like, "and then i realized i had come to the CIA to learn how to make a perfect brown veal stock".

having made my own perhaps not-as-perfect version of veal stock, and now that i always keep a couple of quarts of this velvety and sublime stuff on hand, i knowingly smiled. because after all the cooking and the reading, and then all the eating, i get it. i really do. it matters. and so it’s worth the eye-rolls that i get from some friends who think my ingredients are a bit too esoteric, and my technique and principles, elitist – the same friends that when i see them use stock from a can or a box, i bite my tongue and cringe…

because i won’t.

i just can’t.

i’ve been shown the way, the light and the most noble of culinary truths…

no real stock on hand? use water.


happy halloween…

but then there are also those times when veal is not the stock of choice. veal stock is more neutral, able to boost flavors in a very subtle but definitive way, while chicken stock is unmistakably – chickeny. and well, sometimes it’s just what you need and nothing else will do. ok, turkey stock will definitely do and then some…

so when the weather was deciding to get cooler, before it changed its mind and went back to the mid 80′s (and now down again), i decided to make chicken soup. i had hit the farmers market a few days before and picked up a chicken, a bag of necks and a bag of feet. the original thought was that i’d make some stock. after all, tis the season of soups and braises and stock is the quintessential element.

so i began by cutting the wings off my chicken and browning them in a large pot along with the assorted aforementioned extras in just a bit of canola oil and then filling the pot with filtered water, bay leaves, crushed peppercorns, a couple of carrots and a very large onion. the last addition was the bag of roasted carcasses and assorted bones that had been saved and frozen from our last 3 roasted chicken dinners in anticipation of ‘stock making day’.

reach out and touch someone…

my goal was to create a good solid stock and then add my now wingless chicken to the pot along with a parsnip for the last 90 minutes. the chicken would then get removed, skinned and pulled apart and the broth would be strained some more. and there would be egg noodles along with the shredded meat – and a few sliced carrots thrown in at the end with a very fine smattering of parsley for color… such is my usual chicken soup.

after about 4 hours at a barely imperceptible bubble, i removed the feet, neck, bones and vegetables and strained the broth through my damp towel lined chinoise, not once but 3 times. my stock looked and smelled absolutely beautiful and i was feeling pretty good about myself. and then i suddenly remembered the whole superlative stock concept that chef pardus had mentioned in ruhlman’s book and i temporarily lost interest in the soup. just like that. and i decided to go the extra mile and make the best damn chicken stock this side of the mississippi.

so into the strained stock went the body of the chicken and i let it simmer for about another 2 hours. after, i removed the bird from the broth, peeled off the skin in one full swoop and shredded the meat. it went into the refrigerator for whatever, whenever, later getting used in one round of soup, sandwiches and salads and the occasional cat treat.

the stock was put back on the stove and slowly reduced down for another 2 hours and was then strained 2 more times. after it cooled on the stove, it was zip-locked and frozen in 2 cup batches. i kept the last 2 cups in the fridge to make us soup at some point that week, and when i went back to my stock, it was heavily gelatinized.

 

a very good sign…

i think both chef pardus, ruhlman and my grandmother would have been pleased with the result.

later that week the stock shown above was reheated, slightly rehydrated, seasoned and then the obligatory noodles, chicken meat and carrot coins were added. i never did remember the parsley – or to take a photo of the finished soup.

when we sat down to dinner and i took my first spoonful, cary asked me how i thought it was and i looked at him and said, "it’s extraordinarily honest."

so maybe next time i won’t make the superlative version of my chicken stock. or maybe i will.

i guess we’ll just see how the day is going… 

Tags: chicken · soup

57 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kitt // Oct 20, 2008 at 12:35 am

    Awesome. I’ll trade you tomato paste for stock …

  • 2 Melissa // Oct 20, 2008 at 12:54 am

    More power to you. That’s intense. And those pictures are freaking me right the feck out. They still do, I can’t help it heh.

    I have yet to make a really, truly great one, though I do make my own. I’ll be doing it again soon when I finally try to make matzo ball soup mmmm. I have also just been reading recently, from Ruhlman and from the NYT, that you should use water rather than the canned crap and I took it to heart.

    Cat treat? Funny. My cat is so weird, she won’t eat anything but her food. Granted, it’s expensive shit, so I at least commend her for her little kitty palate.

  • 3 ntsc // Oct 20, 2008 at 3:46 am

    Yes, do it your self is the only way to go.

    I don’t reduce it enough to become gelatainous, but that is because my wife doesn’t want it that way. Unless it is summer and we are doing a cold jelled consume, in which case we will.

    The last time I made chicken stock, the end of September, we ended up with 39 pints. I can most stocks, so this is sitting on a shelf in the basement along with the veal and dark beef stocks. There may be some vegetable down there as well.

    http://blog.charcuteire.com/2008/10/09/chicken-stock.aspx

  • 4 ntsc // Oct 20, 2008 at 3:49 am

    Pardus on occasion posts on this blog, this is one of his. http://ahungerartist.bobdelgrosso.com/2008/10/rootbeer-for-jhs.html

    Bob DelGrosso is another CIA Chef (former in his case) who also regularily comments on Ruhlman.

  • 5 Julia // Oct 20, 2008 at 5:34 am

    I’m very impressed that you’ll make veal stock! I certainly appreciate the extra gelatin from veal stock that makes sauces so, so, velvety, coat-your-mouth, tasty. But to me it seems like more of a hassle. The chicken feet are a great compromise!

  • 6 Jack // Oct 20, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Love the way those chicken feet resemble human hands! Studies are suggesting that collegen in chicken feet has a similar effect to ace inhibitors on blood pressure. Stock is so worth the effort and nothing from a can compares to the real thing. I was not so pleasantly suprised to see a commercial on TV the other day for Swanson broth that featured a recent James Beard Foundation chef telling folks that when he cooks at home Swanson is his broth of choice. Some people will whore themselves out for anything! Its good to know you’re not a broth-whore Claudia!

  • 7 Choosy Beggar Tina // Oct 20, 2008 at 9:05 am

    I adore those chicken feet pictures. They remind me of my grandmother, but…but not her soup. Reach out and touch somebody indeed.

  • 8 Jim // Oct 20, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Incredible photos.

    I have a freezer full of stock and can’t imagine cooking without it. My favorite is turkey stock which makes incredible risotto. At Thanksgiving, when turkeys are inexpensive, I buy several and cook them periodically and make fresh stock.

    It’s also a great base for Brunswick Stew!

  • 9 amy @ minimally invasive // Oct 20, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Love the pictures, Claudia. I have a crazy number of containers of stock (chicken, shrimp, vegetable) in the downstairs freezer, but no veal, for some reason. But now that you’ve praised it to the heavens, I’ll try to get to it next weekend.

  • 10 evil chef mom // Oct 20, 2008 at 10:17 am

    is halloween early this year? ack! i just love seeing chicken feet in the early morning. i wish everybody understood how much better stock makes everything. i like ruhlman’s way of making stock in the oven, so easy and well worth it!

  • 11 lisa // Oct 20, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Deformed, mutant hands for stock? Delicious! (They do look oddly human.) And, now I want some chicken soup.

  • 12 Shari // Oct 20, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Those chicken feet are perfect for Halloween! And your chicken stock looks gelatinous and just right!

  • 13 Heather // Oct 20, 2008 at 11:33 am

    This is it! This is the stuff. I love this shit. Just a spoonful or two and some roux, and you have perfect gravy.

    There’s really nothing like good, homemade chicken stock.

  • 14 Lesley // Oct 20, 2008 at 11:59 am

    I think I should have skipped you on today’s rounds. :)

  • 15 Lo! // Oct 20, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Those are some seriously beautiful (albeit a bit creepy looking) feet you’ve got there!

    Oh, yeah!
    A nice, gelatinous homemade stock is a glorious thing to behold.

  • 16 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Oct 20, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Nice chicken feet. I think I need some of those. My last stock (some of which is still in the freezer) just wasn’t gelatinous enough. Phooey. Now I’m all envious – but in a good way.

  • 17 Donald // Oct 20, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Ack!!!!

    Whenever I see chicken feet I think of the voodoo lady. Now where’d I put my sulphur?

    You simmered a loooooooong time…

  • 18 ponyboat // Oct 20, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Thank you in advance for the nightmare I will be having tonight.

  • 19 joycooks // Oct 20, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Yay! it’s that time of year again. But, hey, why the feet? I’ve made chicken stock countless times and never used the feet. Is it just for more ‘grounded’ flavor? sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • 20 cookiecrumb // Oct 20, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I just made a chunky chicken stock like that. You feel like you’re scooping jewels out of the chilled container. Gems, I tell ya!

  • 21 Traci @ Soup of The Day // Oct 20, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Good Googly Moogly!

    I can’t do chicken feet. I can’t get past the creepiness. Does it really make a difference? Is it for the gelatin?

  • 22 Julie // Oct 20, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Those are some seriously eye-catching pictures.

  • 23 chefectomy // Oct 20, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    That bottom picture there, that’s the goodness. Your pictures completely creep me out.

  • 24 zenchef // Oct 20, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Claudia, can I just move in with you?
    I mean, seriously!
    I could not agree with you more. If you understand this about chicken stock, you understand everything about cooking. I think.. err.. I’m in love with you. Creepy chicken feet and all. Just hang them over our bed.

  • 25 Pink Parisian // Oct 20, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    I love that first picture – great take on the picture from the Sistine Chapel ;) I just like to gnaw on braised chicken feet.

  • 26 [eatingclub] vancouver || js // Oct 21, 2008 at 12:32 am

    Superlative stock? Me intrigued. Some Chinese cookbooks I’ve looked at (as in, looked at, not read) mention something called “Superior Stock” or Doubly Superior stock or some such. I’ve never been able to decipher what exactly are in these superior stocks.

    The chicken feet look so flirty like that. LOL

  • 27 The Culinary Sherpas // Oct 21, 2008 at 7:46 am

    That is a beautiful stock my dear. I use left over chicken carcasses, because well, I am cheap and refuse to throw away a perfectly good chicken carcass.

  • 28 Robert // Oct 21, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Fret,

    Although you didnt mention what you did with the feet when they were done cooking, Pink is so right.

    A quick little ‘romp’ in hot grease and they just melt in you mouth……

  • 29 Maggie // Oct 21, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Ooooh those feet are creepy! Looks like a tremendous stock…I’m jealous. I never seem to have enough of it around. In part because my freezer is the size of a shoebox.

  • 30 The Italian Dish // Oct 21, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Love the chicken feet. They made me giggly. I love your devotion to stock. It’s impressive.

  • 31 Meadowlark // Oct 21, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Those chicken feet are just oooogie.
    But it did make me realize that there are a lot of local chicken farmers who might have a couple of extra feet just hanging around waiting to be made into stock. I’ll get right on it. Thanks.

  • 32 Hillary // Oct 21, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    I didn’t know the stock was supposed to be that gelatinous. Great post though, minus the creeeeeepy chicken feet photos! Hehe.

  • 33 lifeinrecipes // Oct 21, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Claudia, your picture is awesome – very Damien Hirst. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING that can add voluptuous body to chicken stock like the addition of those ‘feetsies’. I remember them being in the soup pot since I was a babe – well done!

  • 34 DocChuck // Oct 21, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    I enjoyed reading your post.

    But, I must say, that when I owned a dairy farm in Upstate New York, my wife raised chickens as a hobby (she had probably 200 or so at any given time).

    I KNOW what chicken feet do, and where they walk, and what they have on them, and what they (the chickens) use them for . . . and I would NEVER eat a chicken foot.

    NEVER, under any conditions, including starvation. NEVER!

    Chickens are the dumbest, dirtiest, most disgusting creatures on the planet.

    [End of rant]

  • 35 ErikaK // Oct 21, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Ooh, those chicken feet are really creepy… nice visual. The feet that they sell at our various Asian markets always look somewhat suspect, I have not been able to get past that. I did buy a duck there once only to open the package & find head & feet but no liver…hmmm.
    I made stock today, took the last bit out of the pot and strained & reduced. It is now sitting in an ice bath, hoping for chicken jello in the morning as there was a high ratio of wing tips. Maybe next time on the feet.

  • 36 MangerLaVille // Oct 21, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    People truly forget the importance of good stock. Most canned stocks are actually broths ( yes even though they say stock.) What’s the diff? Broth is made out of the meat. Stock the bones. A great stock will elevate any cooking to a new level. Your pictures are incredible and I am glad you understand the importance of this fundamental.

  • 37 noble pig // Oct 22, 2008 at 12:11 am

    That is some flippin’ intense stock making, I bow down and crush my cans of stock under my knees! I wish I had your fortitude….and those chicken feet are what nightmares are made of..yikes!

  • 38 ntsc // Oct 22, 2008 at 7:18 am

    If I could find them I would use them.

  • 39 Brittany // Oct 22, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    People who use stock form a can/box don’t understand the theraputic qualities of making it yourself.
    Didn’t you feel fabulous after making a pot of fabulous stock?

    Though, I have to say, you put way more love into your stock than I ever haev. But I did learn a few things from this post.

    And I never realized how creepy chicken feet are. I usually throw them in the pot as quickly as possible without staring too much. Those little nails!! Shudder….

  • 40 michelle @ TNS // Oct 22, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    did we really need THAT many pictures of chicken feet? i mean, maybe we did. i’m just asking.

    i’m about halfway through this book now (now, i’ve never read any of ruhlman’s books, yes, i’m a slacker, yes, i have a crush on chef pardus) and i’ve never been so motivated to make stock.

  • 41 claudia // Oct 22, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    michelle – i did that just for you

    brittany – you learned through ruhlman through me… isn’t that a beautiful thing?

    ntsc – your wife cuts them off so fast you never see the feet!

    noble – well, you should… you really really should…

    mangerville – i do i do! let’s make a club… we could have a stock of the month!

    erika – did it gellee up? also, stock makes the house smell tres gawgis.

    doc – a chickem must’ve done you wrong in another life…

    life in recipes – i don’t remember the feet as a kid. i wish i could ask my grandma…

    hillary – it gives it body – all the proteins… makes it all smooth.

    meadowlark – oooogie. my new favorite word. oooogie. hee.

    italian dish – i am nothing if not devoted to stock

    maggie – small freezer = big stock problem

    robert – na uh. no way. now THAT’S creepy.

    sherpas – me too. they get frozen. even the bones we eat around.

    eating club van – see? i know nothing about asian cooking. can i borrow your mother?

    pink parisian – thanks for noticing the pics. i kinda love them. and welcome to my little blog.

    zen – are you straight? because if you are you are so my guy. except you’re probably really young. if you’re 40 we are getting married.

    cheftomy and julie and traci and pony and donald – c’mon now – it ain’t brains… just feet!

    cookie – hard to wear on your finger or dangle from your ears though…

    joy – skin, bones = flavor, right?

    rachel – lemme know how the next pot goes

    lo! – agreed 100%

    lesley – i expected as much

    heather – i need to start freezing in smaller batches for that… you’re right

    shari, lisa, ecm, amy, jim, tina, jack, julia, melissa and kitt – i work from the bottom up – i’m out of things to say except thank youuuuuuu so much for reading!

    (and i mean that)

  • 42 Ethel // Oct 22, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    You get a big gold star. Loved your photography as well as the stock. . Can’t imagine after all that hard work and hours that it wouldn’t be just the best. If you can bottle it, I’d buy a few jars. I liked the word “Honest” and yep I bet your grandmother would be as proud of you as your momma is.

  • 43 Robert // Oct 22, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    AAAWWWWW

    That is so sweet.

    I remember something like , uh, Kumbaya………..

  • 44 Flora // Oct 22, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Impressive – I have to admit I did a double take when I saw the photo of the chicken feet! Grandma Julia would be very proud of you – how she absolutley loved to cook, although she used to say “if you can read, you can cook” – she loved reading new recipes and trying them out. She would have been one of your biggest blog fans. After reading your blog, maybe I’ll take the initative to make my own chicken stock. For now, I add TELMA brand chicken consome cubes to my chicken soup. I also use lots of extra bones along with the chicken. For some reason, for chicken soup, I buy Kosher chicken – call it tradition! A great holiday dinner is what I call “chicken in the pot “- a rich chicken soup, noodles, carrots, and Matzah balls with some Challah bread on the side.

  • 45 Bren // Oct 23, 2008 at 11:39 am

    girl these fingers scare me. the stock is great, but the fingers! LOL! what a great wed. afternoon laugh!

  • 46 Bren // Oct 23, 2008 at 11:40 am

    or feet or jaws or cheeks… whatever.. the thought of chicken nails scratching a board scare me right now! :)

  • 47 Peter // Oct 24, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Those would make nifty back-scratchers.

    And yes, make your own or use water. Truer words were never spoken.

  • 48 Kristie // Oct 24, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    I may never be culinarily advanced enough to not be sent running to the bathroom with my hand over my mouth when I see a bag of chicken feet. I’ve accepted it.

    As for stock, when in a pinch that “better than boullion” paste is pretty fucking great.

  • 49 Meg // Oct 25, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    I cannot really say how much I love the zombie-dismembered chicken feet/claw photos. A lot would be a start. Clearly, you had some fun with posing them- as you should have.

  • 50 Meg // Oct 25, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    I thought I posted a comment, but it looked like it vanished en route. Anyway… I love the creepy undead (okay, actually dead. still.) chicken feet/claws. Alot. They are hysterically funny, and at least judging by the number of pictures, posed and re-posed, that you took, you thought so, too. Heh.

  • 51 Meg // Oct 27, 2008 at 10:28 am

    I tried to comment, twice. Here’s hoping 3rd time’s the charm. I cannot say how much I love the zombie undead chicken feet posing this way and that (okay. really dead. But are you sure you got their best side?). Judging by the several creepy claw poses, you did too.

  • 52 matt wright // Oct 27, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    A great little article on stock. I completely agree – if you are going to use stock, take the time and make an amazing one at home. Water tastes far better than the crappy packet stock you get in supermarkets.

  • 53 Brooke // Oct 30, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    I must say those are the creepiest pictures I’ve seen in a while. I bet they make for a killer stock though.

  • 54 Coby // Nov 2, 2008 at 9:49 am

    I’m with you on the stock-making. Chicken feet must be added as it’s impossible here in Australia to buy a decent boiling chicken any more. Try to make a stock with footless chicken carcasses alone (even if roasted) and you’ll be disappointed with a watery-flavoured stock. I do have to say though, while I always have my own stock on hand in the freezer, I do also keep tetra bricks of chicken stock too. There’s a place for everything in my kitchen;)

  • 55 cook eat FRET - split pea soup with flanken // Nov 12, 2008 at 7:56 am

    [...] two chopped onions and 4 big diced carrots followed by a bag of green split peas and some of my superlative chicken stock and water. about 2 hours after it had slowly simmered, i added two bay leaves and fresh thyme, [...]

  • 56 Mari // Nov 12, 2008 at 9:16 am

    I need me some chicken feet!!! My organic butcher thought I was absolutely mad for asking. You’d think the Dutch, renowned for their thriftiness would embrace the whole nose to tail, in this case beak to tail, philosophy. Obviously not. The search continues though, I too want to make superlative chicken stock!

  • 57 Melissa // Nov 25, 2008 at 12:36 am

    I’m doing this, for my Thanksgiving feast. I want to use this stock for my stuffing.

    And if I don’t you can come and smack me.

    ;)

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