Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Basics: Chicken Broth

Chicken broth was a project I started in July or August.
I know.
You may be saying, "What are you doing thinking about chicken broth that time of year?"
As a matter of fact, it had been a point of discussion (and suggestion), and the truth is that chicken broth is without season. (No, not without seasonING, just without season.)
And I figured that herbs and vegetables were good at that moment, so why not take advantage of it?
I'm not saying that everyone loves a steaming bowl of chicken soup in August.

But everyone probably has a recipe for chicken soup. Every culture has a variation, so there must be something to it (and yes, it's good).
There was a time I went to Mexico with my brother and a neighbor, and it was in early summer. We stayed in the mountains outside of Acapulco in a monastery. I can't remember exactly what went on, but there was a celebration during out stay, and several parents were visiting.
Some of the mothers made chicken soup. It was a little different version of chicken soup than we were used to, with pieces of corn cob and chicken talons included.

As Americans, we weren't used to seeing claws in our soup. Lucky for me, I wasn't one of the boys that the Mexican mamas were doting on. Ha. And so, my brother and our friend (both teenage boys) stared at their bowls, probably slightly shocked and confused- maybe a couple other thoughts and feelings, not knowing what they were supposed to do with the chicken feet, and not wanting to be offensive.
But the talons were something special to these women, and reserved for special people. I guess we can think of them as an expression of love.

FYI, the claws are supposed to add some nice flavor, and they can be nibbled on.
I don't think the boys did any nibbling, but instead, the feet were discreetly moved off to the side of the plate.

The other good reason for this post is that I don't think there are a lot of people who make chicken broth.

Then again, how often is it used? All the time.
Maybe people solely want the convenience factor, I don't know.
Why not know what goes in it?
Why not make this a skill you have successfully mastered?

Weekend afternoon at home business. Lazy day business. Rainy day business.
It smells homey.

For sure, a homemade chicken broth will not taste like the canned variety. Looking at a label, one of the ingredients is yeast. So, it's probably to help boost the flavor, but how many people will use something like yeast when making their own broth?
Few, if any.

Fresh chicken broth is beautiful.

It can be stored for later use in the freezer if you make more than you are able to use, or are unable to take advantage of it after it's been made.
Use it to make rice, risotto, or couscous.
Use it as a base for sauces.
Use it for soup- add pieces of chicken, vegetables, rice or pasta.

Maybe it's a good project if you find a good deal on some good chicken.

I know some like to make a stock with the chicken left whole, but I prefer to cut the chicken into pieces since I imagine the chicken will do more for me with more exposed surface area. And it's always good to practice taking a chicken apart.

Chicken broth will be more flavorful if the whole chicken is used- inedible neck, back and all. More flavor comes from the bones and marrow than you might imagine.
But, if you're not comfortable with that, you could probably buy chicken pieces or ask the butcher to take it apart for you.

I will point out that this recipe does not include salt. It's best, in my opinion, to wait until it's finished cooking to season the broth. Or, wait until you know what you will do with it and then salt it. For example, if you had your perfectly seasoned chicken broth and decided you wanted to reduce it and make an intense little sauce, the broth could turn out much too salty.

After it's all finished and seasoned with salt, I think the plain soup would definitely be nice with some ground black pepper to finish.
The chicken meat may be a bit dry since it's been thoroughly cooked and the flavor will have diminished considerably as it was given up to the broth, but the meat can be removed from the bones and used for chicken salad or in soup. If you're doing something fabulous, however, you may want some new, freshly-roasted chicken to use in the broth.
You can certainly experiment with a recipe for chicken broth- there are things you may love, but other things you don't like so much. Carrots add a lot of sweetness. If you don't like that, just eliminate them from your broth. Perhaps next time I make it, I'll take away the carrot, add more onion and try adding some fresh slices of ginger while it's cooking.

There are two versions of this recipe. The first recipe will yield a deeper color and richer, more roasty flavor. The variation that follows makes a lighter broth.

Chicken Broth
End yield is about 7 cups, or 1500 ml

3 1/2 lb (1.6 kg) chicken (free range and organic if possible)
2 T (30 ml) neutral oil, such as peanut or canola oil
1 large onion, halved, peeled and diced large
1 bulb of garlic, halved crosswise
2 1/2 qt. (about 2.5 l) water
4 whole cloves
2 medium carrots, broken into rough pieces
3 ribs of celery, broken into rough pieces, plus a handful of celery leaves if you have them
1 medium parsnip, chopped into rough pieces
1 medium leek, halved lengthwise, rinsed of dirt, and cut into 1" pieces
1 t black peppercorns (3g)
1 bay leaf
8 sprigs of fresh thyme
12 parsley stems, leaves removed and saved for another use
10 sprigs of fresh dill
Salt to season

Rinse the chicken well with cold water and remove any excess fat. Cut the chicken into pieces (thighs, legs, wings, breasts, and the back cut in two crossways)
Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken parts and sear on all sides until golden brown. Work in batches if necessary, and once each piece has been sufficiently browned remove to a large plate. Immediately add the diced onion and halved garlic and saute until the onions have caramelized slightly. Add approximately half of the water to the stockpot, and scrape the fond and onions from the bottom of the pot.  Add the chicken back to the pot and pour the rest of the water into the pot along with the cloves, carrots, celery, parsnip, leek, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, parsley stems, and dill.
Bring the ingredients to a simmer over medium heat. Continue simmering for 1 hour and skim off any scum and impurities as they rise to the top of the pot and discard.
When the broth has finished cooking, pull out the chicken pieces and set aside on a plate. Strain the herbs and vegetables from the broth with a sieve set over a large pot or bowl.
If using soon after the broth is made, let it rest for a bit to let the fat rise to the surface. Skim off the fat, season to taste with salt, and use as desired.
If saving the stock for another day, let cool and refrigerate. Remove the solidified fat from the surface of the chicken broth prior to use and season to taste with salt.

Light Chicken Broth:

The above recipe remains the same for the most part, however, the differences are:

There is no oil used
The large onion used above should be cut in two lengthwise and studded with the cloves

After the chicken is rinsed, trimmed and cut, place all ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Continue the recipe as above.


  1. THIS post is so enticing!
    I tried this recipe yesterday and found the broth to be extra ordinary. I
    cooked my rice separately and added it to the heavenly broth.
    I also put some of the lackluster leftover chicken in the soup to give my soup some "chew". It would have been delicious with or without the chicken though.
    Your pictures are so lovely, it makes a momma want to buy all these fresh items just to try to reproduce the artwork at home. Thanks.

  2. This is just plain delicious!

  3. This is my second time looking at this recipe and I just now noticed the "light "form of chicken stock---NICE idea--- thanks for that.