As promised, another recipe comes from American Classics. This one is the first recipe in the book, showing up on page 4. When I first read it, it sounded too good to believe. Chicken stock, with only 1 hour of cooking time? Only 20 minutes of simmering? I flipped back to page 2 and started reading the notes. In true Cooks Illustrated test kitchen style, they tested a ridiculous number of different ways for making stock. Everything from different cooking times (up to 6 hours) to different vegetables to different parts of chicken. While most stock recipes I've tried in the past started with the carcass of a whole chicken already used for something else, this one started out with raw chicken. I can't argue with the results though, this is one of the easiest, not to mention quickest, stock recipes I've ever seen, and it gave me the best chicken stock I've ever tasted.
Quick Chicken Stock
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped medium
- 4 pounds whole chicken legs or backs and wingtips, cut into 2-inch pieces (see notes)
- 2 quarts boiling water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 bay leaves
- Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion; saute until colored and softened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the onion to a large bowl.
- Add half of the chicken pieces to the pot; saute both sides until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked chicken to the bowl with the onion. Saute the remaining chicken pieces. Return the onion and chicken pieces to the pot. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes.
- Increase the heat to high; add the boiling water, salt, and bay leaves. Return to a simmer, then cover and barely simmer until the stock is rich and flavorful, about 20 minutes.
- Strain the stock; discard the solids. Before using, defat the stock (see notes). The stock can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days or frozen for several months.
Hacking up a chicken for stock: You can hack up a chicken with a cleaver or use poultry shears. If using a whole chicken, start by removing the whole legs and wings from the body; set them aside. Separate the back from the breast, then split the breast and set the halves aside. Hack or cut the back crosswise into three or four pieces, then halve each of these pieces. Cut the wing at each joint to yield three pieces. Leave the wingtip whole, then halve each of the remaining joints. Because of their large bones, the legs and thighs are the most difficult to cut. Start by splitting the leg and thigh at the joint, then hack or cut each to yield three or four pieces. If using just backs, wingtips, or whole legs, follow the directions outlined above for that part. (I just used whole legs. I used a cleaver-type knife and a rolling pin to smash through the bones.)
Two ways to defat stock:
- Stock should be defatted before being used. The easiest way to do this is to refrigerate it until the fat rises to the surface and congeals. Use a spoon to scrape the fat off the surface of the stock. When skimming chicken stock, you may want to save the fat, which makes a flavorful replacement for oil or butter when cooking. Chicken fat can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several days.
- If you don't have time to refrigerate the stock and allow the fat to congeal, use a gravy skimmer. Pour the stock into the gravy skimmer, then pour it out through the spout attached to the bottom of the skimmer. The fat floating on top of the liquid will remain behind.
I added 2 chopped shallots to the recipe, mainly because I had extras from when I made the corn fritters and the quinoa and butternut squash gratin. Otherwise, I followed the recipe to the letter.
One final note from the cookbook: Don't try to cut through chicken bones with a chef's knife. The blade isn't strong enough to cut through bone, and you may hurt yourself as the knife slips and slides. Even if you do manage to cut through the bone, your knife may become nicked in the process.