Thursday, November 14, 2013

Homemade Chicken Broth...The Easier Way...

I had an idea a few weeks ago after I roasted a chicken to make some homemade stock using the carcass.  Of course, the carcass from one chicken isn't enough to make very much stock so I decided to freeze the bones along with some of the onions, carrots, celery, and lemon I had roasted with the chicken and worry about it later.  I put all of that (once cool) in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, put it in the freezer and forgot about it.  A few nights later I used a leek and some mushrooms in a recipe for dinner, but had the green parts of the leek and the mushroom stems left over.  Hmm....I could feed these to the dog (ha!) or throw them away.............OR........wouldn't these add some great flavor to chicken stock?  So into the Ziploc bag they went with the bones and vegetables I'd frozen a few days earlier.  Over the course of a few weeks, and another roasted chicken later, I had a nice collection of bones and aromatics in my freezer bag, including some parsley stems I had decided to save as well instead of wasting.

My bones, fresh water, and all the yummy aromatics!
The beauty of the whole thing came together this afternoon when I was thinking about what to cook for dinner.  I'm going out and leaving the kids here with the nanny, so I thought, hey!  Why not make some chicken soup?  I dumped the bag of frozen ingredients into my stock pot, covered it with a bunch of fresh water, then added some crushed garlic, peppercorns, and a couple of bay leaves.  I also added some "mushroom juice", as I call it, which was just the leftover water in which I had rehydrated some dried mushrooms for another dinner this past week.  The mushrooms impart a delicious "umami" flavor into the water that's used to rehydrate them, so I'm glad I didn't throw them away, but rather incorporated that flavor into my chicken stock. 

Once all that came to a boil, I let the stock simmer as long as I could (the longer the better...up to four hours but as little as one hour), during which time I poached some chicken breasts in it, then took them out and let them cool.  I shredded them and set them aside for my soup. 

In a dutch oven, I sweated some finely chopped onion, celery and carrots.  To that I added some dried herbs, salt and pepper.  Finally I tossed in some frozen peas to cook for about a minute.  I strained my homemade chicken stock, then poured the liquid into the dutch oven with the herbed vegetables.  Once it came to a boil, I cooked some very small pasta in the broth, seasoned to taste with more salt and pepper, and added in the shredded chicken to heat up and that was dinner!  Hope you can make this idea work for you, too!

Homemade Chicken Soup
Makes 3-4 quarts stock

For your broth, you'll need:
  • At least two chicken carcasses, raw or cooked, or about 6 lbs of chicken bones
  • Assorted Aromatics, such as onions, carrots, celery (including leaves), lemon, green-parts of leeks, mushroom stems, parsley stems, chopped tomatoes, fennel fronds, etc. (try to remember to save things you might otherwise throw away that could add flavor to your stock)
  • About 1 to 1 1/2 gallons fresh cold water
  • Crushed Garlic (3-4 cloves)
  • About 10 peppercorns
  • 2 Dried Bay Leaves
For your soup, you'll need:
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, small diced
  • 1 large carrots, small diced
  • 2 celery stalks, small diced
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme (or other dried herb of choice)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Cup Frozen Peas (you can also use shelled edamame or even frozen corn)
  • 4 oz dried pasta (or substitute cooked rice, cold)
Make your broth:
  1. Put all your saved aromatics (fresh or frozen) in a large stock pot.  Cover with water.  Add garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves (plus parsley stems if they were not included in your aromatics).
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for as long as possible, up to four hours but at least one hour.
  3. If desired, place chicken breasts in simmering broth and poach until internal temperature reaches about 160 degrees F, about 15 minutes.  Remove from stock and allow to cool, then shred and hold until ready to incorporate into soup.
  4. Once stock is finished, strain through a very large strainer into a very large bowl or pot.  (I recommend placing your large bowl/pot in the kitchen sink with the strainer over it in case you spill/splash.  Be careful not to burn yourself!)
While stock simmers (or on another day), make your soup:
  1.  Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed soup pot over low heat.  Add onions, celery and carrots and sweat (without browning) until soft and aromatic, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add dried thyme, kosher salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 more minutes.
  3. Add frozen peas and cook until heated through, about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour strained stock over herbed vegetables.  (You probably don't need to use all the stock you made.)  
  5. Bring the soup to a boil and add pasta or cooked rice.  If using pasta, boil for as long as the package directions instruct.  For rice, just heat up.
  6. Add pre-shredded chicken and season to taste with more salt and pepper.  Enjoy!