In a week when everyone is inundated with fabulous recipes for turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and more desserts than you could ever eat, I thought I would just give you a simple recipe for a kitchen staple: chicken (or turkey) stock. Stock is a vital ingredient in so many of the recipes for the upcoming week. From the stuffing and gravy for the Thanksgiving meal to the soup and casseroles from the leftovers, it’s essential. However, so many of us just grab for boxes and cans of store-bought stock while at the same time tossing our roast chicken and turkey carcasses. That’s a mistake. It’s not at all hard to make, contains ingredients you already have around the house, has very little hands-on time and uses the discarded carcass for less waste and saved money.
I use a slow cooker to take even more of the effort out of it. The secret to a clear stock is cooking it at a low simmer; the slow cooker is perfect for the process. Also, when you use a slow cooker you can start the broth before bed and then wake up to finished product the next morning. I’ve never been one to leave my slow cooker going when I’m not at home, but if you are less worrisome than I, then you could start it before going to work and have it ready when you get home for the day.
Making your own stock also allows one other major advantage over store bought; you control all the details: how much salt, which herbs, and if you want to use organic vegetables or not. It is important to avoid salt when making stock. You want to wait until you are cooking with the finished stock before you season so that your other recipes don’t end up over-salted. I usually use the carcass from a roast chicken to make chicken stock, but you can use the same recipe to make turkey stock. You may need to cook it in two batches though if your turkey carcass is very large as it may not leave enough room for other ingredients in the slow cooker.
Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy!
Basic Chicken Stock
Makes about three quarts
Of course you can flavor this with any combination of herbs and spices you desire. I use what I call the Simon and Garfunkel blend (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme). For an Asian flare you could replace the herbs and spices with ginger, garlic, cilantro and lemongrass; or for a spicy Mexican stock you could use garlic, cilantro, cumin and fresh chilies or chipotle in adobo.
I used boiling water when I made this in a slow-cooker because it speeds up the process dramatically, but you can use cold water, but add an extra hour to the cooking time.
1 large chicken carcass
1 large onion, chopped large
2 carrots, chopped large
2 stalks celery, chopped large
1 handful parsley with stems
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
7-8 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
3 juniper berries (optional)
3 quarts boiling water
Make sure to pull any leftover meat off the bones of the cooked chicken or turkey carcass (but you can leave small bits on for added flavor). Combine the bones with the neck and tailbone (if provided) from the bird along with any drippings.
Add the onions, carrots, celery and all the herbs and spices.
Slowly pour the boiling water over the top until the slow-cooker is full.
Cook on the lowest setting for at least eight hours.
You can taste your stock to tell if it is concentrated enough for you by pulling out a tablespoons or two. To really tell how strong the flavor is, add a pinch of salt to your sample. When you are happy with your finished stock, strain the bones and aromatics off the stock.
You can cool the stock quickly down to room temp by filling a zip top bag with ice and submerging it in the stock. Then you can pour it into quart containers and store it in the fridge or freezer (as long as your not using glass containers.)