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Clematis in the garden.

Zuni Chicken Stock

This recipe appears in "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook," by Judy Rodgers, in a section on stocks and the sauces they make possible. Ms. Rodgers weighs in on the question of whether to make your stock from scratch, by saying: "I have tasted and tested with, a dozen different canned chicken stocks, and a few in wax boxes - mostly salted, some salt-free, a few all natural and organic candidates, most 99 per cent fat-free - and found none that has the clear flavor I seek. Odd additives [potato start, turmeric, dextrose, corn syrup, onion powder, MSG} could explain the muddy flavor. "Artisanal" chicken stocks, available at specialty food markets, usually frozen, offer hope - they can be excellent, as good as the ingredients, recipe, and cook responsible for them.... But even if they offer convenient, they are not economical as homemade stock - even this one using whole chicken."
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings 8 to 10 cups
Author Judy Rodgers

Ingredients

  • One 5-½ pound chicken
  • 4 quarts cold water [to cover]
  • 1 large carrot 4 ounces, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 stalk celery 1 ounce, leaves trimmed off and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 large yellow onion 12 ounces, root end trimmed flat, peeled, and quartered
  • 1 to 1-½ teaspoons salt a little more if using kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Remove the giblets from the chicken, if included. Don't remove the lump of fat you find inside the cavity; it will add flavor.
  2. Rinse the chicken.
  3. Remove the breast meat for another use. To remove the breasts, poke the tip of your boning knife flat against the sternum (breastbone), then slide the blade smoothly along its length. Repeat on the other side of the sternum. Feel for the collarbone (which is the wishbone), and cut along its inside contour on both sides of the sternum. Use your fingers to pry the breast muscle away from the carcass on one side of the breast. Then, cutting flat against the bone, use the tip of your knife to gradually free the meat as you tug the breast with the other hand. The breast meat sometimes slips free of its skin as you do this. If so, leave the skin attached to the carcass; it will add flavor to the stock. Repeat with the other breast.
  4. Next, slash the thigh and leg muscles to encourage the greatest release of flavor during cooking.
  5. Place chicken in a deep 8- to 10-quart stockpot that holds the chicken snugly. Add the cold water. If 4 quarts of water does not cover the chicken, it is likely your pot is a little too wide - don't add more water. Instead, remove the chicken, cut off the legs at the hip joint, and then replace all the parts in the pot, arranging them so they sit low enough to be submerged. If a stubborn wing still refuses to stay submerged, cut it off as well and then drop it back in the water. (But don't, in this effort to consolidate, resort to cutting through the backbone or breastbone.)
  6. Bring to a simmer over high heat and skim the foam. Stir the chicken under once - just to allow the last of the foam to rise - reduce the heat, and skim the foam carefully, taking care to leave behind any bright yellow fat that may be staring to appear on the surface.
  7. Add the vegetables and salt and stir them under.
  8. Bring back to a gentle simmer and adjust the heat to maintain it. If you taste the water now, you will barely be able to detect the salt.
  9. Don't cover the pot.
  10. Maintain the gentle simmer and taste the broth regularly.
  11. Don't add more water, don't stir, and don't skim the fat, which will gradually form a "cap" on the broth.
  12. Once the stock has a right, bright chicken flavor, usually in about 4 hours, turn off the heat.
  13. Leave a minute, to allow the simmer to stop, then pour through a wide strainer. Tipping the hot, heavy pot can be awkward - start by ladling some of the stock through the strainer, enough to make tipping manageable. Or you may choose to fish out the carcass and vegetables as they are gradually exposed.
  14. I usually strain the stock first through a medium strainer to filter out the obvious solids, then pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer. When we are serving our chicken stock as clear soup or with Stracciatelle or pastina in it, we ladle the strained stock through a clean cotton napkin moistened with water. This broth-soup rarely needs any doctoring.
  15. Don't discard the cooked bird. Every cook I know loves to nibble on the warm meat from the spent stock chickens - it isn't succulent, having given all it has to the stock, but if you catch it while it is still warm, it is comforting and tasty, especially when you have made the stock with salt. I like it with tarragon vinaigrette or Four-Minute Egg Gribiche....
  16. Cool the stock to room temperature, then cover tightly and place in the refrigerator. Remove the cap of solidified fat only just before you use the stock - it will keep out some air until then. Because it is lightly salted, this stock will keep for about a week refrigerated, but it is practical to divide it into several smaller containers and freeze right away when you won't need within that time. Fro freezing, use odorless plastic containers with tight-fitting lids that allow room for expansion as ice crystals form. Remove all the fat from the stock first, and make sure the stock is cold when you fill the containers. Thaw frozen stock slowly in the refrigerator or slide from the storage vessel into a pot an smelt over low heat. For the best flavor, don't freeze chicken stock for more than a few weeks.