Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Chicken Stock Lie

Good restaurants have a few secret weapons they use to make their stuff taste better than home-cooked dishes. I have set upon discovering and dismantling their dominance wherever possible. One of these advantages is a good stock. Stock-making seems to be one of the first lessons in many cooking schools and courses I have seen, and why? It's the base of so many recipes, and it is responsible for the rich, meaty taste in those recipes.

Store-bought chicken stock (which I use regularly, by the way) is pretty much a lie. Although there is varying quality, many options are little more than broth and rely on lots of sodium or MSG to fake a meaty flavor. It works, but if you can, try real stock.

The pictures here are of my home-made chicken stock, just out of the refrigerator. The slow cooking of the chicken bones extracts the gelatin, and leaves a rich, chickeny stock that's not based on salt or fat. The basic recipe is to save your raw chicken bones and backs in the freezer, then when you have enough, fill a pot, cover it with water, throw in an onion and a celery stalk, bring to a boil, and simmer all afternoon. A strainer and a fat separator are useful to separate the liquid when you are done. Pour it into gladware tubs and freeze until you have a recipe that calls for stock.

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