In light of the country's current economic condition, and the economic condition of law students in general, I am making a concerted effort to be more thrifty. I am especially trying to focus my attention on the kitchen, spending less on groceries and getting more out of them. In this spirit of frugality, I decided to make stock with the bones of a chicken I roasted last week. Disclaimer: Let me just say that although making stock is economical and rewarding, it is time consuming and, in my experience, no one will appreciate it as much as you do. I make risotto with homemade stock and my husband won't even try it . . . I make nachos and it's like Christmas morning.
Anyway, after we ate our chicken, I cut the carcass apart with my kitchen shears and put the bones in a zip-top freezer bag. I also keep a second bag in my freezer in which I store the tops of leeks, the outer layers of the onions, carrot peels, the tops of a fennel bulb (pretty much any vegetable scraps that aren't too gross or insignificant to keep). When I was ready to make my stock, I placed the chicken bones and vegetable pieces in a stockpot and covered it all with water. I also threw in a few whole peppercorns. I brought the liquid to a boil, skimming off the foam that rose to the top. Once the liquid stopped foaming, I lowered the heat until the liquid was at a bare simmer. I also added a little salt (but not much, because I will probably season everything I cook with the stock). I let the stock simmer for about 5 hours, keeping the bones fully submerged and adding more water when necessary. When the bones are cooked in the liquid over a long period of time, they release collagen into the water, which turns into gelatin . More time = more collagen = more flavor. Because stock requires bones, there is no such thing as vegetable stock; it is vegetable broth (see Alton Brown, I'm Just Here For the Food).
After the stock was finished cooking, I strained it through a fine mesh strainer into a 2 quart glass measuring cup and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, the fat from the stock had risen to the top of the vessel and hardened. I skimmed it off, then poured the stock into ice cube trays and froze it. Once the cubes were solid, I put them in a gallon-sized plastic bag in the freezer. Now I have homemade chicken stock at my disposal!
Within a few days, though, that chicken stock was burning a proverbial hole in my freezer, so I couldn't wait to use it. First, I made risotto. I melted a little butter in a deep-sided saute pan over medium heat and added about 1/2 c. of short-grained rice (I used pearl rice, but arborio is the traditional rice used for risotto). I added a splash of white wine and let it cook down for a minute. Then I started to ladle in the heated liquid, about 1 1/4 c. stock and 1/4 c. water, two ladlefuls at a time, stirring frequently. Once the rice was just starting to get tender, but still firm in the middle and was absorbing the liquid more slowly, I added in a pinch of salt, grind of pepper, pat of butter, and parmesan cheese. It would have been great with leftover roasted asparagus or sauteed mushrooms, but I just ate mine plain.
Today, I made chicken noodle soup with my stock (pictured above). Onions, celery, carrots sauteed in a little butter. Then I added the stock and a little Italian seasoning. Once the vegetables were tender, I stirred in the noodles and roasted chicken. It was the perfect meal for a chilly, rainy fall day.
Your homemade stock will be way more flavorful than the stuff you buy in cans or boxes, so you may even find it necessary to water it down a little. I plan on keeping three bags in my freezer at all times: bones, vegetable bits, and stock cubes. Hopefully, we'll have hearty, natural, additive-free soups all winter long. I hope this post will inspire you to stretch your groceries a little further by making stock. Be creative and enjoy!