Simple Chicken Stock
This is a Chinese-inspired chicken stock; something a bit different from Western chicken stock and employing flavours that compliment Asian and Southeast Asian foods. A lot of Asian recipes will ask for chicken stock (Thai curries, or noodle dishes, etc) and while basic Western stock will work OK, this version will add a nice subtle touch of Asian influence. Why not?
While traditional stock relies on onion, celery and carrot combined with fresh herbs for flavouring, this stock uses shallot, garlic and ginger for a base, flavoured with fresh coriander, orange peel (or lime zest) and star anise. Once you get this simmering, you will recognize the smell as very similar to the smell of a Vietnamese noodle soup shop. My recipe takes influences from Pho and Chinese master stock but they’re similar in that they share flavours. Once you create the stock base the flavourings can be varied and customized to your liking. For example, in addition to the star anise and Szechuan peppercorns, other Asian stocks might add fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, cassia bark (or cinnamon sticks), or black cardamom. Considering I’m going to be working on a post for Master stock, I won’t go into much more detail about that – let’s get back to this recipe. This stock has a nice round flavour, and like fresh / non-canned or boxed stocks (and definitely not like bouillon cubes), has a nice depth of flavours from the fresh ingredients, and most likely a lot less sodium. And when it’s this easy to make, you’re crazy not to give it a try.
A side benefit of making your own stock is that it gives you a good reason to collect your chicken bones after making chicken for other recipes. You can’t beat getting two meals out of one piece of meat. Or, in a pinch, if your grocery store sells chicken backs, they’re always really cheap (for a few bucks you can make a good amount of stock with them).
- about 1 kg / 2 lb of chicken bones/backs, preferably with some meat on them
- 8 cups of water
- 2 shallots (or one small to medium sized onion), peeled and halved
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1″ piece of ginger, peeled
- 3 or 4 coriander roots with some stems attached, or a small handful of stems (a few tbsp)
- 1-2 tsp of lime zest, or a few inches of orange/citrus peel
- 1 star anise
- 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns (optional)
- approx. 1 tsp salt
What you will need: large stock pot, small mesh strainer or large spoon for skimming, large bowl(s) to transfer the stock, knife and cutting board, measuring cups and spoons
- Put your stock pot on a large burner. Place your chicken bones into the pot.
- Peel the garlic, ginger, and shallots, and toss them in the pot. Play stock pot basketball if this keeps you entertained. Swish!
- Clean the coriander roots/clippings and add them to the pot.
- Toss the zest/peel in, too. You see where this is going.
- Add the whole spices (star anise and peppercorns). Don’t add the salt. That comes at the very end.
- Pour in the water. 8 cups should be enough to cover all the chicken parts. If it’s not, add a little more – you need just enough water in the pot that the chicken can be submerged in it (although it will probably float later anyway)
- Turn the burner on to medium-high heat (maybe 6 on my stove)
- It’s going to take a little while to get the water boiling, so relax. Watch a bit of TV, or set your computer to download, illegally, that latest hit movie starring who’s his face.
- OMG, the water is boiling.
- Don’t panic.
- Turn the burner down to reach a simmering point. The simmering point of water is just below the boiling point. Science majors know this already. We’re talking about 90-95 Celsius (or maybe 195-200 F) if you have an actual thermometer (since 100 C is boiling, you see). If you don’t have one, like me, then water simmers when it does not produce steam bubbles but you do see ripples along the surface. Movement, but no bubbles (ok, maybe tiny tiny bubbles, but no big boiling ones OK?). You may have to readjust your burner a few times to get it perfect (3-3 1/2 seems to work for me) because you don’t want to boil the pot, or let it go too cold.
- So, it’s simmering now. What you’re going to notice happening is foam and fat will rise to the surface. Ideally we want to skim this off. We’re going to simmer the stock for about 2 hours, and I checked my stock about every 30 minutes or so to do a quick skim and to make sure it’s a good temperature. To skim, I have a small handheld mesh strainer, but you can also use a large spoon if you’ve got the skills. Keep a bowl on hand to collect all the fat and foam. There will be a fair amount by the end, especially if you’re using raw chicken parts. Smell that star anise, though.
- So, let the stock simmer for 1:45 to 2 hours, check it every 30 minutes or so to skim it and make sure it’s not boiling. Check, check, and check. Let’s pretend you did all that.
- Take the stock pot off the heat, and turn the burner off. Let it cool for about 30 minutes.
- Now, get a large bowl (large enough to hold all the water in the stock pot, or two medium bowls) and strain the stock into it. We want all solid parts removed from this stock. Everything. Chicken bits, peppercorns, etc.
- Now, add about 1/2 tsp of salt and stir it in. Test the flavour and add more salt if necessary. Now is also a good time to measure how much stock you have (by pouring it back into measuring cups and checking. You do want at least 6 cups of stock, but your water may have reduced a fair amount over 2 hours. You can safely add a bit of water to top it up now. Check that salt again, if you do.
- Now we’ve got stock in a bowl. Put it in the fridge. All the remaining fat in the stock will rise to the top and solidify in the fridge, leaving a film of congealed chicken fat. Yum. Let it sit in there until it’s cool then bring it back out and, using a spoon or strainer, gently skim all the fat off.
- With no solid parts, and no unnecessary fat, we’ve got chicken stock.
Hey, I know it takes about 2-3 hours to prepare this recipe, but it doesn’t require a lot of intense watching. It’s great to do while you’re doing something else that may prevent you from outdoor activities – like laundry or watching a DVD marathon of The Wire. Seriously, best show ever.