Oh chicken stock, how I love you

So.  I went to Asia with Roommate Linda this past summer, and in the month we traveled through Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, I learned several important lessons.  The first would probably be the “3rd World Bus Let’s See How Brave You Really Are” lesson, which teaches us that any time you thought you were in mortal danger before, you weren’t, and now you really are.  The second would likely be “If You Think Those Innocent-looking, Tiny Green Peppers Are a Fun Garnish You Should Eat, You’re Wrong”, but the third, actually relevant to this post lesson is “How Eating Chicken Broth at a Truck Stop Somewhere in Thailand Changed My Life”. 

rat bastard pepper

It did, it really did.  We had slogged through another day of sitting on a bus (I think from Siem Reap in Cambodia to Bangkok?), also surviving mainly on Pringles.  There are a lot of Pringles in Thailand.  It’s odd.  Anyway, we stopped at this waystation/truck stop in the mountains somewhere, it was foggy and cold.  We stumble inside, thinking “I guess eating BBQ Pringles one more time will probably not kill me,” when we discover that in fact the place is a cafeteria, complete with hot trays of real food.  We ate a variety of tasty things, including a spicy stewed cabbage that I still remember, as well as some delicious deep red curry with meat (goat? I’d rather not know), but the highlight was a teacup sized bowl of chicken broth. 

It was the color of really dark caramel, or Irish soda bread, or the color goodness would be if it had a color.  I took a tentative sip, looked across the table at bedraggled Roommate Linda and said “this could sustain a human being indefinitely”.  It was rich, it was faintly salty, it had visible fat, it tasted like essence of the free-est, happiest chicken in the world.  Every instance of chicken broth I’ve had in America, I realized, was like a McDonald’s hamburger, and this was grass-fed, aged $50 steak.  I knew, of course, that part of the deliciousness was because there had certainly been parts of the chicken in that stockpot that I have never even seen in an American grocery store, let alone contemplated eating.  I didn’t care.  I had found the Elixir of Life.  Or, at the very least, the base for some seriously good soup. 

Since Asia, Roommate Linda has made chicken stock a few times, mostly so we can eat “noodle soup”, that ubiquitous Asian dish that features chicken broth, a variety of vegetables, a block of ramen noodles, and varies wildly from place to place (you put the ramen in the hot broth with vegetables, and it soaks up broth and becomes filling, nutritious and heavenly).  Today, I’m making broth with the carcass of the chicken she roasted a few days ago.  I think I’ll use Alton Brown’s recipe for a base, here it is:

  • 4 pounds chicken carcasses, including necks and backs
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2
  • 4 ribs celery, cut in 1/2
  • 1 leek, white part only, cut in 1/2 lengthwise
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 to 10 peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 gallons cold water
  • Though, I can tell you right now that I don’t have leeks, or fresh thyme, but I have some dried and that’ll be just fine.  Alton advises me to boil everything together, and skim the top of the liquid every 15 minutes or so for the first hour of cooking, then once an hour for two hours, then let it simmer for 6 more hours.  He then advises straining the mixture thoroughly, setting it in the fridge overnight, removing the solids in the morning, and then it’ll be good in the fridge for 2-3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

    mmm...chicken bits

    Turns out I also didn’t have bay leaves.  Oh well.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on how the chicken stock actually turned out.



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    Filed under Poultry, Recipes, Soup

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