Basic Chicken Stock
Eliminating Foods Waste in the Covid-19 Era or ‘How I Lost My First Million in the Garbage Can’
Making chicken stock at home is extremely easy to do and very cost-effective. It is the natural (and free) by-product of roasting a chicken. Here’s the basic premise: Put the chicken bones and vegetables into a stockpot, cover with cold water then simmer away. It really is as simple as that.
When I originally wrote about chicken stock prior to Covid-19 changing our world, I described how many people were rediscovering the advantages of healthy home cooking. That more people were eating whole, unprocessed foods and shopping at their local farmers' market. Now that Covid-19 has changed the food landscape, we are heading towards a more depression-era strategy of being thrifty and frugal with our food supply.
Making Chicken Stock At Home
The longer Covid-19 affects our lives. the more I draw on my early experiences as a Chef in some great restaurants to help those struggling at home. The transition from eating out several meals a week to home cooking can surely benefit from some sage chef advice.
“I lost my first million in the garbage can.” — Michel LeBorgne, former Chef/Instructor, NECI
Many years ago, ok maybe several decades ago, I graduated from the prestigious New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. At the time, the school was run by Michel LeBorgne, a hard-nosed French Chef from Northern France. Like every great Chef before him (and probably every one since) Michel had his aphorisms that we lived our lives by. They were repeatedly drummed into our thick skulls as we chopped endless vegetables, sauteed oceans of fresh fish, and struggled to make perfectly clear stocks.
Most of his sayings were modified from the classic themes of how older generations had it much harder than us young punks. ‘We were so poor as apprentices, we only had one pair of shoes between the two of us” or “I used to walk to the restaurant uphill both ways.” The one that stuck and became part of my own repertoire of aphorisms was “I lost my first million in the garbage can”. That line inspired me throughout my career and helped maintain very low food costs and run a tight ship. Even now, decades later I am still guided by that principle.
$4 Quarts of Chicken Stock
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is those $4 quart-sized tetra packs of stocks available in all grocery stores. They never tasted as good as the stocks I made at home. I started reading the ingredient list and was appalled to find that even the organic ones contained ingredients like ‘natural chicken flavor’ and far more salt than you could ever imagine.
P.s. Do your own research on what natural chicken flavor means. I’ll give you a hint, it’s not chicken.
In my kitchens, I taught my cooks to save vegetable trimmings for use in the countless stocks that quietly simmered around the clock. Every day we burned through 50-pound bags of carrots, onions, cases of celery, and several pounds of fresh herbs. A million dollars in the garbage happens far quicker than most people can fathom.
Be More Frugal: Reduce Waste in Your Kitchen
I started applying the same concept to my own home. I put a stainless steel bowl in my freezer and every time I peeled a carrot or an onion I would add the peelings to it. When it was full, I made my stock. The most common ingredients in my home were fresh herbs (thyme, tarragon, chives, and rosemary), celery, garlic, tomatoes, and onion peelings.
TIP: When you are ready to make your stock, add whatever vegetables may be deficient. Don’t stress, whatever you do is way better than buying that pre-made stuff.
When you think about it, buying a whole chicken is smart. One whole organic chicken costs around 10 to 12 dollars. I can get six servings out of it and about three quarts of stock. The value of the stock alone is $12 if you buy a comparable amount of tetra packs.
Here is my recipe for A Simple Roast Chicken.
HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK
Try my method of keeping a bowl in your freezer. It reduces food waste and makes for an easy way to have fresh chicken stock available whenever you need it.
- 1 chicken carcass including all the trimmings and fat
- 4 ribs celery washed and roughly chopped
- 6 carrots washed and roughly chopped
- 2 onions chopped
- 1 head garlic cut in half
- 1 bunch thyme add tarragon, rosemary, chive if you like
- 1 bay leaf
- 20 peppercorns
- cold water to cover
- In a large stockpot, combine the chicken carcass, celery, carrots, onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns.
- Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the flavors deepen and marry, about 6 hours.
- Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and strain the stock into the bowl. Discard the carcass and vegetables. Let the stock cool, and then freeze it in airtight containers for up to 6 months.
For more recipes and tips please buy my upcoming cookbook ‘French Cooking for Beginners’ available on Amazon or through my website.