I think making chicken stock is pretty easy. Admittedly, I’m probably doing it all wrong, but that doesn’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you, either. Chicken stock, according to the super chefs quoted in this San Francisco Chronicle article, is a Herculean task. I wouldn’t pit my stock against Thomas Keller’s, but I think my amateur efforts a) taste really good, and b) are reasonably low-maintenance.
I actually make two types of stock. The first is what I call “American” chicken stock, based on recipes I gleaned from cookbooks and blogs. This involves simmering chicken parts or roasted chicken carcasses with aromatics for 3-4 hours. I often freeze batches of this to use in stews, sauces and pureed soups. The other type is Russian chicken stock (broth, if you want to split hairs) as my mother makes it, and which I once vaguely described here. This involves simmering a whole chicken in a pot with just a few aromatics added toward the end of the cooking time. Russian home cooks don't really make chicken stock for later use; it's usually served immediately as part of a meal. My mom puts chunks of the cooked chicken and either cooked rice or tiny pasta shells in a bowl, tops with ladlefuls of stock, and garnishes with chopped dill and parsley. This type of stock is richer and more concentrated than my American version. It's also my submission to the comfort-food themed Monthly Mingle over at What’s For Lunch Honey.
The last time I made my mom’s chicken stock I decided to forgo the rice and chicken meat for pelmeni and spinach. Pelmeni are Russian meat dumplings, not unlike ravioli or tortellini. Frozen pelmeni are sold in every Eastern European grocery. It’s a pleasure to slurp fat, brothy dumplings and silky spinach out of an oversize café au lait cup a cold January weekend.
1. Take a whole chicken (between 3 and 4 pounds) and put it in a stock pot or a Dutch oven. Cover with cold water. On medium-high heat, with the pot partially covered, bring the water to a boil. As soon as the water begins to boil, turn the heat down to a very low simmer.
2. At this point, you will need to skim the foam that will form on the surface. Get a slotted spoon and a bowl and remove the foam every 4-5 minutes for 20 to 25 minutes. You will have murky, grimy-looking stock if you skip this step. This is by far the hardest part of this exercise; the rest is easy.
3. Once foam stops forming, add 1 small, peeled onion, cut in half, a couple of bay leaves, and a handful of black peppercorns to the pot. Then let the chicken simmer for about an hour and a half. (If you must have your chicken rare, take it out of the pot as soon as it’s cooked through. Remove most of the meat when the chicken is cool enough to handle; add the bones back in and keep simmering.)
4. In the meantime, finely dice 2 medium carrots, a large celery stalk and two cloves of garlic. Twenty minutes before time’s up, add the celery and carrots to the pot; keep simmering until the vegetables are soft. At about 90 minutes from the time the stock came to a boil, carefully remove the chicken from the pot but don’t turn off the heat.
5. Add the minced garlic and kosher salt to taste to the stock; stir. Keep in mind that salt really bring out the flavor in stock.
6. Add pelmeni to the pot. Don’t add more than you’re planning to eat—leftover dumplings will get soggy. Five-six dumplings per serving should be enough. A few minutes before the pelmeni are done-- they will take about 8 minutes-- stir in a couple of cups of baby spinach leaves. I love spinach; so I usually add more, but it’s up to you.
7. When the spinach is wilted and the pelmeni are cooked, remove the onion and turn off the heat. Serve. This is great topped with grated Parmesan cheese.
8. Eat the cooked chicken with leftover stock ,or use for blinchiki or hachepouri.