Growing up in my father’s kitchens, I have made, and helped make, oceans of chicken stock. The first job every morning, after turning on the lights and ovens, was to pull the leftover-roasted chicken, bones, and veggies from the walk-in, and get the stock started.
Real chicken stock is the backbone of countless dishes in a restaurant, from soups and gravies, to rice and potatoes, to pan sauces and poaching liquid.
It’s really indispensable.
I’m going to say, right up front, that there’s no replacement for a deep, rich stock that’s simmered for hours, pulling every bit from flavor out of the meat and veggies, and into the liquid.
However, there are easier ways to do it, and this is my favorite…using the crock pot!
- 3-4 roasted bone-in chicken thighs (get them from the hot deli counter at your favorite grocery. A whole “Costco” bird, breasts removed, is awesome for this, too!)
- Half a dozen whole garlic cloves, peeled (chopped is fine)
- 2 Tbs fine sea salt, divided
- 4 carrots, peeled and sectioned
- 1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
- 4 stalks of celery, trimmed and chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbs. butter + 1 Tbs olive oil
In the morning before work (or before you go to bed at night…)
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and mix.
When hot, add the carrots, onions, and celery. Saute until carrots are just starting to brown, and then add garlic cloves, and salt. Continue to saute, tossing often, until all veggies are golden. You can toss the roasted chicken thighs in as well, if you like, to add a little extra flavor to the rest.
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Transfer meat and veggies to a large crock-pot, add bay leaf, cover, and cook on high 8 hours.
Go to work, go to bed, go to the mall…whatever.
After 8 hours (carefully) pour the stock through a sieve to remove the solids. Spooning out the biggest pieces first, with a slotted spoon, can make this less messy. If you want an even clearer stock, you can do a second straining through cheesecloth.
Taste it now…”Meh”…right?
Here’s the secret…
Get out your largest skillet and heat it to high.
Carefully pour in a couple of inches of stock, and let it sizzle and boil, until reduced by at least half. Remove from heat, taste for salt (I usually add a little more salt, and some black pepper at this point.)
You stock is now ready to use! You can:
Cook with it immediately.
Pour it into a tall container and stick it in the fridge – in the morning you’ll have a thick layer of chicken fat or “schmaltz” on top. Skim this off and use it like you would butter.
It’s uh-mazing for cooking scrambled eggs!
If serving over chicken, try this… (before adding any additional salt!)
Simple Lemon-Caper Pan Sauce
Leave one cup of stock in the skillet (still on high), add a healthy knob of butter, a few capers, a couple of slices of peeled lemon, and 1/4 cup of chopped parsley. Cook, stirring constantly, until reduced to a thickened sauce. Taste for seasoning, and drizzle over chicken. It’s so freakin’ good!
This stock is not only about a thousand times tastier than that tinny, nasty bullion-water that comes in the cans, it’s also MUCH healthier, as it’s not loaded with sodium and other preservative.
I use this exact recipe for both my “Magical 12 Minute Chicken Piccata” and to cook the Garlic-Cilantro Rice that I serve with it.
(You can see me make this crazy-easy, and much healthier, Italian classic, in this clip from my recent appearance on AM Northwest.)