So a number of you emailed me about my recent chili recipe post, wanting details on the stock I used. Fair enough, because frankly few of the dishes I make regularly – from spaghetti to meatloaf to chicken soup tastes like much without the addition of a good home-made stock.
My own version of chicken stock is really a simplified form of demi-glace, which is a fancy term for a highly reduced stock-like sauce. The name, which comes from the French for “half frozen” gives you some idea its consistency when it’s made properly: the final product is almost a gel, which completely solidifies when I pour it into ice cube trays and pop them into the freezer. These little ice cubes of concentrated stock are mini-miracles, giving a boost to almost any dish that requires stock for flavor. Best of all, my recipe makes good use of that all too common item, the left-over roast chicken carcass, providing yet another level of frugality in the kitchen.
So here are the basics:
Take one chicken carcass, split into pieces, and place into heavy roasting pan. Add one onion, one leek (this is critical, as the leak adds a distinctive syrupy onion quality to the mix), one carrot, one glove of garlic, all roughly chopped, plus a pinch of thyme and a dash of pepper and salt. Place pan under the broiler for about 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken carcass begins to brown and blacken. (Don’t burn it to a crisp; you just want the edges of the chicken to brown in order to add flavor and color to the sauce.) Carefully remove the blackened chicken (along withe the blackened bottom scrapings from the pan) and the vegetables into in a large, heavy bottom stock pot. Add a gallon of water, and place on the stove on high. Once the the mix comes to roiling boil, reduce heat to a slow boil, keep partially covered, and continue to cook 3-6 hours or until the mixture reduces by 3/4. Remove from stove, and strain mix through a fine sieve into another pan. Then place several ice cube trays on a baking sheet, pour the stock into the trays, and freeze. (There’s no need to degrease the mixture, as the fat will rise to the top as the cubes freeze and can be easily sliced off when you’re ready to use.) Once frozen, place cubes into a zip lock bag for storage.
One cube is the flavor equivalent of approximately 1 cup of regular chicken broth. Simply adjust other liquids in your recipe accordingly. This will work fine for most recipes which require stock.
(To make a more traditional demi-glace equivalent for fancier dishes in which the stock is not merely a flavoring but the principal sauce: place 3 cups water and 3 cubes of frozen stock in a saucepan; bring to a boil; ladle 1/2 cup of the hot mixture into a pyrex bowl; whisk in two teaspoons of corn starch, and one teaspoon tomato puree, until blended. Return to the saucepan under low heat, stirring constantly, and adjust seasonings according to taste. Makes approx 2 cups demi-glace sauce.)
For beef stock, instead of chicken use left over bits of roasts, steaks, etc., being sure to include bones for flavor. I make this demi-glace about once a month, so that I have an ample supply for daily meals. I guarantee you that if you follow this recipe once, you’ll never be satisfied with commercial stock again.