Last week I gave you my preferred recipe for roasting a chicken. The chicken carcass should not be discarded. One of the things that you will need to adjust to when cooking for the first time is that you don’t simply throw everything away that you don’t immediately use. This is not because of high-mindedness regarding waste and “recycling”. Rather it’s because stuff that you have already spent time with can be used to save time elsewhere. Plus it also tastes good.
Chicken stock is one of my key ingredients. I always have it on hand, whether fresh in the fridge or frozen, and I always make my own. Forget about instant stock that comes in horrible cubes, and any good stock that you can purchase will cost you far more than if you simply made some yourself. There are many ways to make stock but I like to have a clear broth that doesn’t overpower dishes. That way it is much more versatile.
Take the chicken carcass that you enjoyed your roast with and place it in the largest pot that you own. You can do this up to a couple of days after you roasted the chicken, as long as you kept it in the fridge. Add one onion sliced in half, one carrot chopped into 3 or 4 pieces, and some celery tops. You want the tops of the celery, and preferably with as much of the leaves as possible. These contain wonderful flavor. You can also add some leek tops if you have them.
Do not add any seasoning or herbs. You want your stock to be neutral so that it is versatile as I mentioned before.
Fill the pot with cold water, right up to the top, and place on a low heat. Do not boil it quickly; you want to simmer it slowly. I normally leave it to simmer for around 3 hours but longer is fine as well. When the stock is done strain it into some containers and leave to stand until it reaches room temperature, then place in the fridge or straight into the freezer. If going in the fridge it will last for around 5 days. If going in the freezer you should freeze it in 500ml batches, (or whatever godless heathen measuring system that you employ).
So how versatile is chicken stock? You can use it in soups, stews, baked dishes, or just to prepare rice if you’re feeling lazy. Here’s a great recipe for a side dish that I use all the time as an accompaniment with stews and the like:
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) potatoes.
1 large onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
500ml, (2 cups), hot chicken stock.
25g (1 oz) butter, cubed.
Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F).
Thinly slice the potatoes and onion with either a mandolin or a very sharp knife. They should almost be translucent. Build up alternate layers of potato and onion in 20 x 10cm (8 x 4 inch) deep ovenproof dish. Sprinkle parsley, slat, and black pepper between each layer. Finish with a layer of potato. Pour over the hot stock and dot with butter.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and lightly press down the potatoes to keep them submerged in the stock. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and the top golden brown. Serve hot, straight from the dish.