Great chicken soup starts with homemade stock

frozen stock ingredients“. . .don’t forget chicken soup. The age-old remedy, as you’ve no doubt heard, actually does help to reduce the symptoms of the common cold.”
(New York Times, “Patient Money” column by Lesley Alderman, Saturday, January 2, 2010)

And chicken soup begins with good stock. Inspired, probably, by the above reminder, I made my first of the year batch of stock. I usually reserve this task for when the freezer is so jammed with bags of stock makings that I have to make it in order to make room to put anything else in. This time the bags contained the bones from the Christmas prime rib as well as the carcass of a roast chicken. I tend not to segregate meat from chicken, rabbit, or duck, etc because I so rarely have anything but chicken. So everything goes in the pot at once.

Despite recipes that boldly state your stock should start with ingredients purchased expressly for making stock, I just as boldly declare that stock has its roots in thrift. When you make stock, you use up all the leftover perfectly-flavorful-if-not-so-pretty bits and pieces—leek tops, parsley stems, fennel stalks—that might otherwise get tossed out. Luckily, in San Francisco where the city collects green waste, we have less to feel guilty about when we do toss out food scraps.

It took 5 minutes to dump the ingredients in a large pot, add water and a few aromatics: my favorites being thyme, bay leaves, and star anise. This last addition I learned many years ago while hanging out one dinner service in the kitchen of Michel Guerard’s 3-star restaurant in France. The kitchen was filled with the rich, heady scent of the stock gently bubbling on the stove. Unlike any I had smelled before, the secret was star anise.

The stock “smiled” (a term for simmering so slowly that the bubbles barely disturb the surface of the stock) for hours, and then cooled overnight on the counter. In the morning, another 5 minutes work separated stock from solids. The stock went into the fridge to let the fat some to the surface and solidify so it could be easily removed. Then I portion it out among containers, label it including the date, and freeze. Unless, of course, it’s time for chicken soup.


 
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