Building on Bone Broth
Few things are easier to make than chicken stock, and it’s far tastier and more cost-effective than commercial products since bones that are typically discarded go to an elevated purpose. Plus, there’s no need to squint at boxes or cans in the grocery store to check for preservatives and salt content. However, before tossing ingredients in a pot, getting a little background on terminology is helpful.
The savory liquid foundation of soups, stews, and sauces – and for making rice, couscous, quinoa and dishes such as risotto (see Cooking 101: Risotto on p. 49) – comes in multiple versions, and a small segue into semantics can alleviate some confusion. Nutrient-rich stock is made by simmering your choice of bones (in this case we’re focusing on chicken) with vegetables, herbs, and other flavoring agents; broth eliminates bones and is composed of meat, meat and vegetables, or just vegetables, again with appropriate herbs or spices; bone broth, technically, is just that, bones, though usually with some kind of seasoning. However, many bone broth recipes include onions, carrots, celery, and other ingredients, putting that variation firmly in the stock category. The term bone broth has caught on as a cultural phenomenon that is central to keto, paleo and other specialized diets. And besides, who can resist the alliterative appeal of “bone broth”?
Classic broth is thinner than stock and requires less cooking time. But since the cooking process for stock (or keep calling it bone broth) is a simple matter of longer simmering, the tasty and healthful benefits of extra protein provided by collagen coaxed from bones results in a richer and more satisfying texture. The presence of that gelatinous element means the chilled stock will have a wiggly-jiggly consistency reminiscent of Jell-O – and will melt to a liquid again when heated. Many broth advocates suggest adding a spoonful or two of cider vinegar to the pot in to help break down cartilage and connective tissue and extract minerals and other nutrients from the bones.
Beth Pritch, an account manager at Meris, is a dedicated chicken stock enthusiast who adheres to a more contemporary method of cooking. When she serves a roasted chicken dinner, the carcass – along with any meat remaining on it – becomes the base component placed into her Instant Pot. This wildly popular type of pressure cooker shaves off hours of stovetop simmering. “Then I’ll throw in whatever vegetables I have: celery, carrots, tomatoes, really anything that will add flavor,” she says. “And any fresh herbs I can get my hands on, plus peppercorns, salt, and garlic.” Yellow onions included in the mix have the outer layer of skin removed, while the inner layer of skin in left on to give color to the broth. Cover the contents with water and cook for four hours in the Instant Pot. The result, Pritch attests, is “a really good depth of flavor.”
When cooled to the point where it’s safe to handle, the pot contents are strained through a fine mesh sieve. The yield of about 64 ounces is ready for soup or whatever you like to make. For freezing, Pritch pours the stock into reclosable zip-top bags that are stored flat and stacked, making is easy to break off a desired portion of stock. Another storage approach is freezing stock in ice cube trays and transferring to bags, giving the cook access to modest portions of stock for making a small amount of sauce or reheating leftovers.
On the other hand, Meris photographer Ryan Hulvat goes old-school when simmering stock on the stovetop. After roasting a well-seasoned chicken and letting his family have at it for dinner, the carcass goes into a large stock pot and is topped with refrigerator finds such as red cabbage, mushrooms, carrots and celery, browned lemon slices from the chicken roasting pan, red onions, peppercorns and whatever herbs are available in his abundant garden, including cilantro, lovage, oregano, sage, pineapple sage and others. “I like to use whatever is right here and easy,” Hulvat says. “But you can also see this as an adventure where you go to the store and get all the specific ingredients you want.” He will then allow the pot to simmer, uncovered, overnight on the stove. This method may not work for everyone – additional water may need to added and leaving the pot unattended on the stove for that many hours can be a safety concern – so starting in the early morning on a weekend and checking throughout the day works well.
As the chef/owner of Local Mama Catering, Beth Anna Raynock, making copious amounts of stock is an essential part of both her work and home life. “I drink chicken stock for breakfast,” she notes. “It’s so good for you.” She reports that her favorite trio of seasonings, garlic, ginger root, and turmeric, contain anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. She simmers her home chicken broth, which includes the roasted organs, for 8 to 12 hours – and if that sounds intimidating, she notes that beef stock requires many more hours. Although stock is something of an adaptable, free-style event, Raynock shares a good basic recipe that will get you thinking outside of the cardboard bone-broth box.