A decade ago when I was just a wide eyed culinary student studying to be a chef, I was doing my chef apprenticeship downtown in the Freight House at Lidia’s Kansas City. Part of my apprenticeship was to work all of the various stations throughout the restaurant to ensure you become a well-rounded cook and one day a chef leading your own kitchen. As I worked my way through each station, making every dish on the menu one starting making its way to the top of my list as not only my favorite dish in the restaurant, but one of my favorite all-time dishes anywhere. Gnocchi con Anitra in Guazzetto is an amazing combination of light, fluffy potato gnocchi tossed in a sauce of fresh marinara and a rich slow-cooked duck sauce.
We are a part of a monthly dinner club that rotates houses with each host responsible for the main course. This month it was our turn and I decided to go old school and recreate what still remains to this day one of my all-time favorite dishes. This dish is comprised of a number of different components that to truly make from scratch can take some planning and execution. So this is part I of a multi-part article on making one of the most delicious Italian dishes around.
Part I – Homemade Chicken Stock
Chicken stock is one of those things that people regularly confuse with chicken broth in a can at the grocery store. Chicken stock is much more than that. While at the foundation, both chicken broth and chicken stock consist of water, onion, celery, carrots, and chicken that is where the similarities end. Broth that you can buy from the store is simmered for a few hours and then strained and finished. Stock is much deeper in flavor and adds an unparalleled layer of flavor to food that you can’t get from canned broth or bouillon cubes.
Chicken stock gets much of its flavor from the gelatin (aka bone marrow) that cooks out of the bones during the cooking process and gives stock that added depth of flavor, richer and smoother taste that just makes many of the dishes you eat at your favorite restaurant taste so dang good. Most people are surprised to find out how easy it is to make amazing tasting quality stock at home. Here is how.
Step 1: Assemble your ingredients.
5 Pounds Chicken Bones: Go to your local butcher and get the chicken bones. Your neighborhood grocery store may not butcher their own meat and therefore might not have bones. Call the local butcher and ask. Otherwise, places such as Whole Foods often will have them.
2 Medium Yellow Onions – peeled and roughly chopped
3 Carrots – peeled and cut into 1 inch lengths
2 Stalks Celery – cut into 1 inch lengths
7 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
7 Sprigs Fresh Parsley – with stems
2 Bay Leaves
10 Whole Peppercorns
2 Whole Cloves Garlic – Peeled
2.5 Gallons Cold Water
Step 2: Making the Chicken Stock
If you want to give your stock even extra flavor, you can put the bones and vegetables in the oven in a roasting pan and roast them for 45 minutes to an hour to brown them and start to release the gelatin. If the chicken has a lot of meat on the bones then you want to be careful not to burn the meat and thus could cook for a shorter period of time. Once the bones are browned, put them along with the vegetables, herbs, garlic, and peppercorns into a 12 quart stock pot and cover with the water. Bring the water to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Simmer the stock for 2-3 hours never letting it come to a full boil and skimming some fat off the top from time to time. After the stock is done cooking immediately strain out the solid ingredients and put the pot or container in an ice bath to get it cooled down to below 40 degrees. (Roasting the chicken bones can be skipped if you want your stock to have a lighter flavor or if you are short on time)
Step 3: Using and Storing Your Stock
At this point the chicken stock can be transferred into smaller containers and stored in your fridge for up to a week or frozen in air-tight containers and used for up to 3 months. Before use, bring the stock up to a boil for 1-2 minutes and then use it in whatever dish calls for broth or stock. As a final note, your now amazing chicken stock will be more flavorful than regular canned broth. Be careful to check recipes to make sure that substituting stock for broth will not overpower the dish with the bolder flavor.