Now, now, this is a cooking blog so this post is not actually about a woman’s breasts, but what to do to make otherwise boring chicken breasts more interesting. The easiest way is to finish off the sautéed chicken breast with a sauce. And the key to a good pan sauce is chicken stock. Chicken stock is the real focus of this post, because as the great Chef Escoffier said “Stocks are to cooking what foundations are to a house.” With chicken stock on hand, you can easily make sauces to give a little boost to otherwise simple preparations of meats; you can make rich soups; you can cook grains in it instead of water to give the grains a little more flavor; and most importantly, you can make those rich braises where the meat practically falls off the bone.
There are basically two types of chicken stock – the delicious kind you make yourself and the crappy kind you buy at the supermarket. OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh. If you’re really in a pinch, the commercial varieties will do, just don’t tell anyone and do it knowing that you’ll eventually have to answer to your god for the crime. Seriously, making your own chicken stock is easy and something you only need to do every couple of months so it’s well worth the effort to do it yourself.
The following is a basic recipe for chicken stock. It makes about 2 1/2 quarts of Chicken stock. Store it in small freezer safe containers (1 and 2 cup sizes tend to be the most useful) and freeze it until you need it.
makes approximately 2 1/2 quarts
|3 1/2 Lbs||Chicken parts and bones (I like to use a mix of necks, feet, parts of the carcass and an old stewing hen, if available)|
|3 quarts||Cold Water|
|4.5 oz||onions, roughly chopped|
|4.5 oz||carrots, roughly chopped|
|2 oz||celery, roughly chopped|
|1||Garlic clove, crushed|
|1 bunch||herb stems (4-5 thyme stems with the leave removed, 2-3 parsley stems with the leaves removed, 1 small rosemary stem with the pines removed, 2 Bay leaves)|
- Trim the chicken parts of excess fat and skin and rinse them under cold water for a few minutes (or let them soak for a few minutes) to remove any blood or debris. Place the chicken parts in a stock pot (or any pot large enough to hold all the items) and cover with the 3 quarts cold water or as much water as is necessary to cover the chicken. Bring the water to a boil. As the liquid comes to a boil, a foam/scum will rise to the top. Continuously skim off this foam until it stops rising.
- Once the foam stops rising, lower the water temperature to a simmer. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to let it simmer for about 2 hours. Keep an eye on it every 10 minutes or so to skim off any foam/scum that rises to the top.
- After about 2 hours, strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Discard the vegetables. Set the chicken parts aside. At this point, you can cool the stock and prep it for storage, or you can pour it into another pot and continue to boil it down to concentrate the flavor. I usually boil it down further until about 2/3 of the original amount remains so that I can have a richer tasting stock. I then usually add a few pinches of salt.
Now that you have some stock on hand, you’re ready to dress those breasts. And what goes better with chicken than a nice sherry mushroom cream sauce. This Chicken Breast with Sherry Mushroom Cream Sauce can be made in 30 minutes.
While I don’t recommend using the really meaty parts of the chicken, if you did use parts with some meat on them, you should reserve the meat and use it for chicken salads, or this absolutely fabulous Chicken Pot Pie.