This is the stock that we always keep on hand for most of our soups, risotto, beans, sauces and our braising dishes. We happen to fall in the category of cooks who prefer using whole chickens rather than using backs, necks and wing tips for stock. We think it is worth the investment, as stock made using whole chickens just simply tastes better.
As with all stocks, the goal is to remove impurities while extracting as much flavor and gelatin as possible from the bones, vegetables, and herbs. Always start your stock with cold water and pay attention to the coverage, more so than the actual measurement of the water. Bring the stock slowly up to heat and maintain a gentle heat for over a long period time and skim, skim, skim!
Makes 8 to 10 cups
One 5 1/2-pound chicken, preferably pasture raised
About 4 quarts cold water (to cover)
2 large carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
2 large leeks cut into 2-inch chunks, white and light green parts only, carefully washed
1 large yellow onion, root end trimmed flat, peeled, and quartered
1 stalk celery, leaves trimmed off and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bay leaf
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Remove the giblets from the chicken. Rinse the chicken to remove any blood. This is very important for the clarification of the stock. If you don't, your stock will be cloudy. Remove the breasts using your boning knife and save for another use. Slash the thigh and leg muscles to enable more flavor to be released during cooking.
Place the chicken in a deep 8- to 10-quart stockpot that holds the chicken snugly. Add the water. Bring to a simmer over high heat and skim the foam. Stir the chicken under once to allow the last of the foam to rise. Reduce the heat and continue to skim.
Add the vegetables and herbs and slowly bring the liquid back to a simmer, skimming frequently. Once the stock has a bright, chickeny flavor, usually about 4 hours, turn off the heat and allow the stock to rest for 10 minutes to allow any particles left in the stock to settle to the bottom of the stockpot.
Prepare an ice bath. Set a chinois or fine-mesh stainer over a container large enough to hold the stock. Use a ladle to transfer the stock from the pot to the stainer and strain into the container. Do not press on the solids in the strainer or force through any liquid that does not pass on its own; otherwise the stock will be cloudy. Discard any stock that is cloudy with impurities that settle near the bottom of the stockpot.
Place the container in the ice bath to cool the stock rapidly. Stir occasionally until there is no longer any steam rising from container. The stock can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze for longer storage.