November 22, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken Stock

I'm going to guess what you're thinking. "It's the week before Thanksgiving. Why on earth is she posting a recipe for chicken stock? Why not turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes. Or even gravy, for the love of God?!"

I'll tell you why. Because chicken stock is going to be the backbone of nearly everything on your Thanksgiving table. It's going to moisten the bread in your stuffing. It'll be the foundation of your soup. And you'll reduce it down and add turkey drippings to it to make your gravy. Even my green bean recipe uses a cup of chicken stock.

To put it simply:

delicious chicken stock = delicious Thanksgiving spread

The recipe is here a bare bones, basic chicken stock. It's made with chicken wings (great bone/meat ratio), water, onion, garlic and salt. The flavor is pure chicken. It's a wonderful base for chicken noodle soup, gravy, or any other recipe in which you want the chicken flavor to really shine through.

You can modify this recipe to suit your needs. If you want a more intensely flavored stock, roast or saute the bones first. Or transfer the stock to a saucepan and reduce it down until it's strong enough. (A word of caution: if you think you might reduce the stock, be conservative when adding salt. As the stock reduces down, it will get more and more salty.)

There's also plenty of room to personalize. If you like a more complex stock, add celery, onion, peppercorns and/or a bay leaf. If the stock is destined for matzoh ball soup, throw in some dill. If you're going to use it for an Asian soup or curry, consider adding fresh ginger or star anise.

The recipe is as spare the list of ingredients. Put all the ingredients in a slow cooker and turn it on. Ten hours later, strain it. That's it. You're done. This recipe is perfect for the days before Thanksgiving when you're already running around like a chicken with it's head cut off (sorry -- couldn't resist)!

Oh, and in case you're wondering, we haven't finalized this year's Thanksgiving menu yet. But here's what we're thinking, a mix of old favorites and new recipes we're dying to try:

Sweet Potatoes TBD
Mashed Potatoes TBD

Place the chicken wings in your slow cooker.

Add onions, garlic and salt.

Add water and turn the machine on. I cooked the stock on low for 10 hours. And had to be very patient. After 5 hours, it didn't look all that different than it did at hour 1. I started to doubt. 

I shouldn't have. Because at hour 8, it suddenly started to look like this.

And by hour 10, it looked and smelled divine. Okay, I lied. It didn't look divine yet. But it did smell divine.

 Strain out the wings, onions, and "bits."

And you'll have this.

And if you're lucky, a bowl of this.

Slow Cooker Chicken Stock

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated

3 pounds uncooked chicken wings
2 1/2 quarts water
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tsp salt, or more to taste

1.    Place all ingredients in a slow-cooker. Cook on LOW for 10 hours or HIGH for 5 hours.

2.    Strain out chicken parts, onion and garlic. (I strained it twice. The first time, I used a "spider" to remove the chicken pieces and onion. The second time I poured the stock through a sieve lined with a paper towel to catch the little bits that I don't want floating around in my stock).

3.    Use right away, or freeze.

Yield: about 3 quarts

Notes: This stock is not very fatty. But if you'd like, you can refrigerate the stock for a few hours. The fat will congeal, and you can remove it. Also, you can portion the stock out into 1 quart zip loc bags, freeze them flat in your freezer, and use as needed.

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