by Kate Heyhoe
The Essential Chicken Stock
One could write a whole book just on chicken soup. In fact, Mimi Sheraton did in 2000. More recently, I completed a book that includes some essential chicken soups, and then goes beyond with recipes for all types of chicken dishes from around the world. A Chicken in Every Pot: Global Recipes for the World's Most Popular Bird was released in Fall 2003.
With cold and flu season upon us, I wanted to share some recipes from my book for homemade chicken stocks and broths, the foundations of all great chicken soups. And as many scientists now agree, chicken soup can indeed help cure what ails you. This column features stocks, and next week's column dives into broth and soups.
Why make chicken stock from scratch, rather than pop open a can of chicken broth? Besides the obvious taste differences, homemade chicken stock contains gelatin, derived mainly from animal bones and cartilage. It's this gelatin that imparts the silkiness and mouthful texture to true stocks. I'm not sure why canned chicken broth lacks this gelatin (what are they making the canned stocks from anyway?), but it's the gelatin that truly separates the rich stocks from the watery broths.
By the way, if you've ever wondered what the difference is between a "stock" and a "broth," relax: they're essentially the same thing. Or at least the differences between the two definitions are minor. I have plowed through a library of cooks' references, including Larousse Gastronomic, The New Food Lover's Companion, Barbara Kafka's Soup: A Way of Life, and The New Professional Chef by the Culinary Institute of America. In virtually every case, both "stock" and "broth" are defined as a liquid made from bones and meat, sometimes with vegetables, herbs and seasonings. Most definitions go further to yield circuitous references to "soup" and "bouillon," which, in the interests of limited clarity, I'll conveniently skip in this column.
The latest edition (1997) of the esteemed Joy of Cooking adds its own unique imprint to the murky world of stocks and broths: "Unlike stocks, which are made primarily from bones, broths are made from meat (except for vegetable broth), and they cook for shorter periods of time. The resulting liquid has a fresher, more definable flavor but less body than a stock." Immediately following this passage is a recipe for chicken broth, which calls for simmering in water a whole chicken, presumably with bones and carcass intact.
The late Steve Holzinger, who trained many a professional chef, offered the following advice in a column printed here several years back: "A stock is a water extract of food. A broth is a stock made with meat or poultry as distinguished from one made from the bones of meat and poultry. A consommé is a finished broth, one that has great flavor due to the use of considerable amounts of meat or poultry. If properly cooked and skimmed, it will be as clear as a consommé clarified with egg whites." Clear as mud, once again.
Actually, what all of these references seem to intend but leave a bit cloudy is that the main distinction of a stock is indeed the richness derived from the gelatin (essentially concentrated protein) released by the bones and cartilage, and to a lesser extent by tendons, skin, and other tissue. Gelatin-rich bones may or may not be dropped into a broth-pot, but even if they are included as an ingredient, it's always to much less degree than in a stock. Shorter cooking time for a broth also yields less gelatin than a long-simmered stock; hence the resulting broth has almost no gelatin and is thinner.
When a true stock is chilled, it congeals because of the gelatin. A refrigerated broth remains liquid and flowable. But that's not to say a broth is totally gelatin-free, as even in a short cooking period the simmered meat protein itself will still leach some gelatin; a broth just contains less gelatin than does a stock. Clear, eh? Good. Let's move on.
I've included two recipes for chicken stock: the first is my own, a home cook's method, and the other is from The Professional Chef, Seventh Edition, by The Culinary Institute of America. Next week: Chicken in a Global Bowl: Broths & Soups
Basic Chicken Stock from Kate Heyhoe's A Chicken in Every Pot
Professional Chicken Stock from the CIA
1/03/03 Around the World: Recipes 2002
1/10/03 The Essential Chicken Stock
1/17/03 Chicken in a Global Bowl: Broths & Soups
1/24/03 Food of Love: Schiavelli's Sicilian Connection
1/31/03 Chinatown Dining & New Year Feasts
Copyright © 2003, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
Modified March 2007