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Welcome…have some soup

So I did it. I somehow figured out how to make the “self-host” switch. And most of my comments came with me. None of my links, but there weren’t that many to begin with (oh crap! I have to remember to tell the Daring Bakers…write that down), so we’ll just move forward on that. I do understand, however, why people suggest you start out self-hosting (instead of using a free service) and I also have deep respect for all those who code – I apologize for ever thinking that you spent all your time in your underwear reaping the benefits of techno-phobes’ fears when really, how hard could it be? It’s hard. Not impossible, but I’ve killed several hours just trying to get my header to not suck and we’re still not there yet. So I’m sorry for doubting.

And I’m going to make it up to you by making soup.  Well, not soup soup, but the heart and soul of soup, stock.  Dark chicken stock.  You can use this to make all kinds of beautiful soups (and many other things as well).  This is really, really good stuff and…it’s not hard and it’s not expensive (warning to all vegi/vegans – this soup is not in the least bit animal-free and involves bones – sorry!).  Looks like this on the stove.


If you want to make it cheap, you’ll need to eat some chickens. Whole chickens. Which can very often be found for cheap (I think the best deal we got was $3.50 for about a 4 pounder). When you cut the birdy up, save all the bits you aren’t going to eat (guts, wing tips, back bone and any other bones that you find left over) in a freezer bag in the freezer. When you have bones from about 3 or 4 chickens, you can make the stock. See how cheap that is? Half of your ingredients are coming from something that you were going to throw out anyway. The rest is all celery and carrots and onion, which can be had even in Los Angeles for less than three bucks. The cost is in labor, but that’s not a big deal – you can do almost all of this at your own convenience, unless you’re afraid of leaving your stove on at low heat without supervision. If that’s the case, I can’t help you and you’re just going to have to get a job that pays well enough to order out.

No more ado and blathering, here’s the stock recipe that comes, more or less, from the fantastic (although somewhat over-hyped) Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. The recipe is fairly loosy-goosy, and I’ve modified it a bit, but this will get you something very close to the above photograph.  And some really fine soup.

Chicken Stock

Bones and gizzary bits from 3 or 4 whole chickens
Yellow onion to equal 50% of total vegetable mix
Celery to equal 25% of total vegetable mix
Carrot to equal 25% of total vegetable mix
Fresh thyme (if you have it)
Black peppercorns – a few
Bay leaf – a couple

So what’s up with the percentages?  Well, here’s the deal.  If you have a standard stock pot (I think it’s 10 gallons – ha!  No, it’s actually 12 quarts.  Show’s you what I know.), this amount of chicken bones will work for you.  You should have a vegetable mix that is about 1/3 as much as the amount of bones you use.  For the stock above, that was two onions, 4 stalks of celery and 3 or 4 carrots.

Wash and dry the chicken bones and put them in a roasting pan.  Sprinkle some flour on them, mix them up a bit, and put them in a 350 degree oven (or 400 if your oven is like mine and really slow – get an oven thermometer to find out, it’s worth it) and roast until they get brown.  This will take a while.  Turn them every so often.

While you’re waiting for the chicken bones to get done, peel the carrots and cut them up into a few pieces each.  Peel the onions and roughly chop them.  Wash the celery, cut the heads and tails off, and cut them into pieces like the carrots.

When the chicken bones are done, lift them out of the pan and put them in the stock pot.  Drain the pan and wipe it out with a paper towel (be careful, it will be very hot).  Throw some oil in the pan (canola or olive is fine).  Mix the vegetables all around and put those in the oven at 350 and roast until they are brown.  Turn them every once in a while and make sure not to burn them.  When they are done, add them to the pot.

Cover everything with cold water, up to the rim, and throw in your herbs and pepper.  Turn on the heat and bring this all up to a simmer – which is not a boil!  No boiling!  Not ever!  Just simmer.  Then turn it down as far as it can possibly go (I think you’ll need a gas stove for this) and let it cook for two days.  That’s right, two days.  That’s not Anthony’s advice, that’s mine.  His recipe calls for 12 hours.  Mine says two days, and it’s worth it.  This means you’ll have to have faith and leave your stove on unattended.  It’s ok.  People in France have been doing this for years (I just made that up).  I’ve done it several times and am still alive (and enjoying really good soup).  If you need to, add more cold water to keep it up to the top.  Visit it every once in a while.  Love it.  Talk to it.  You can stir it if you like.

After two days, you’ll need to strain everything out of the stock.  This is a royal pain in the ass and requires some zen-ness.  Just do it.  The more you strain, the better off you’ll be.  To strain, start by pouring the stock through a strainer, pushing down on the bones and vegetables to get the stock that’s in them out and into your pot.  When you’ve had enough of that, clean the strainer out and line it with a few layers of cheese cloth.  Strain into a new pot.  Rinse out the cooking pot (no need to use soap, but get all the solids out), clean your cheese cloth (or use a new clean piece), your strainer, and do it again.  And again.  And again, as many times as you can stand it.  If you’re up for it and you strain several times, you can increase the thickness of the cheese cloth to get more stuff out of it.  This does take some time and is very tedious, so just bear with it.  I strain my stock at least three times, more if I can stand it.

Once that’s over with, put the stock into containers that will fit in your freezer and put them in the freezer for a while.  How long?  Long enough that a layer of fat solidifies at the top.  You can also just put the stock in the fridge overnight.  Just depends on how anxious you are to eat it.  Either way, do not skip this step or you will have greasy soup, and that’s gross.  Here’s a shot of my stock in the freezer.

I suppose the health department would be all over me for cooling stock down this way.  When I was in college I worked at a movie theater and had to get a food handler’s permit.  The “workbook” for taking the test tells you the proper way to cool things down in order not to make your customers puking sick.  This method wouldn’t qualify, but I have to tell you, unless you plan on not cooking this stuff again, it doesn’t matter.  If you’re going to make soup out of it, it’s going to get so hot that even super germs from space won’t survive, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

One last little tip – I restrained this stuff this morning and remembered that letting it sit for a few hours allows the solids still left in the stock to settle to the bottom.  Once this happens, you can carefully pour off the top liquid and leave a bit behind that will contain most of the sediment.  It will waste a bit of your stock, but doing this made my stock a lot clearer, and you want this as clear as you can get it.

Once the fat hardens enough to scrape it off the surface with a spoon, do it.  You can return the stock to cold storage for another skimming if you like.  Also, when the time comes to actually use the stock, do a final skim as well – unless the stock has been frozen.  You’ll be putting plenty of oily goodness back in no matter what you make with it, but this chicken fat is not what you want in your food, so get as much out as you can.

Ok, now you have dark chicken stock.  You can use it for all kinds of things, but we’re going to use it to make soup.  Not quite yet, but soon.

Thanks for stopping by.


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