Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Anthony Bourdain Les Halles Cookbook Dark Chicken Stock

Bourdain's cookbook begins with an Introduction followed by a chapter on General Principles, within which there are four distinct parts. The general gist of the Principles is to:
  • plan and practice mise en place,
  • use quality ingredients,
  • buy a good chef's knife and take care of it,
  • and if you want restaurant-quality soups, sauces, stews -- or any other dish for that matter, make your own stock.

Mise en place is a given. Cooking or baking is nightmare if you don't plan and have everything at the ready. Buying quality ingredients and a high-end knife though are things that simply come down to money. If you have it, you can buy the organic chickens and sweet knife; if you don't, you might not even be buying chicken. I recognize I am fortunate: able to purchase decent food, sometimes splurging on expensive cheeses, spices and seafood. Overall, I am fairly frugal and attempt to maximize on what I buy, a perpetual goal I'm always working toward bettering. That's where stock comes in.

Yes, I made beef stock once but it'll be chicken stock that will be a regular thing around here. After all, I tend to buy whole chickens anyway where beef bones are something I have to buy specifically. Stock takes a little effort, a fair amount of time, patience, and as Bourdain blatently stated, space.

While I could exercise patience and effort, it's space that's a problem. My freezer is always a mish-mash of various things too often forgotten. My hope this year is to utilize my space in a better way to bring more flavor into the dishes I prepare, simultaneously reining in my tendency to over-buy and ultimately reducing waste.

Bourdain wrote paragraphs describing types of stocks and how to use them, providing detail in particular regarding how to make veal stock. I am going to go on ahead and make chicken stock according to the veal stock directions. After all, Bourdain says, "The process is the same: Roast your chicken bones and vegetables. Toss in pot. Cook. Treat as above [veal stock]."

Now I'll get on with it.

Dark Chicken Stock
adapted from Les Halles Cookbook
click to print

5-7 lbs chicken frames, necks, wings, thawed
4 medium white onions, peeled and cut into chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into chunks
fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pat chicken pieces dry. Lightly oil a 12x17" half-sheet or large roasting pan and place dried chicken on it no more than two layers deep.

My four chicken frames, three backs, three necks and large number of whole wings and wing tips were crammed onto the baking sheet in one tight layer.

Roast the bones in the oven about two hours or until nicely browned -- not black, flipping once about half-way through.

Meanwhile, toss the roughly chopped vegetables* on a second lightly oiled baking sheet and roast, stirring regularly until evenly browned, approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

*The volume of vegetables is supposed to be approximately 1/3 of the volume of chicken. I might've been a little light here.

Transfer roasted bones and browned bits (and in my case, the fat) as well as the roasted vegetables (minus black onion pieces) to a stock pot and fill with cold water.

Toss in the thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves before bringing the the mixture to nearly a boil, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer.

My pot took about 40 minutes before small bubbles came to the surface and I began moderating the heat.

Skim foam, scum and fat from the top of the mixture occasionally over the next 8-10 hours.

This is about 1/2 cup of fat removed within the first 30 minutes. By the end of cooking and skimming, I had nearly one cup.

Remove the majority of the solids from the stock.

Strain the stock through moistened cheesecloth draped over a colander seated inside another pot.

Bourdain didn't mention anything about heating the stock during straining, but I was hoping it'd accelerate the process a little while I prepared for the next straining.

The strained liquid was heated gently until the fatty goo began to congeal around the edges of the pot, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I washed the original stock pot, situated the colander over it, moistened fresh cheesecloth and draped it over the colander before straining the liquid a second time.

I continued this pattern, washing the dirty pot, situating the strainer, draping cheesecloth, and straining -- for over an hour. I think I strained about 5 times before I ran out of cheesecloth and did a final strain in paper towel.

The stock was transferred to a clean 8-qt pot and allowed to cool before it was covered and placed in it's entirety in the refrigerator.

When I made beef stock the aromas in my apartment were enough to make me salivate almost constantly and this chicken stock did not fail in that capacity. While not difficult to carry out, it was definitely, as anticipated, time consuming. The stock was clear yet very dark in color. Tasting the final result, I realized it was absolutely worth it. The stock was rich in flavor, yet pleasantly clean tasting, if that makes any sense. I'm quite pleased with how this turned out.

Now I'm certain that my beef stock attempt could've been MUCH better had I used more bones and let the stuff simmer a few more hours. I didn't go into much detail about how the beef stock turned out flavorwise because I didn't know what to expect. That's what it's all about right, learning?

  • chicken frames, necks, and wings: leftovers, so $0
  • onions: $3.32
  • carrots: $0.50
  • celery: $0.34
  • thyme: $1
Total: $5.16. That's $0.65 for each of 8 quarts or about $0.16 for each of 32 cups.



Thanks so much for posting this! I've gotta buy the Les Halles cookbook, but in the meantime, I'm glad bloggers like you test out the recipes for the rest of us. I spent all day working on this chicken stock today and I'm pretty pleased with my first stock attempt. However, the flavor is much less concentrated than I expected. Perhaps I didn't let it simmer long enough, or maybe my tastebuds are just used to way more salt; what do you think? Did yours taste as "chickeny" as you thought it would?

The Cook said...

Thanks for your feedback! It's a good feeling knowing that someone gets something from my efforts.

To answer your question, the chicken flavor is pretty mild. I'd been accustomed to using Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base which is made from chicken meat rather than bones.

When I made the chicken stock the second time, I'd included a few whole thighs and the chicken flavor was certainly heightened. I'd also reduced the stock after straining to yield much less volume. At the time it was just to save space.

One thing I noticed when I made the chicken stock each time is that the chicken removed post simmering (many hours!) is dry, almost crumbly. While it will be wet from sitting in water, everything will have been leeched out of any meat pieces (and bones). I know this because I tasted a piece and immediately spit it out. It was gross! It's probably for you to do this test for yourself this time.

To intensify the chicken flavor of the stock you just made, simply reduce it uncovered over low heat to cook off the water. I am for a stock that is gelatinous after refrigeration. (The jelly-like mass will melt when warmed). I think our tendency is to start with too much water since you're supposed to "fill" the pot with water. A realistic quantity is enough to cover the solids plus a little bit more to accommodate evaporation during the simmering time.

I hope this helps!

The Cook said...

That one goofy sentence should've been:
It's probably too late for you to do this test for yourself this time.


Yes! That helped greatly! I will try reducing it more next time. I think too much water might have been part of my issue, too. I can't wait to try again. But the first batch is definitely usable, too, and will make for some good soups. :)

The Cook said...

I received an email asking what difference it makes if the chicken is crumbly.

While I tasted it just to see what it would be like, it can be an indicator of whether the flavors of the chicken have been released entirely. If the chicken still tastes like chicken, not all of the chicken flavor is in the stock. For me, the crumbly chicken tasted and felt like sawdust. There was no question about it, it was done.

I've decided to use the taste test as sort of a guide to tell how long to simmer the stock. There is no point in cooking it for 10 hours if the chicken (and vegetable) pieces are tasteless in less time. An argument for longer simmering is that the flavors from the bones wouldn't be fully extracted in the time the flavors from the meat is, which may be true. Just a few days ago though I watched a Gordon Ramsay video on YouTube about stock and he suggested 30 minutes! That's a game changer for me since I could do like Ramsay did and once I have enough chicken pieces to put in a Dutch oven (or a big saucepan!) instead of a huge stock pot, I could get rolling on it. On a weeknight even. That means fresher stock regularly and less space necessary in the freezer.

It might come down to personal preference: longer simmer to ensure maximum flavor or simmer long enough that it doesn't take over the weekend and minimizes the likelihood of skipping the project entirely for purchased stock.

The next time I do stock, I'll be tasting chicken pieces at 30 minute intervals. And maybe I'll chew some bones. If you decide to do the chicken meat and bone taste test yourself, let me know!

The Cook said...

Oh, I should note that Ramsay was doing a light stock, not a dark one. He didn't roast the chicken and vegetables first. If you're going for a dark stock, it might make more sense to do a whole bunch all at once instead of roasting a handful of bones. In that case, it's not so much of a game-changer, at least for me. Now I'm considering buying one of those counter-top toaster/broiler ovens.

Jonathan Pankratz said...

Awesome. I just read the book and got your blog as the first hit. Thanks so much. Having the "print" option go straight to Google Docs was a nice bonus.

The Cook said...

Too cool, Jonathan! And I appreciate your input about the print option. I was debating on whether I should continue that or not. I'll keep it.