In January It’s So Niiiice

C’mon, surely you know the song:

Happy once, happy twice
Happy chicken soup with rice

No? Well, it’s true. Chicken soup (with or without rice) is one of those things that defies seasons. Done right, it’s a cure all and comfort food. Of course, in order to do it right, you need a good stock as the base.

Stock, and chicken soup, for that matter, are deeply personal things. Talk to ten different cooks and each will have his own recipe. I’ve seen some calling for several whole raw chickens, or specific bones (notably the neck) and countless variations on spices.

That’s all very well and good, but I prefer to keep it simple: using the carcass of an already roasted chicken that’s left over from a meal. What I like best about this method is the added depth of flavor that comes from using the roasted chicken. The stock is richer, more golden than yellow and, I think, more silky.

It’s also far more economical. The chicken carcass from last night’s supper? Throw it in the freezer so it’s ready when you need. Any other poultry bones, say from a roast turkey? Use those, too. Those bits of the carrot that are too close to the top to grate and the celery greens that aren’t usable for salad? Freeze them and save ’em. Once you’re in the habit, making stock becomes an incredibly cheap proposition. If you plan it right, you won’t even have to leave your house before cooking, making it the perfect recipe for a lazy Sunday.

This stock freezes well, too, so you’ll have it on hand whenever you cook or to make a bowl of chicken soup, whatever the season.

Chicken Stock

Chicken Bones (1 pound minimum, but the more you have, the better)
4 carrots, chopped coarsely
1 large onion, chopped coarsely
4 ribs celery, chopped coarsely
5 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
1 TBS peppercorns
1 tsp thyme
½ tsp red pepper flakes
salt, to taste
3 TBS vegetable oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Cold Water (enough to coat your chicken bones by at least half an inch)

Heat oil in a large (at least 8-quart) stock pot.

Heat the red pepper flakes, garlic cloves and onions, allowing the onions and garlic to caramelize, about 5-10 minutes. Add in celery and carrots, saute for another 5-10 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Add your chicken bones to the stock pot, and cover them by at least a half inch. It’s crucial that the water is cold.

To the water, add the thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat so that the water simmers.

Simmer for at least 4 hours, periodically skimming off the fat and checking the water level. If the bones are exposed, add more cold water. Check your seasoning throughout, adding salt as necessary.

Once the stock is finished, strain with a fine mesh sieve (using cheese cloth works, too) and add in lemon juice.

The stock will keep frozen for 3 months.

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