You will remember, Dear Reader, that in the last post, we made- or attempted to make- a white chicken stock. The response was good, and you so obviously enjoyed it that I thought I would carry on with the stock theme: to create a little series of posts on stock making, consommés, glazes, aspics, demi-glaces and all that jazz. Before I carry on with ‘how to make a brown stock’, I thought I should let you into ‘what wrong with my last stock attempt’.
I let it boil. Yep, I didn’t follow my own instructions. That pesky telephone rang (one of those dodgy insurance claim firms) and it was enough to distract me for a few tiresome minutes. When I got back to the pan, it was at a boil, and the stock had gone cloudy. Don’t do this. All it needs is thirty seconds or so, and your clear stock becomes a thing of the past. Secondly, leave the carcass alone. Don’t do what I did, and try and break it up, or stir it about. There’s always someone (i.e.me) who wants to meddle. Don’t touch it, and you’ll get a clear stock. And finally, it might be a good plan to ladle it from the pan when it’s ready, rather than pour it straight into the colander. There’s a few cheffy tips for you.
So on to brown stock. Or more precisely, a brown chicken stock. Julia Child gives a simple recipe in her exemplary Mastering the Art of French Cooking:
You take bits of chicken "the neck, gizzard, heart and scraps” (I would have thought those bits and pieces you get in little bags inside supermarket chickens would be just fine), chop them up and brown them in a heavy frying pan, in oil, with a sliced onion and carrot. Mrs Child recommends that you brown them on the top of the stove, rather than in the oven, as she worries that the chicken might burn- and she’s probably right.
You pour out the ‘browning fat’ and add ¾ pint of white chicken stock (which we made in the last post), two parsley sprigs, some thyme and a bayleaf, and enough water to cover the chicken by ½ inch.
Simmer (remember, ‘just a bubble or two of motion at the surface'), partially covered for 1½ hours, skimming as before. Strain and de-grease.
That’s one way of doing it. The other way (courtesy of Robuchon) is to brown the carcass of a chicken in a pre-heated oven (400F/200C) for fifteen to thirty minutes, stirring from time to time with a big wooden spoon. You then add a coarsley chopped carrot, a peeled and coarsely chopped onion, a chunk of celery stalk and 100g mushrooms to the roasting pan, mix it well and return to the oven for ten minutes to brown the vegetables. The chicken bones and vegetables are removed from the pan and put into a large stockpot, which is then covered with cold water, and a bouquet garni, herbs (four sprigs of chervil, a sprig of tarragon) and a clove of garlic added as you would with a standard white stock.
Unlike Richard Olney (two hours), both Rubuchon and Julia Child recommend that you cook your stock for at least four hours (‘never allowing the liquid to roil and boil. It should just shiver’.) And one final word for now. Can you make a chicken stock from the left-overs? Yes, you can. Obviously it won’t be as flavoursome as a stock made from a whole, uncooked chicken, but if you simmer it at a low heat for long enough, you’ll get enough gelatine out of the bones to form a reasonable jelly.