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Dec 13, 2008 07:26 AM

CI Jan/Feb'09 Chix Stock technique - WTH?

The creator of this recipe should be dubbed "The Unfrugal Gourmet". He writes, "Sure, it made sense in the past as an economical way to get a second meal from the carcass of a spent bird. These days, however, spending hours to make a pot of soup from scraps and bones just isn't practical." I'd say that, on the contrary, these days it is close to mandatory for the average family!

He used a pound of ground chicken plus two breast halves to a mere quart of water (plus 2 qts canned broth). The idea is to speed the process of soupmaking but seems to fly in the face of CI's devotion to methods that are both successful and economical. This method takes well over an hour, so it's not as though you can come home from work, start making this soup, and have it on the table before your family faints from hunger. And with CI's chicken recipes typically calling for Bell&Evans, it was disconcerting to see the photo of a package of Perdue ground chicken.

I'd suspect this article of being an early April Fool's joke, were it not for the fact that, as with nearly all CI articles, there's something to be learned: 1) while boiling the stock makes it cloudy, it extracts the maximum flavor - so if your priority is clarity, use a long, low simmer technique. 2) The smaller the pieces in the stock, the more flavor. They maximized this by using ground chicken, but if you are using a carcass and/or parts for your stock, chopping into small chunks will boost flavor. 3) The blood around the joints of the dark meat imparts a mineral flavor to stock. I am assuming this applies when using raw parts, not a cooked carcass, and I would doubt that it's noticeable unless you are making stock from raw legs/thighs only. My own take-away lesson from this point is to expose the joints and briefly microwave these parts to coagulate these areas before adding the pieces to the stockpot.

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  1. Just giving this ignored post an encore, since posts with stock-making questions are appearing again.

    1. I'm watching Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) make it with three whole chickens right now! How practical/ frugal can that be! In that Bittman thread, he said something about stock as well; the part I remember is 30 minutes cooking is enough, and I think that was with uncooked parts. Anybody know if a whole chicken is any better than random, uncooked (perhaps white meat) trimmings?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Shrinkrap

        I've watched that episode a few times now, and have stared over and over at the recipe in her at home cookbook. If I had a pot big enough, I would give it a try (probably right after a big sale on whole chicken).
        I've had good luck using a mix of wings and thighs. I'm going to give it a try with just wings this weekend. They're starting to go on sale now, I guess in preparation for Superbowl.

      2. Only posting to agree with you. I was shocked that CI would take such an economical, healthy practice and make it expensive and wasteful. The timing couldn't have been worse either, with the economy and unemployment rates as they are.

        2 Replies
        1. re: wickedcook17

          I've loved Cook's Illustrated for many years, and America's Test Kitchen still is among my favorite cooking shows on tv. But yes, they are running out of good, new ideas.

          1. re: nosh

            I've been a subscriber for 4.5 years, and my feeling is that they ran out of good, new ideas a long time ago. All of my Nov/Dec issues are virtually the same, and how am I supposed to keep track of which "new, improved, best-ever" version of the same recipe is really the one I'm supposed to be using? Pumpkin pie comes to mind, and there have been several others.

            And yet I let DH renew every year, and occasionally they do produce an issue of entirely new, relevant material. Go figure.

        2. In Dan Goldberg's now-defunct Curmudgeon newsletter, he was forever hammering Chris Kimball's "war on reality". I don't know how much Kimball had to do with this insane recipe, but he had to have approved its publication.

          Making broth with whole chickens is a good, economical thing to do, if you start with a properly mature bird and then pull it out and remove the meat as soon as it's cooked. What I do then is put the non-edibles back into the pot and continue the process for a while, since I want to get some gelatine from the bones and cartilage, and more flavor from the skin, without having to worry about overcooking the meat. Stock is a different matter, though I almost always use broth as a base for stock.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Will Owen

            What you have made IS stock. If you are simmering meat and bones, the resulting liquid is "stock." If you simmer meat only you get "broth."

            Stock = meat and bones
            Broth = meat only

            1. re: C. Hamster

              That wasn't the way I understood it. I've been given to understand that stock is made from bones and vegetables almost entirely, with maybe the addition of some chopped sinewy meat, and never with one end result being edible meat. Perhaps I was misinformed, or not paying sufficient attention, as happens sometimes...

              1. re: Will Owen

                The continuum is generally stock >> broth >> soup. Stock is made mostly with bones for body and a little meat for flavor. It's not generally eaten on its own, but is used as an ingredient in recipes. Broth generally uses more meat than bones, has more flavor and can be eaten as is (especially if you have a cold!). Soup uses either stock or broth and adds other ingredients. There is no hard and fast dividing line between stock and broth. It's relative.

          2. Had Cornish Hens for dinner. The carcasses went into the crockpot, along with water, celery, onion, thyme, peppercorns, and a bay leaf. They will cook on "low" overnight. In the morning, I'll strain and chill the stock, then bag it. I'll end up with 2 quarts of very tasty (and free) stock.