Simple is best.
I say this in the guise of a cook who for many years never avoided the opportunity to embellish a dish or to undertake a difficult recipe. That facet of my personality is still alive and well, and it arises when I entertain or host a party. Complex dish? I love it; bring it on. Cooking is my favorite way to serve people, no pun intended.
Nonetheless, the fundamentals of cooking are, indeed, the most important, and, it turns out, the simplest. Homemade stocks (vegetable, fish, chicken, beef) are super-simple, are inexpensive and require no skill to prepare. What could be better than to leverage your investment of time and quality ingredients? Stocks transform otherwise one-dimensional dishes into those with depth of flavor and character. Your family and guests will be enchanted.
I buy 3# bags of chicken necks and backs from my poultry guy at Findlay Market. Backs and necks are more flavorful than white meat; the fact that they’re vastly less expensive is simply a benefit. (You’ll have to call ahead if you want them from a poultry purveyor. The secret is out, and they sell out quickly.) They give a richness to the stock white meat does not, and a gelantinous quality when the stock is fully cooled. So, here’s how to get started.
Oh by the way, deciding to make stock is a built-in excuse to buy a large, good quality stock pot. Every great home cook needs one.
White (Chicken) Stock
9-10# chicken bones; 9-10 qts cold water;
Cover bones with cold water in stock pot; blanch bones and drain water. Cover again with cold water and place over medium heat. Skim skum from simmering stock and discard. Add the mirepoix. Place sachet ingredients in either cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Tie with kitchen string (Williams Sonoma has it); place the sachet in the stock and attach it to the handle of the pot.
Simmer stock for 3-4 hours. Add water if necessary to keep bones covered. Strain stock through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into containers. Cool in a cold water bath in the sink. Refrigerate overnight. When fully cooled, use a spoon to lift fat off cold stock and discard. Freeze in containers for future use.