Clear chicken stock and a quick noodle soup

Posted on October 16, 2013

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I hadn’t planned on writing a post about a basic clear chicken stock because it feels a bit like I’m trying to teach you how to suck eggs, but at a friend’s suggestion I’m going to share a few thoughts on it. She had seemed rather surprised that I bothered to make my own and was impressed with the taste and clarity of it when I served it to her in the form of wonton noodle soup. So much so that she wanted the recipe…hence this post…

These days supermarkets have ready to use stock in cartons but if you have a little patience, it’s very cheap and easy to make your own at home. I tend to make about 2L of stock at a time and freeze them in small containers for use over the next couple of weeks or so. A good stock is very handy to have around the kitchen. It’s the foundation for soups and sauces, and can be used as the cooking medium to enhance the flavour of rice, quinoa, lentils and any other grain or seed cooked via the absorption method. It’s also my way for a quick noodle soup dinner; just blanch some noodles and veggies then season and reheat the stock.

Being more heavily influenced by Asian cooking, I tend to find the most use with a clear chicken stock so this is the one I usually make. Your stock of preference may be a brown chicken stock, beef, veal, pork or fish depending on what you like cooking most. I don’t do anything fancy with my chicken stock. It is just made of chicken carcasses and water. That is it. No other flavours are added, not even any seasoning, because I like working with a truly basic base and manipulating the flavours/seasoning at a later stage. I find that adding aromatics to the chicken stock tends to limit how I will use it later on. For instance, if my chicken stock was made with continental flavourings like onion, celery and carrot, it may not be suitable for use in a Chinese or Thai recipe. Simple pure chicken stock is more versatile for my purposes.

To ‘clean’ the chicken carcasses before I use them, I blanch the raw chicken bones in rapidly boiling water for about 5 minutes, then I run the bones under cold water to wash away any bloody bits and/or scum. The clean bones are then placed in a pot of fresh water and heated on low to medium for at least 4 hours, and longer if possible. It sounds like a long time and boring task, but it’s not like you need to sit by the stove to watch it. You can always use the 4 hour plus of time watching tv, surfing the net or doing more productive things like chores or working from home. As a general rule I use about 1L of water per chicken carcass (at least enough water to cover the bones) then I let the stock cook and slowly reduce by at least 30%. From 3 chicken carcasses, I tend to yield about 2L of finished stock.

The trick to making a nice and clear stock without needing to constantly skim the surface is pretty simple – you never let the stock come to a boil. I learnt this from a cooking demonstration by Adam Liaw and from one of my most loved cooking books The Elements of Cooking by Michael Ruhlman. The aim is to keep the stock warm on a very low simmer for an extended period until all the flavour has been extracted from the chicken (or beef, veal etc.). Think of it as if you’re making a tea; you’re steeping the bones in water to extract flavours – you’re not really intending to cook them (though this will happen anyway). Meat tends to begin cooking at about 60°C and that’s when the flesh shrinks and juices are released. At temperatures higher than 70°C your stock will become scummy as the blood cells in the bones begin to break down and are released into the stock. So to prevent this from happening, just keep your stock on a very low heat to gently warm over a few hours. If you follow this simple rule, you will get stock so clear, you can see right down to the bottom of the pot.

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Once the stock is done, remove chicken carcasses and pass the stock through a fine sieve and store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use. In the fridge the stock keeps for about 5 days. If you want to keep it for any longer, it needs to be in the freezer. This clear chicken stock can then be used as a base, flavoured and seasoned in any way of your pleasing.

As mentioned early, here is one way I use it…

Quick noodle soup

  1. Place clear chicken stock (~300mL per small serve) in a pot with a small handful of dried shrimp and bring to a boil. The dried shrimp will add a bit of complexity to the clear stock and impart a very gentle sweetness to it. Season with salt and white pepper, garnish with chopped spring onions/coriander and reserve. The basic chicken stock has just become a flavoursome broth for your noodles.IMG_7586
  2. In a separate medium/large pot, bring water to a boil. This pot will be for cooking all the components of your noodle soup, blanching these separately will ensure your chicken soup stays crystal clear. If you pay attention, this is how noodle soups are typically made in restaurants; the broth is always kept separate and never used as a cooking medium. Cook the ‘cleanest’ ingredients first, leaving the meat last. For example, I would first cook any vegetables, followed by the noodles then the meat.IMG_7587
  3. To serve, arrange cooked noodles, vegetables and meat in a bowl. Top with hot chicken broth and garnish with deep fried shallots.IMG_7588

How comforting is that? It’s fuss free but full of goodness and wholesome flavours. Regardless of what stock you like to make in your kitchen, I hope this post has been helpful or at least informative in some way. And if you don’t already make your own stock, perhaps this will give you a little inspiration to start :).

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Posted in: MissC cooks, Savories