How do you make chicken stock?
With a hen and some beef…
Chicken stock can be used in so many dishes from soups to sauces to a delicious broth enjoyed on its own.
My chicken stock recipe is actually a hen stock with beef to add extra depth to the flavour. This is the way I was taught to make it by my mum, who in turn was taught by her mum, my Nonna Wanda.
My mum always makes this on Christmas Eve and we enjoy ‘Cappelletti in Brodo’ – Cappelletti* in broth/stock – as part of our evening meal. It also then makes a delicious starter to our Christmas lunch meal of Roast Capon with roast potatoes. I have carried on this tradition in our family home here in the UK.
Brodo di Gallina is also delicious with Capelli d’Angelo (Angel’s Hair – very fine pasta) or Pastina (very small pasta shapes). ‘Pastina in Brodo’ takes me back to my childhood – many Italian children are still fed this as an early ‘weaning’ food!
There is no reason why you should only make this for special occasions. It is delicious and heart-warming and so versatile, you could do with having some in your fridge most days! Use ‘Brodo di Gallina’ anywhere where you would use chicken stock. In risotto, soups, sauces (use it for your chicken gravy – it will be the best chicken gravy you’ve ever made!) or drink it from a mug on a cold winter’s day to warm you up!
Essential equipment – a large stockpot
(makes enough stock to serve Tortellini in Brodo to approximately 8 people, or 4 people over 2 meals)
- 1 Hen, skinned (see separate post on skinning a hen), whole
- 500g (approx.) of stewing beef, in one single piece
- 1-2 onions, depending on size, peeled but left whole
- A selection of root vegetables (e.g. 2-3 carrots – scraped clean and topped & tailed, 1 swede – peeled and cut into large chunks, 1-2 parsnips – peeled and top & tailed)
- Coarse Sea Salt
Place the skinned hen and the beef into a large stockpot and add enough water to ensure both are covered, but just (adding too much water will dilute the flavour). Add a good handful of coarse sea salt and bring to the boil over a high heat.
Once the water starts boiling, a froth/foam will start forming on the surface of the water. Remove this with a fine skimmer (you can also simply use a spoon if you don’t have a skimmer). Once you are satisfied you’ve removed as much of the froth as you can, add the onion(s) and root vegetables.
Turn the heat down so the water simmers gently, cover and leave to cook for approximately 2 hours (check after about an hour and a half – some of the vegetables may begin to fall apart, so remove those that are too soft before they all fall to pieces into the stock). Check for taste as you near the 2 hours. You’ll know when it is ready as the taste will be divine and the hen will be close to falling apart. At this point, add more salt if needed. If you find that you used too much water and the stock is a little bland, simply cook it a bit longer with the lid off, to reduce it down a little and concentrate the flavour (careful on salt quantities if you do this though as you may end up with an over-salted stock).
Tip: If you find you’ve over-salted it earlier on in the process, adding a raw, peeled potato to the cooking process will help absorb some of the salt out.
Once the stock is ready, carefully lift out the hen and the beef as well as all the vegetables. Now pour the stock through a sieve into a clean stockpot to remove any vegetable debris, ready to use as you wish. If you prefer your stock to be leaner, place it in the fridge overnight, then remove the layer of solidified fat from the top.
If you serve the stock as ‘tortellini in brodo’ or with other pasta, add a little sprinkling of freshly-grated parmesan cheese to each individual portion once served, for extra-deliciousness!
Tip: Don’t waste the beef and hen meat. Tear these up into little strips by hand once they’re cooled down enough to handle (but not cold) and season with a little olive oil and salt. They are both delicious to eat either warm (not too hot) or cold straight from the fridge and make an excellent light meal accompanied by the the vegetables, which are also delicious to eat with a drizzle of olive oil. They taste really sweet when cooked in this way.
*Cappelletti are similar to Tortellini – they are filled pasta parcels of sorts, but Cappelletti tend to be smaller than Tortellini, so lend themselves better to being served ‘in brodo’. Don’t worry if you can’t get hold of them, Tortellini will also work (I used Tortellini in the photos shown in this recipe post).