Brodo di Gallina | Hen Stock

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.

Chicken Stock | Brodo di Gallina | Hen Stock | Hen Broth | Chicken Broth | Tortellini in Brodo

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!

Tip:

Essential equipment – a large stockpot

Ingredients

(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
  • Water

Method

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. Chicken Stock | Brodo di Gallina | Hen Stock | Hen Broth | Chicken Broth

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.

Clockwise, starting top left: Strips of hen meat with olive oil & salt, Tortellini in Brodo, Strips of beef with olive oil & salt, Hen Broth on its own

Clockwise, starting top left: strips of hen meat with olive oil & salt, tortellini in brodo with a sprinkling of freshly-grated parmesan, strips of beef with olive oil & salt, hen broth on its own

*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). 

Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!

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Chicken Stock Recipe | Simple Chicken Stock | Chicken Bouillon

My Simple Chicken Stock Recipe

Quick and easy to make chicken stock

You can use this chicken stock for chicken gravy, as a base for soups or even as a delicious bouillon to enjoy on its own or with some small pasta or “capelli d’angelo“.

This recipe also forms the basis for my Chicken Terrine / Low-fat Chicken Paté recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs – skinned but with bones in (400-500g)
  • 2 carrots – washed & trimmed
  • 2 sticks celery – washed & trimmed
  • 1 onion – peeled but kept whole
  • a few sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • a good pinchful of salt
  • cold water – enough to cover ingredients

Method

  •  Place all the ingredients in a stockpot
Chicken Stock
Add enough water to just about cover your ingredients
  • Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer gently for an hour
  • Remove all the vegetables and herbs at this point to allow the chicken flavour to prevail and avoid the vegetables falling apart inside your stock.  Set them to one side.
  • Continue simmering on a low heat with the lid on for another 30mins to an hour, until you are satisfied that the stock tastes good.  Add extra salt if you think it needs it, but be careful not to over-salt as the stock will reduce a little as you cook it. 

TOP TIP
If your stock ends up too salty, place a raw potato in it – the potato will absorb the excess salt!

At the end of cooking, strain your stock to give you a pure clear chicken stock.  You can refrigerate this or freeze it to use at a later date, or use immediately.

Chicken Stock
Clear chicken stock – delicious!

What to do with the boiled chicken & vegetables? 

Tear the chicken off the bone (it will fall off by now, anyway) and tear it into rough shreds.  Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt & freshly-ground black pepper and, if you wish, some freshly-squeezed lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.

Do the same with the vegetables for a delicious, almost sweet, accompaniment.  The vegetables are exquisite even without seasoning.

Or, for an idea inspired by Nigella’s Praised Chicken recipe: 
Serve the shredded chicken pieces in the bouillon/stock/broth (whichever your preferred term is) for a delicious warming soup.  You can add pasta to it, too, if you wish. Top with fresh chopped Dill at the table.  YUMMILICIOUS! 

Mmmmmmmm … Gloriously Good!