Monday, October 21, 2013

French Chicken Stock

There are some pantry and kitchen ingredients that you can’t just run out and get at the grocery or farmers market, and right at the top of that list for me is chicken stock.  Well, yes, of course you can find canned or cubed chicken stock for sale at most stores, but it’s usually loaded with salt and often doesn’t taste remotely like chicken. 


Meant to serve as a base for certain sauces like sauce blanche (see HERE) or soups or rice dishes, you end up with an overpowering taste that doesn’t fit the original purpose at all.  If you haven’t ever made your own chicken & vegetable stock, you really must try.  And while there is a quick-version I’ll explain later in this post, the best way to make chicken stock is in a large batch, on a quiet Sunday evening, with fresh vegetables from the weekend.  Yesterday at the Rancho Santa Fe market I was picking up a small chicken from Ashleigh at De-Le Ranch and telling her I was making stock, and the shopper next to me begged me for a little how-to.  I forgot to ask him what he was going to make with it, but I gave him my blog info and promised a post, so here it is.   This time of year, a little stock in the freezer will make you see the foods at the markets a little differently.  I’ll follow up with some recipes this week, with pumpkin~


~and risotto.  A fresh Italian black truffle deserves home-made chicken stock instead of canned, don’t you think?


The truffle, by the way, is available at Corona del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe markets if you’re local.  So back to the stock, the recipe I use is my own, and with a few French twists.  And for lack of a better name, I’m calling it French Chicken Stock.  You will need:

One whole organic chicken, about 3 pounds
One small yellow onion
Five small carrots
Four celery branches
One leek
One small bunch flat leaf (Italian) parsley (about eight whole pieces, stems and leaves)
A small bunch fresh thyme
Three bay leaves
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of peppercorns
Eight cloves
Small slice of lemon

* * * *

Pick a pot that will be large enough to hold the chicken and sufficient water.   Since the goal is the broth, make sure there is enough room in the pot for a lot of water, ideally a “stock pot” or faitout as it’s called in France.  Wash the chicken thoroughly, and put it in the pot and add enough filtered water to cover the chicken.  Now we’ll start to add to the pot.  Begin by studding the small onion with the cloves, like this:


You’ll notice I didn’t peel the onion.  There are some people who save the brown onion skins in their freezer for the sole purpose of adding them to stock to color the broth.  As long as your onion is clean, you can leave the skin on; or you can peel it if you like and then add the cloves.  This one is organic, from Phil at Sage Mountain.  The cloves here are from Madagascar via Savory.  Though I have jar of them, nothing beats fresh spices, so I bought a small sachet this weekend.  Cloves will give your stock a little extra spice, but you won’t be able to identify it in your stock.  It’s a secret addition much like nutmeg in many recipes.  Some stock recipes call for one or two cloves, but I use plenty.  Here, eight, but sometimes I’ll use more, though you don’t want to overdo the cloves or you’ll taste it in your stock.  Next, gather your bay leaves and thyme.  You can toss them in the pot, or wrap the bay around the thyme and tie them together like I did here, with a little linen twine, to make a bouquet garni~


Add the carrots, whole (less the green tops, of course).  I’m using Nantes carrots from Kawano Farms; they are my favorite carrots and very tender from Kawano.  Next, toss in a generous pinch each of whole black peppercorns and sea salt. 


Toss the parsley (stems and leaves, whole) into the pot.  I’m also using two shallots that I got from Chino Farm this weekend.  they are both Italian varieties, and I’ll be back for more of these next weekend.


I decided to trim the root end off the shallots, but I didn’t peel these either.


I’m crazy for anything with lemon, and I add it to a lot of foods just for a little citrus touch.  Today I added two small slices, like this~


Next, the leek.  Trim the roots and remove one or two of the outer leaves, so that you have a nice white-green stalk.  Wash carefully, to be sure there is no sand or grit still in the stalk.  Trim off the top of the leaves; I cut about an inch below the first leaf, like this; cut the stalk in half and add to your pot, you won’t use the green leafy top.  I got this leek on Saturday from Cindy at Eli’s Farm (Corona del Mar market). 


One of the best stock ingredients is celery, and I love to make stock when I can find tender celery branches at Chino or Eli’s Farm.  Fresh, tender celery tastes wonderful….trim the bottom off the branches, and slice into sticks.  Use the whole branch, including the leaves, like these beautiful stalks from Chino Farm~


And here is my rather unglamorous photo of the pot going on the stove.  I bought this 19thCentury copper pot from my dealer friend Guy in Brittany, and I have seen only one faitout that is bigger that this (it was at the Paris Flea).  It could easily hold four chickens, but I’m only using one today.  This will yield plenty of stock to get me through a month or two of cooking.


Here is my beautiful big pot on the stove.  And now for the cooking: bring just to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a very low simmer.  Some stock recipes will tell you to boil it and skim the top from time to time.  I prefer to cook it slowly, and this means there is nothing to skim off.  I also think that the organic chicken makes a difference: I swear by Da-Le chickens as they are “just like” a chicken I’d find in Burgundy, but if I use this chicken for stock there is also not the “chicken chum” (sorry, for lack of a better description) that you get when you cook some birds.  Other recipes will tell you to also chill the finished stock and skim off the fat; I don’t do that either, since I think there’s nothing wrong with a little chicken fat in my food.


Cover the pot and cook for about 45 minutes.  At that time, the chicken will be cooked but still in one piece.  Lift the chicken out of the pot, let cool slightly, and remove the breast pieces; you can have them now for dinner, or save them for later. 


Your stock will start to have some color to it.  Put the chicken carcass (less the chicken breasts) back in the pot and continue to cook on low for 3-4 hours without a lid. 


Turn the heat off, put the lid back on, and let the pot cool.  I like to make stock in the evening, turn the heat off around 11pm, and the next morning it’s still warm in the big copper pot, and kitchen smells like yummy chicken and vegetables.  I’ll have a taste of the broth now…it’s perfect.  It’s not salty, and it tastes like vegetables and chicken.  I can taste a combination of flavors, but none overpowers the others.  Just what I want for my next recipes.


Strain the solids out of the broth.  The chicken will fall apart at this point, but you can pick off the meat to eat or make a chicken soup with the meat and some of the stock.   I know some people like to use ice cube trays; I find it easier to divide the broth into 1-3 cup Ziploc bags and freeze.  You can refrigerate the stock if you will use it within a few days. 

For a simpler version of this stock, you can use the carcass of any roast chicken, after it’s eaten, cooked for an hour on low with herbs and any vegetables that you have on hand.  That’s often what I’ll do to supplement my supply of proper broth; a few chicken bones, celery, carrots and thyme and you can make a good broth that’s still miles better than canned or cubed.  You can also use chicken wings or other chicken pieces instead of a whole bird.  I know it seems like an extravagance to use a whole chicken, but it’s worth it when you taste the end result.

So I hope you will try to make some stock soon.  I’ll be using mine for some fall recipes I will show you this week.


  1. Such an easy recipe. Think I will try it with chicken parts. Thanks.

    Sheila in SF

  2. Dear Andrea, this looks and sounds delicious!
    I always love to see your large shiny copper pot!!
    I miss our talks!!

    2013 Designer and Artists Series

  3. Hi, I am headed to CA for work and was wondering where I can find your totes for sale? I will be in the San Diego/ Orange cty areas, thanks

    1. HI Michele; Corona del Mar market on Saturday, or Rancho Santa Fe market on Sunday, but email me andrea at and I can arrange to meet~