Last year, about the time I started stockpiling turkey carcasses in the freezer to make Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage Gumbo, I had the idea to start freezing rotisserie chicken carcasses to make stock. To prepare my first few batches of stock, I thawed and then simmered two or three stored carcasses for about five hours in a pot of plain water, no vegetables, just as we did for the turkey stock in the gumbo. The stock was good and by good, I mean adequate.
To make it more flavorful, I recently started simmering aromatic vegetables and herbs along with my stash of frozen bones following the ingredients list from my recipe for Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup. I liked it better.
It’s a little more work, but the results are a thick (gelatinous) and flavorful stock. While it doesn’t gel up as much as the stock made from using ten collagen-laden thigh bones as in Aunt Bridget’s recipe, the flavor is rich and flavorful. The only downside is the seasonings used to flavor the rotisserie chicken do carry over ever so slightly so it isn’t the pure, neutral tasting stock you might want to use in a delicate sauce, but it is perfect for making a hearty soup.
Last week, I was at Costco and bought two freshly made rotisserie chickens to have in the fridge for “weekend food” knowing snow was on the way. When I got home and heard there might be a lot of snow on the horizon, I decided to go ahead and use the rotisserie chickens to make a pot of soup since nothing says Snow Day like the smell and warmth of a pot of hearty soup simmering on the stove.
At $4.99 each, Costco’s rotisserie chickens are considered “loss leaders” in the grocery industry; Costco knows they are going to lose money on them, but they also know they are going to draw shoppers into the store, and we all know it’s almost impossible to get out of Costco without buying, at least, five items. Costco happily assumes that risk. I, for one, have never been able to leave Costco with just one rotisserie chicken in my cart.
I once spoke to a Costco butcher who told me each of their rotisserie chickens weighs a minimum of three pounds, not counting the packaging. Anything smaller is used to make food items such as their chicken salad. The good thing for consumers is that most of their roasted chickens weigh a lot more than three pounds, sometimes up to six pounds.
The trick to choosing the biggest bird is to look for the ones where the breast meat touches the top of the container. I told this little tidbit to my stepfather and apparently he told it to his caretaker who shops for him. I know this because when I was visiting him a couple of weeks ago and told his caretaker I would go to the grocery store for her, she admonished me to be sure to buy the rotisserie chicken whose meat touched the top of the package. Ha! He was listening.
To give you an idea of how much meat you can get from a rotisserie chicken, I pulled off 2 pounds, 6 ounces of meat from a chicken that weighed 4 pounds, 5 ounces to begin with. These results are consistent with those I described here.
Between the two chickens, I bought that day, I had five pounds of meat. That’s a deal for $10, even better when you consider the added benefit of making bone broth from the carcass.
As I carved off the meat, I collected the bones, skin and even the gelled chicken juice from the bottom of the packaging, to use for my stock. I discarded the blobs of fat.
How to Make Chicken Stock from Bones
2-3 large cooked rotisserie chickens, or 2-3 frozen carcasses
5 quarts water
1 large unpeeled onion (1 pound), quartered
1/3 head celery, with leaves (½ pound)
4 unpeeled carrots (½ pound)
6 cloves unpeeled garlic (½ ounce), smashed
10 whole stems Italian flat-leafed parsley
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon pepper, no salt
2 tablespoons cider vinegar or lemon juice
Mise en Place:
Remove meat from bones as described in this post. Or, use 2-4 thawed carcasses from the freezer. Place carcasses and water in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. The water should cover the bones. Add a little more water if you need to. Remove the scum that boils to the top, if any.
Add the vegetables and other ingredients all at once. There is no need to peel any of the vegetables, not even the garlic. Just smash it with a food mallet. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a slow simmer. The acid in the vinegar helps to break down the cartilage in the bones and pull out the minerals, such as calcium. Allow to simmer, barely bubbling, for about five hours. I found that if you simmer stock slowly, instead of simmering at a hard boil, the finished stock will be less cloudy. Cool for 30 minutes before handling.
Pour soup through a colander. Discard contents of the colander. Pour it a second time through a sieve or cheesecloth to remove tiny bones and food particles that remain.
Store stock overnight in the refrigerator or outside, if it is cold enough. The next morning, scrape off the layer of hardened, yellowish fat that has risen to the surface and congealed. You should end up with about 4 quarts, or 16 cups, of chicken stock. If you are not going to use the stock within the next couple of days, it is best to freeze it.
But, you might just want to start having a cup of bone broth a day to keep the doctor away.
Or, make a big container of Sick Soup for an ailing friend. Recipe here.
An FYI: A way to carve a chicken or turkey breast:
Carve out the full breast from each side of the sternum, cutting as close to the bone as possible. I often just pull the meat away with my fingers. Slice the breast meat as shown in the photo below. Each breast ways about 11 ounces.
I usually reserve the dark meat for soup and save the white breast meat for salads and sandwiches.
Start saving dem bones in the freezer!
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© 2016 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.