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 bones, too. To prepare my first batch of chicken stock, I thawed and then cooked the 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 started simmering aromatic vegetables and herbs with my stash of frozen bones following the ingredients list from my recipe for Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup. Much better.
It’s a little more work, but the results are a flavorful stock. While it doesn’t gel up as much as the stock made from using the ten collagen-laden thigh bones in Aunt Bridget’s recipe, the flavor is rich and delicious. You should know the seasoning used to flavor the rotisserie chicken does carry over into the stock so it isn’t as pure as the more neutral tasting stock you might want for 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.” When I got home and heard there might be a lot of snow on the way, I decided to go ahead and use the rotisserie chickens to make soup since nothing says Snow Day like the smell and warmth of 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. Costco happily assumes that risk. I know I, for one, have never been able to leave Costco with just one food item 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 chicken salad or chicken pot pie. The good news for consumers is that most of their roasted chickens weigh a lot more than three pounds, sometimes up to six pounds! Look for a chicken whose breast meat is touching the top of the packaging, and you’ll know you’ve picked a big one.
To give you an idea of how much meat you can get from a rotisserie chicken, I pulled off 2 pounds, 6 ounces from a chicken that weighed 4 pounds, 5 ounces. 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 getting stock from the carcasses.
As I carved off the meat, I collected the bones, skin and even the gelled chicken juice from the bottom of the packaging. 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. These carcasses are from rotisserie chickens from Whole Foods. I used the saved stems from parsley instead of the leaves. Also had lots of singlet garlic cloves that I threw in there.
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 the vegetables, not even the garlic. Just smash it with a food mallet and throw it in the pot. 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 seven hours. I found that if you simmer stock slowly, instead of boiling, 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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