Published January 1, 2009.
Why should any modern cook spend all day eking out flavorful stock from mere scraps and bones?
To make chicken soup the old-fashioned way, we’d freeze the scraps every time we butchered a whole chicken. Once we had saved enough, we would simmer the collected backs, ribs, and wingtips for hours, hovering over the pot with a skimmer in hand, until an intensely flavored stock developed, to which we’d add vegetables, shredded chicken, and noodles. But these days, spending hours to make a pot of chicken soup just isn’t practical.
A faster, more convenient but still deeply flavorful chicken soup, full of vegetables, tender meat, and soft noodles.
We thought that making stock with a mix of canned chicken broth and water would jump-start flavor. The trick was to add real chicken flavor to mask its canned origins. With a 2 to 1 ration of canned broth to water, we made different stocks with various chicken parts to analyze the flavor. Surprisingly, traditional stock made from bones and scraps was the weakest. Boneless breasts and dark meat had the cleanest chicken flavor. However, we wanted intense flavor. Many stock recipes start with raw chicken parts, but would the chicken benefit from sautéing before simmering? We found sautéing was worth a few minutes of extra time. We also knew that flavor extraction happens quickly on the surface of meat, so we wanted to increase the surface area of the chicken in order to speed up the rate at which the flavor was extracted. To test this, we cut boneless breasts and dark meat into small pieces. Tasters found this stock to be far more flavorful than one made with whole chicken pieces. We took the notion to the extreme and pulsed chicken pieces in a food processor. This had the richest flavor of any stock. But why bother with the food processor when ground chicken is available? Store-bought ground chicken gave up its flavor so readily after sautéing with aromatics that, in about an hour, we had an intense, golden, chicken-y stock. It still lacked the body of stock made with bones, but a bit of cornstarch worked as a thickenerlist of recipes