Whenever I watch the Barefoot Contessa and she makes something with chicken stock she is always quick to point out that “homemade is better”. She seems to have an endless supply of homemade chicken stock in her home. I decided that I needed to see what all the fuss was about so I’ve been dutifully saving my chicken parts in the freezer for a while. I went with a recipe from a cookbook I received for Christmas, Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook. I love this cookbook because when it tries to teach you something it includes step-by-step photographs so there’s no guesswork. When you read an instruction you don’t understand, there’s often an accompanying photo to clarify. It was mainly for this reason that I went with this recipe to make my chicken stock.

Having now made my chicken stock, I can definitely see why people do it! It really is easy and it does make a difference when it comes to taste. I made the mistake of trying to substitute coffee filters for the cheesecloth. I don’t recommend trying that and I can say for certain that I’ll be purchasing a cheesecloth before I make stock again. If you’ve never made chicken stock, I definitely suggest giving it a shot. It’s a good activity for a lazy Sunday afternoon since it does take some time.

Homemade Chicken Stock
from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook

5 lbs assorted chicken parts (backs, necks and wings)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 to 2 inch lengths
2 celery stalks, chopped into 1 to 2 inch lengths
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into eighths
1 dried bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Place chicken parts in a stockpot just large enough to hold them with about 3 inches of room above (an 8 quart stockpot should do) and add enough water to cover by 1 inch (about 3 quarts). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, using a ladle to skim impurities and fat that rise to the top.

Add vegetables, bay leaf and peppercorns and reduce heat to a bare simmer (bubbles should just gently break the surface). Cook, skimming frequently, for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours (depending on taste preference – the longer the stock is simmered, the stronger it will taste).

Pass the stock through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a large heatproof measuring cup or another bowl or pot. Do not press on the solids. Discard solids.

Skim off fat if using immediately, or let cool completely (in an ice bath, if desired) before transferring to airtight containers. Refrigerate at least 8 hours to allow the fat to accumulate at the top; lift off and discard fat before using or storing stock. The stock can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Makes about 2 1/2 quarts.