Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Homemade Chicken Stock, Pressure Cooker Style

Homemade chicken stock is something I cook when I'm going to be in the kitchen anyway, working on something else. It only takes a few minutes to get it started - the real time is in the long simmering on the stove. Unless you have a pressure cooker and then it's done in 30 minutes! I'll tell you how to do it both ways and you may find that it's so easy and delicious that you make the switch to homemade more often.
Let's assume you have a new generation pressure cooker (not that crazy thing your grandmother used). Before closing it up for the pressure cooking part, we're going to take a few minutes to brown the vegetables and chicken to develop some wonderful flavor that will transfer to the stock as it simmers.
Start with a thin layer of olive oil and drop in 5 chicken legs or thighs with skin and bones intact for flavor. Brown nicely on all sides and move them to a plate for the next round. Rough chop the vegetables: one big onion, 3 or 4 ribs of celery with the leaves, and one carrot, preferably one which looks like this little headless carrot-man above. Add the carrot and celery to the pot and toss a bit to coat then brown these as well. 
  Remove these and follow with the onion just long enough to brown.  
Now add everything back to the pot and cover with water, at least 4-6 cups. Throw in 3 or 4 garlic cloves. They don't need to be peeled, just smashed a little. Some fresh parsley and a few sprigs of thyme are also good. 
IF you're using a pressure cooker put the top on now and bring up to pressure, lower the heat, and cook for 30 minutes. You will not believe how rich and deep the flavor will be in this broth! The pressure cooker drives flavor into the food rather than losing it to evaporation. The controlled high temperature creates a browning reaction that makes for amazing flavor development. (If you are using a stockpot instead, cover now and simmer - don't boil! - for 3 or 4 hours. You will probably need to start with more water also, 8 cups or so, since it will evaporate.)
(Only 30 Minutes later in the PC)
(Straining the broth through cheesecloth.)
You can see how incredibly rich this is, looking almost like gravy! If you're using it later, refrigerate and it will be easy to remove the fat layer from the top once it is cold. Otherwise, skim it off as best you can before adding this broth to your soup or sauce.
 Now, I find that the chicken often retains its flavor in the pressure cooker and is so tender it can be used for soup or casseroles. Taste it and see what you think. (If you've used the traditional method of 3-4 hours in a stockpot, it will not be fit for anything but the wild animals foraging through your nightly trash. Sorry, mum.)

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