There are a multitude of recipes and dishes that call for chicken stock, but most people end up substituting something else in since it's not something they normally have on hand at home. I'll admit that I've done it more than once, or in a pinch, I've resorted to buying a carton of chicken stock from the grocery store.
But chicken stock is actually very easy to make, and if you make it at home, it's very cheap too. The hardest part, really, is deciding to make it in the first place, and planning for it far enough in advance.
Recently, Michelle and I were planning on making chicken tamales and I knew we would need a lot of chicken stock, so I started preparing for it a couple weeks in advance. I took a large metal bowl and put it in a corner in the fridge. Whenever I'd chop up vegetables, or peel carrots, etc. I'd put the vegetable scraps in there – egg shells too… And before I knew it, I had tons of vegetable trimmings, enough to make a very large pot of chicken stock.
But you can't make chicken stock without chicken bones, so I headed to our local grocery store and for only $2, I bought a large package of chicken backs (probably about eight of them). Cheap!
Even though I was making a huge amount of chicken stock, I ended up having much more vegetable trimmings than I needed, but I threw it all in anyways. (I also added some garlic cloves, a bay leaf, salt and pepper and I had to add a little more carrot and celery to balance things out.) The nice thing about making chicken stock like this is that you only need to make a large batch once and then you can freeze it in small portions and take out only what you need…
I did feel bad that our three dogs were missing out on the vegetable scraps that we normally feed them though, but then an idea dawned on me. Once the chicken stock was done, I put the simmered vegetables into the blender along with any shreds of chicken from the stock (taking out the egg shells and bones, of course) and blended this into a pulp with a tiny bit of chicken stock. Put this through a sieve, add some flour, baking powder and peanut butter and what do you get? Doggy cookies!
In the end, I think the doggies felt that the brief shortage of vegetable scraps was worth it. We ended up with loads of chicken stock for super cheap, and the doggies ended up with delicious homemade treats!
The hardest part of making chicken stock really is making that initial decision to make it. But if you just stick a metal bowl in the fridge and collect vegetable scraps over time like I did, it's really no work at all. And chicken stock is one of those things that you really should have on hand at all times…