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Making chicken stock from scratch, Cuenca-style, with real chicken fingers

OK, so maybe other people call it chicken stock, or bouillon. We call it Juice, and Jackie missed it very much when we moved to Ecuador.

We used to buy a couple of six-packs of this organic stuff at “The Shrine” (Costco) when we lived up north. Jackie used it for practically everything, from home-style Japanese hotpots to super enriched brown rice to old fashioned chicken soup. She was seriously annoyed with the lack of readily available juice when we first moved here.

The Maggi brand instant stock cubes are inexpensive, can be found everywhere, and will work in a pinch, though they tend to be high in sodium and include a long list of mystery chemicals. And frankly, the end product just isn’t as tasty as fresh chicken stock.

Be sure to get real chicken fingers.

Liters of delicious juice can be purchased at a few specialty stores, such as La Yunta, but you of course pay a premium for the extra labor involved. Did you know you can also buy juice at rotisserie chicken places around the city? We’ve checked it out but they’re a bit too salty for us.

Making your own is very inexpensive and very simple, if somewhat time consuming. But what the hell — we’re retired. It’s not like we have anything better to do. And we have total control over what seasonings, if any, are put in to the final result.

Jackie and I buy bags of chicken parts, typically heads, necks and feet, or just backs, at Supermaxi. The most recent bag cost us a whopping $1.74 for a 2.5 kg. bag. They are sometimes sold out, so we usually buy a bag whenever it is available and toss it in our freezer until we need to make more juice, typically two or three times a month. We’ve bought chicken parts at the mercado too.

Don’t foget to trim the nails, but not too close … ouch!

There are many recipes on line for chicken stock, but we make the stock without any salt or other ingredients, figuring that we can add the appropriate stuff once we decide what it will be used for. E.g., if we’re making rice, we don’t add anything but a little salt. If we’re making ramen, we need to simmer again with some onions and garlic.  For vegetable soup, you will need to add . . . well, vegetables.  So, at this stage, leave it bare.

You will need a big-ass pot and a fairly fine mesh strainer.

So, follow these steps:

  1. Dump all the pieces into the sink. Separate the feet from the rest.
  2. With kitchen shears, cut the talons off the feet at the first joint. Discard the talons, or save for another use (see below).
  3. Place all the chicken parts (except the talons) into a big pot and cover with water 1 – 2 inches above the parts. Seeing all the parts piled up naked in the pot is a bit unsettling, like coming across the great Chicken Holocaust.  Lighten up.

    Mixing all the part.
  4. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Then dump out all the water and refill the pot. I’m not entirely sure why this step is recommended, but all the sites say to do this. I suspect it is a health thing, to finally cleanse the chicken parts from all the unspeakable things that might still be on them.
  5. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook at a low simmer for 6 hours. Meanwhile, consider what use you might have for the chicken toes. A mojito or two helps with this process. One suggestion: combine toes, sugar and gelatin in a small sauce pan and cook on medium heat to make . . . Toe Jam!  Bwahahahahahaaa!  [This column will take a short recess to compose ourselves.]

. . . ahem.

  1. Remove from heat and, with metal tongs, remove all chicken pieces. You can discard the feet and heads at this stage, and put the remaining pieces into another container and set aside.
  2. Pour the stock through a fine sieve into another pot. Some cooks on line recommend straining it through cheesecloth, but I think this is just for aesthetics, to make the stock clear and pretty. Heck with pretty — I want it to taste good, so the addition of some of the tiny bits and pieces and fat does just that, even if it ends up looking a bit cloudy.

    The final product.
  3. Cover and cool completely. You could put it in the fridge if there’s enough room, though it is pretty hot at this stage. I just put it outside on the porch overnight. Be sure it is covered, to keep out feral cats and other unwanted guests.
  4. Once cooled, pick off the meat from the remaining pieces of neck and/or backs, and discard the bones. This is somewhat tedious, and doesn’t give you a huge amount, but it does give you a useful amount of shredded and cooked chicken.And the dogs love it.
  5. In the morning, bring the stock indoors. Skim off the fat and, with a ladle, transfer the stock into freezer-safe containers and freeze for future use.

Good stuff.