Brown Chicken Stock from Outlander Kitchen

Hot Broth at Castle Leoch from Outlander (Brown Chicken Stock)

"I'm so sorry...that is, I mean, thank you for...but I..." I was babbling, backing away from him with my face flaming.  He was a bit flushed, too, but not disconcerted.  He reached for my hand and pulled me back.  Careful not to touch me otherwise, he put a hand under my chin and forced my head up to face him.

"Ye need not be scairt of me," he said softly.  "Nor of anyone here, so long as I'm with ye." He let go and turned to the fire.

"You need somethin' hot, lass," he said matter-of-factly, "and a bit to eat as well.  Something in your belly will help more than anything."  I laughed shakily at his attempts to pour broth one-handed, and went to help.  He was right; food did help.  We sipped broth and ate bread in a companionable silence, sharing the growing comfort of warmth and fullness.

Finally, he stood up, picking up the fallen quilt from the floor.  He dropped it back on the bed, and motioned me toward it.  "Do ye sleep a bit, Claire.  You're worn out, and likely someone will want to talk wi' ye before too long."

This was a sinister reminder of my precarious position, but I was too exhausted to care much.  I uttered no more than a pro forma protest at taking the bed; I had never seen anything so enticing.  Jamie assured me that he could find a bed elsewhere.  I fell headfirst into the pile of quilts and was asleep before he reached the door.

Outlander (Chapter 4)

Broth and bread.  A quick and common meal for everyone from crofters to castle inhabitants throughout the Outlander world.  Out here in the real world both were kitchen staples for hundreds of years, when everything was homemade, food supplies were often stretched, and nothing was ever wasted.

Especially the bones.  Homemade stock is an inexpensive source of protein, nutrition and flavour that is undervalued and underused in today's kitchens.  And while packaged stock is occasionally essential for last-minute dinners, the heartiest and most delicious soups (as well as stews, sauces, crock pots and rice pilafs) start with their own pot of liquid gold.

Brown Chicken Stock

Meat and poultry stock can be divided into 2 broad types: white and brown. A white stock is made from raw bones and has almost no colour, while a brown stock is made from bones roasted with tomato puree and is therefore much more richly coloured.

Each has its place. White stock is used in cream soups, light sauces and anywhere else where a neutral colour is desired (like that rice pilaf). Brown stock finds its home in clear soups, pan sauces and gravies, and adds a rich amber hue to any plate or bowl.  Brown stock is also the one you want for companionable sipping.

I chose chicken stock because it's the most common in today's kitchen.  You'll find my brown beef stock recipe here. If veggie stock is more your scene, try this recipe -- and check out this article for tips to get the most out of a vegetable stock.

Most people cite time as the number 1 reason they avoid making stock.  I won't argue that stock takes some time -- about 3 hours from start to finish for this brown chicken stock -- but if you're going to be around the house anyway, why not try a pot full?  Once it's simmering, just turn on the exhaust fan and walk away. (Check back every 30 minutes or so.)

And if you have a really big pot, make a big batch.  The broiler pan full of bones and veggies below made 7 quarts of stock.

That's enough to keep us in soups and stews for the rest of the winter.

browned-bones Brown Chicken Stock

In addition to the bones, a stock gets it flavour from the mirepoix, which is an aromatic mix of onion, carrot and celery, as well as the bouquet garnii, a bundle of herbs and spices immersed in the simmering stock.

The one flavouring you never add to a stock is salt.  NEVER SALT A STOCK.  When you use your stock in a soup or sauce, or serve it, steaming in mugs for those coming out of the cold, is the time to season it with salt.  And maybe a little freshly cracked black pepper too, eh?

The best stocks are crystal clear.  Follow these few simple rules to prevent impurities such as blood and fat from making a cloudy mess:

  • Start with cold water
  • Trim all bones of excess skin, fat and meat
  • Always keep a stock uncovered during cooking
  • Keep the stock at a slow simmer
  • Never stir a stock
  • Skim the stock regularly
  • When finished, ladle the stock through a strainer rather than pouring it straight from the pot.  The stock at the very bottom is generally heavy with sediment.  I usually give it to the dog.
  • Degrease cold stock before reheating

I could say more about stock...heck, I could talk about food all day if you let me...if you're interested, here's one last article with more tips for making rich, delicious stock.

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