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Learn a simple little trick that will add depth and color to your chicken broth, and put up a few extra quarts this weekend!
Convenience foods are a fact of life, and even though I'm a professional, I won't even pretend that I never resort to things like pancake mix, marinara sauce from a jar, or store-bought stock. As far as I'm concerned, if you can find a prepared product that tastes really good, has a short and pronounceable list of ingredients on the label, and allows you to serve meals that are 99 percent homemade on a daily basis, go for it. That doesn't mean I can't tell the difference between the stuff from a can or a box or a jar and the real thing, though, or that I don't think these basic, building-block ingredients are worth making from scratch. On the contrary, taking the time (when you have the time) to put a big pot of stock on the stove while you're pulling dinner together or stirring up a batch of cookies is one of the very best examples of multitasking that I can think of.
There are about a hundred reasons to make your own stock, but the first and most important is simple: flavor. You control what goes into the pot and, depending on how you plan to use the broth, you may want to add more aromatics or fewer, more or different vegetables, or other customizations.
Starting with raw chicken parts and bones yields a lighter, brighter broth than using the carcasses of roasted birds, which contribute a richer, deeper flavor. If you're making a light summer soup or a delicately flavored risotto, you will want a simple stock that tastes mainly of chicken, but for braises, hearty soups, gravies, and pan sauces, a full-flavored brown stock like this one is what you want. It's got garlic, plenty of herbs, lots of vegetables to give it body, and taking a few extra minutes to sear the halved onion until it's just a step away from charred turns the broth a deep golden brown.
Always let your stock cool completely and then refrigerate it overnight to allow the fat to rise to the top and solidify; it's much easier to skim it off when it's chilled. Then transfer the stock into 1- or 2-cup containers, date them, and refrigerate for up to a few days or freeze for a month or two.
Once you get into the habit of making stock it will become something you do as second nature whenever you're looking for ways to use up the last of that rotisserie chicken, clear out the vegetable bin, or just make the kitchen smell like your grandma's did. And your soups, stews, grain dishes, and sauces will thank you for it.