Hey guys! I originally wrote this as copy for a recipe website. But after sitting on it for a bit, I decided it was much too personal (and that I loved it a little too much) for it to go out into the world under anonymity. So here it is, in its full glory- a little piece on chicken broth*.
Cooking can mean different things to different people. To some, it simply means heating up a frozen burrito in the microwave. To others, it involves a complicated form of kitchen science, or as its better known these days, molecular gastronomy.
To me, cooking usually involves complicated techniques, seasonal ingredients, and lots of spices for flavor. But I do occassionally make recipes that don’t involve complicated techniques, aren’t laden with seasonal ingredients, and don’t have any exotic spice flavorings. I have these simpler recipes in my arsenal–both out of want and need.
When I make these simple recipes, I find them to be a-Ha! moments. Like, a-Ha! Why don’t I do this ALL the time?! A simple roast fish, with nothing more than salt and pepper. Tomatoes and mozzarella and olive oil. Done. Easy. Simple. Boiled penne pasta with store-bought pesto thrown in one pot. Even a marshmallow toasted over the campfire, golden browned on the outside and bursting with a sticky sweetness on the inside. It’s still cooking, you know.
I guess throughout all my years of tinkering around in the kitchen, despite how fun it is to make a chicken biryani or an elaborate puff pastry, it really is the simplest of methods, the simplest of instructions, and the simplest of ingredients—that define the joy of cooking.
In both its prep and particularly due to its potential for usage in so many dishes, chicken broth defines cooking. One needn’t be the most precise chef to make a good chicken broth, nor do you much else except for time and patience to extract bold flavor. Chicken broth is, to me, cooking at its most basic form, and perhaps its most pure.
Onions, carrots, and fragrant celery get diced into haphazard, chunky pieces. No need for appearances’ sake here. Sometimes I substitute fennel for celery, as I have here, for a deeper and richer flavor that I personally prefer. After that, anything goes. I often add radishes, or mushrooms, since I tend to have a few of those rolling around in the bottom of my vegetable drawer. But, with a recipe as simple and wholesome as this, you do as you please.
While I normally am very adamant about making sure I follow the proper steps of a recipe, and that my knife skills for cuts are en pointe, again, with chicken broth I more or less throw it all out the window–or, I guess, into the pot. I love that I don’t have to pay attention to these nitty details, and that I can let my mind wander free–thinking about what plans I’ve got for the week, or the article I’m researching, or even simply, think about nothing more than the task at hand. And still, be creating something amazing in the kitchen.
I’ve lived in China, in East Africa, in Italy and The US- and no matter where I am, I’m able to make a great broth. So as long as I have a chicken, some vegetables, and a big pot of water, I’m able to cook to my heart’s delight.
(*In case you’re wondering, I ended up turning in a piece on roasted garlic. Also basic, also romantic, but definitely no chicken broth.)
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 large yellow onion, cut into quarters
- 2 medium carrots, cut into chunks
- 2 ribs celery, or 1 large bulb fennel
- 1 small bunch parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tbsp. Black peppercorns
- 2 tsp. Salt (or more, to taste)
- 4 liters (16 cups) water
Optional: add mushrooms, radishes, cabbage, or any other bits of vegetables!
- Prep chicken: (Or, as I just read about in Eddie Huang’s book Fresh Off the Boat, chefs call this “Boiling the first”. I didn’t even know it was anything other than a trick my momma taught me!) Boil water in a large pot. When water is boiling, drop chicken in and let it boil for 5-7 minutes. There should be a layer of fat and foam that rises to the top. Remove chicken, and dump out this cloudy water. Rinse out pot, wipe clean, and return to the stove. Remove all unwanted fat from the chicken at this point- the parboiling will make this relatively easy.
- Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in the pot. When olive oil is hot, saute onions. After onions are soft and starting to brown (5-7 minutes), add carrots and celery. Mix using a wooden spoon. After 5 minutes, add chicken, breast side up, to the pot. Add in parsley, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt.
- Add water into pot, cover, and wait for it to come to a boil. When the water is bubbling, turn heat to medium-low, and let the broth simmer for at least 2 hours, more if you’d like to reduce the broth.
*To freeze, ladle chicken broth into freezer-safe ziploc bags. I like to freeze 2-4cups at a time per bag. Squeeze air out and lie flat, stacking one atop each other for convenient storage.