This is my basic stock for soup-making: rich yet light, salted only slightly, so that it can be reduced for stronger chicken flavor.
The secret to this stock is unattended steeping: I put a whole chicken in a pot with water, bring it to a boil, and then let it cook off the heat, tightly covered. It is a very gentle, simple method, yet remarkably quick: the stock is finished in just over an hour. In addition, you reap the bonus of a perfectly poached chicken—silky, tender, and flavorful.
One 2 1/2- 3-pound chicken
3 quarts water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 inner stalk of celery, preferably with tender leaves
1 small yellow onion, peeled
1. Rinse the chicken well, inside and out. Put the chicken in a large pot and add the water, salt, celery, and onion. Bring to a full boil, uncovered, and remove from heat. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, and let sit in a warm area for 1 hour. Inspect the chicken for doneness; the leg and thigh should separate easily from the joint. If this doesn't occur, cover the pot again and let sit for 30 minutes longer.
2. Carefully remove the chicken to a platter, and discard the celery and onion. Strain the resulting stock through a fine sieve, and carefully skim the fat from the surface. If you don't need the stock immediately, you can cool it at room temperature, then refrigerate overnight, and the fat will solidify and be easier to remove.
From The Gift of Southern Cooking. Copyright 2003 by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock (Knopf, 2003).
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