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Wimpy Chickens

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
I've been making chicken stock and soup for a long time, tried all sorts of different recipes, have generally been disappointed and was wondering if anybody had any ideas. No matter how long I simmer it, chicken stock just doesn't taste very "chickeny" unless I make a double-strength batch (make a second recipe using the liquid from the first). Is there some secret to chicken soup that I'm missing? Did chickens taste more like chicken years ago, or has my memory just developed "taste nostalgia"? All the recipes that involve simmering chicken see too weak. The one from Cooks Illustrated that involved sauteeing chicken then adding water had a lot of flavor, but it was more of a "roasted chicken" flavor that a "soup" flavor, as was soup made from a roasted chicken, which was actually quite good. Anybody have any ideas for a traditional chicken soup that tastes like it should? Thanks! Terry
post #2 of 25
I'm not clear on what you mean by "recipe". I am aware that some add root vegetables and other "stuff" to their stock but I don't understand that because those flavors influence whatever recipe I decide to use the stock for (I keep it frozen for future use) and I may not want those flavors in that recipe. My recipe for chicken stock is chicken and water (sometimes a little white wine) and nothing else. Like you, I sometime roast a chicken before making stock with it. It depends on what flavor I'm looking for. The only thing I can think of is that you may be using too much liquid and/or not reducing the liquid after you've boiled off the bird. I try to reduce the stock by 1/3 when I remove the chicken.
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My failures in life are few. The most blatant of these is my attempts at retirement. I've studied the process carefully but cannot begin to understand how it is done.
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post #3 of 25
I know what you mean- maybe because I'm old enough to remember buying chickens with their feet on. It's not your imagination: they don't taste as good as they used to. I can't vouch for free-range or stuff you buy from the farmer, but the stuff in the stores is insipid- okay, wimpy!

I was taught to make chicken broth/soup from scratch. My mom used two fryers (unless she was able to get hens). It had tons of flavor. As the years went by she'd reach for those boullion cubes and ultimately for a shot of MSG :eek: to get the same flavor intensity.

These days I cheat and use Swanson's low sodium broth as a base, then add breast frames or other bones I can get from the meat counter. I absolutely don't add any flavor enhancers except leeks, dill stalks (which I fish out) and carrot.
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post #4 of 25
web monkey, you don't indicate where you're located but if you know anyone in (or going to) Wyoming, see if you can arrange for them to get you a sage hen (know by other names such as Skeedskadee or prairie chicken) to have it flash frozen and shipped to you. It won't make a lot of stock but, WOW!!, you're sure to find the flavor you're seeking.
post #5 of 25
The problem is age.

In our modern, get-it-done-now, turn-this-stuff-into-cash-flow-now, world, chickens don't stay around long enough to get old and decrepit. In yesteryear, it was the old, decrepit chicken that stopped laying eggs (or laying the chickens, if you get my drift) that made her or his way into the stockpot. They were loaded with connective tissue (collagen). Great for making great stocks. Lots of flavor and structure.

Alas, today. The only megamart chickens you'll see are young and tender, perfect for soft, consistent meat, if not overly flavorful.

Your best bet, if can't procure of supply of old, decrepit chickens, is to add extra chicken collagen, in the form of feet, to your stock. Many full-service butcher shops will sell feet, as will many Asian markets. (Chicken's feet in black bean sauce is a taste and texture wonder!)

Good luck.
post #6 of 25
I wanted to write that perhaps you have grown accustomed to the evil deliciousness of MSG, but I think castironchef brings up a great point and is probably closer to answering your question.
post #7 of 25
Oahu,
You're on to something. When chickens were chickens, we were not so sensetive to the use of salt. So today, we are not only chasing the chicken flavor but we're chasin a little salt to. Especially if we're used to eating out at mid-level restaurants. Oh, hey!!! We're always slammin the base people for using salt to be cheap, but they are experiencing the same thing. It's more or less the only way to bring out the lessor flavor. I heard that from Schrieber when they were revamping after the hurricane.
pan
You can always boil up the cr..p that has been soaked in broth/salt already:eek:
It's getting hard to find regular chicken in the grocers.
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post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks! At least now I know I'm not crazy.

I'm in Upstate NY, and although we have all sorts of egg farms, the old chickens seem to vanish. Probably all sold to soup factories.

I think I'll check out the Asian markets too, since we have a few Chinese restaurants around here that have really kick-*** broth. They have to be getting good chickens from somewhere (or just use a big wad of soup base)

Thanks for the help!

Terry
post #9 of 25
Terry,
Don't put that wad in your soup. I find that lately I'm holding back on vegies. I bring up the broth and then reduce it. Then I add flavors. This is just my taste but I don't like the flavors in the broth while reducing. I always end up with the highs and lows of whatever I use. Ya know, the sweet carrot, onion, and the bitter celery.
FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
That's another good idea. Maybe I should try adding the veggies after it already has enough chicken flavor.

Terry
post #11 of 25
I use the same recipe I learned in culinary school and it never fails to produce a stock that I can use for anything. If I want to make a really good soup, then I'll reduce the stock by 50% or more.

I teach knife skills classes about every other month and by the time class is over I have at least 10 lbs of chopped onions and 10 lbs of carrots and celery, add to that the chicken frames and wings from the class and I have a stock pot of about 8 gallons of stock when I get home. I simply add a bouquet garni, fill the pot with cold water with just enough to cover everything, bring it to a simmer and let it go overnight. No salt, no garlic.

Cooled and strained, it has a nice gelatin feel, a very good flavor and can be used for all kinds of things in the kitchen. I use it to make wonderful French Onion Soup.

Jim
post #12 of 25
Is Minor's Chicken Base available in your area? I've worked in some kitchens where they favored using salt when preparing chicken stock but, instead of salt, they used Minor's Chicken Base at a ratio of 3 tsp of chicken base equals the equivalent of 1 tsp salt. I tend to be a purest so it's not something I would typically use but, if it's flavor you're looking for, that form of "cheat" might satisfy your desire.
post #13 of 25
Thread Starter 
I spent close to 10 years tweaking my pizza dough recipe, so I'm not about to start cheating on my stock. 8-) Terry
post #14 of 25
Factory chicken = wimpy chicken = blah stock. But you already knew that. ;)

If you have Asian markets nearby, that is definitely the way to go. Or farmers' markets, but those tend to be more expensive (but worth it :lips: ).

BTW: Terry -- I love your "bupkis" stuff. Yes, I'm glad I asked. :D
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post #15 of 25
to add...

How many chickens are you using? How much water? You may benefit from using more chickens, but cut up.

I usually use a minimum of two chickens. With the water only an inch or chicken pieces/vegetables etc.

happy eating!
dan
post #16 of 25
Hi,

I've found the same problem and solved it by buying my birds through stores that specialize in poultry. Rarely will I but a supermarket bird. I get roasters or stewing hens, and, if I can't get those for some reason, I look for the largest fryer in the store. I usually buy birds in the 5 - 6 pound range.

In addition, I make sure the birds are as fresh as possible. Not only do I know the delivery dates for the birds, but often when they'be been slaughtered. Some markets have a big volume and do a quick turn-around, and birds are delivered every day, and have been slaughtered the day before. There are some stores in my area that can provide a large bird that has been slaughtered that very morning.

I will only buy high quality poultry from known suppliers, birds that are either organic or that have been fed only vegetarian feed, and which have had access to the outside. No "factory farmed" birds, but birds from smaller operations.

The results are worth it, whether making stock or cooking for a meal.

Kind regards,

Shel Belinkoff
post #17 of 25
Another affordable alternative with rather more robust flavor & plenty of collagen - turkey necks. I did a large batch of brown turkey neck stock a while ago & reduced it down to glace & it's some mighty fine stuff. Especially for us non-rich home cooks who are not constantly tripping over piles of lovely veal bones...

I am aware that turkey is not, in fact, either chicken or veal; I did this on the principle of use what's available & affordable & it's worked out very well.
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The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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post #18 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks!

I'll check out the asian markets. We have several here. I've avoided buying animals (fish, chicken, etc.) from them because it looks so primitive (big pile of dead fish on ice, boxes full of whole chickens with heads, feet, etc.), however that's probably because I'm used to seeing everything wrapped in plastic.

We have a farmer's market (mostly spring, summer and fall) and there is a really nice organic meat supplier there, but I never thought to try their chicken. I'll give them a try in the spring.

On another note, being a professional chef, I'm certain you have more recipes than you can ever try, but if you get the chance, try the pizza dough and make the Garlic Pesto Pizza on my website.

The dough is really phenominal because of the high moisture content, very slow rise and bottled water. My friends always bug the **** out of me asking when I'm going to throw another pizza-party. 8-)

I'd open a pizza place, but "Software Engineer" seems to have better hours than "Pizza Guy" and I like having weekends off. 8-)

Terry
post #19 of 25
While working for other employers and having to "make do" with "regular" chicken bones, I found a few ways to boost the flavour:

1) If Colour isn't a problem, then roast the bones first to a light brown and proceed as normal with your stock. Slightly different flavour, but a heck-uva- flavour boost, darker golden broth though.

2) To increase the gelatin content, add in wing tips, chicken or turkey, if you can't get the feet. If you can get feet, remember to give them a "pedicure" --with a heavy knife...

3) Remember, fat is a thief! Degrease your stocks constantly, as fat will absorb flavour. (you do remember what happens if you leave butter uncovered/unwrapped in the fridge?) But don't throw the fat out, it has chicken flavour. (just like the better chicken broth pastes, read the ingredient list, it has chicken fat) Us the fat to saute your vegetables when you make soup.

4) Start fooling around with fresh herbs, see if anyone has fresh bay leaves, subtle background flavour, but definitely good. Thyme and rosemary aren't hard to grow and contribute good backgrounds too. Once you start using fresh herbs, you won't want to go back to dried.
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post #20 of 25
Great info Cast Iron Chef:chef:
post #21 of 25
Web Monkey, Have you tried to do a chicken consommé from your Chicken stock. That could bring a nice taste, not to mention very nutritious.
post #22 of 25
Thread Starter 
Haven't tried that yet. So far, I'm working on Matzoh Ball Soup that tastes like it did 30 years ago. 8-)

It's been coming out pretty good, but the only way I've been able to do it is by making a second batch using the liquid from the first. However this is very time consuming.

I'll try reducing it as mentioned earlier, and adding the veggies last.

Terry
post #23 of 25
Thread Starter 
OK, so it's an old thread. I just ran across it and thought I'd leave an update. 8-)

So far, Panini's suggestion to simmer, then reduce just the chicken, and then add the veggies has been the most successful.

The second-best method has been to pick up old chickens at the farmer's market. We have a number of farmers that sell grass-fed no-hormone, no-anything beef, and if I give them some advance notice, they'll save fowl for me (if I don't get there at the crack of dawn, they're always gone).

Along the same lines (trying to re-create food that used to taste good, and now tastes like cr**), I rebuilt the "Egg McMuffin" recently. About 1/2 of the improvement came from better ingredients (swapping american cheese for smoked Gouda, replacing the now-tasteless Canadian bacon with real "American" bacon). The rest came from properly cooking and timing everything.

I'm sure it's nothing special to all you chefs out there, but along with a cup of freshly roasted, ground, and brewed coffee, fresh local 1/2 and 1/2, a copy of the New York Times and a fire in the fireplace, it was the high point of my weekend a couple of weeks ago. 8-)

Happy cooking!.

Terry
post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by castironchef View Post

The problem is age.

In our modern, get-it-done-now, turn-this-stuff-into-cash-flow-now, world, chickens don't stay around long enough to get old and decrepit. In yesteryear, it was the old, decrepit chicken that stopped laying eggs (or laying the chickens, if you get my drift) that made her or his way into the stockpot. They were loaded with connective tissue (collagen). Great for making great stocks. Lots of flavor and structure.

Alas, today. The only megamart chickens you'll see are young and tender, perfect for soft, consistent meat, if not overly flavorful.

Your best bet, if can't procure of supply of old, decrepit chickens, is to add extra chicken collagen, in the form of feet, to your stock. Many full-service butcher shops will sell feet, as will many Asian markets. (Chicken's feet in black bean sauce is a taste and texture wonder!)

Good luck.
This pretty much sums it up.  I personally use lots of leg quarters, and I get reasonably good results.
"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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post #25 of 25
So much fascination with chicken stock    But yes, nothing beats a good one.  I like to use the backs and frames, then some wings and necks - roast a bit.  Into cold water, bring to a simmer.  Skim repeatedly till nothing more comes off.

Then the usual veggies go in, simmer as long as possible, not even a true simmer, just so its giving the occasional bubble.  Overnight if possible.  (Great smell in the house by morning time!).  Strain then into clean pot and reduce the heck out of it.  If I have the time down to between 30-50% of original.  Any meat gets picked and used for chicken soups - the cats always get their share too hehe.

If you can find some old boiling fowl, just bung them in whole.  That would probably give more flavour.  And feet for gelatin, as mentioned, from oriental grocers.

At times I cheat and make a not truly chicken stock, but add some veal marrow bones for the gelatin.  Really makes a lovely jelly, or if I can't get them, then some pork bones I've taken the meat off from.  But never lamb bones, just doesn't taste right.  Bacon rind seems to make its way in there too - I trim the fat and rinds from streaky bacon and store them in freezer till I have enough to use for either making bacon fat for frying/roasting, or for adding to stocks, soups and stews etc.  Put them in whole and when dish is finished just pull them out.

You can try this to - some places you can buy packages of pork skin for making crackling - bung some of that into a stock...yum yum.  Of course there'll be a lot of fat to skim once it's cooled - use that for roasting your potatoes in. 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
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