Chinese Chicken Stock
With Chinese New Year coming in a few days, preparations have started for our family meal. I will be making a seafood hotpot, the base of which, will be this chicken stock. Chinese chicken stock tastes different from American chicken stocks. If you are needing a large amount of chicken stock for a Chinese dish and don't want to make your own, keep in mind that if you use an American stock, the taste will be different. You can find canned Chinese stocks at Asian markets and sometimes in larger grocery stores who are carrying more and more Asian products.
The best types of chickens to use for a stock are stewing hens. Admittedly, I most often use chicken bones, necks and backs cut from regular meat chickens. They are the easiest to buy and I often have those pieces around after roasting a chicken for dinner. A left over roasted chicken carcass makes a rich and flavorful stock. For making a large volume of stock, I was going to need to procure some chicken. Stewing hens are so good because they are older chickens, who have been egg layers over the first year or two of their lives and then culled and used as stewing hens. Their meat is tough and stringy, probably not so great for consuming, but more flavorful for making a richer stock. Asian markets here carry stewing hens, most often frozen, and yesterday I found them at Central Market. Central Market carries a good variety of Asian foods, makes their own fresh tortillas, operates a great deli, seafood and meat department and generally carries some interesting products you don't see at other markets. I make a trip up there just to browse every so often.
I bought two stewing hens anticipating making a large pot of stock and freezing some for future use. Stewing hens are thinner and less expensive than regular meat chickens. I paid about $6.00 for both. To prepare the hens, place them on a sheet pan, split each in half and generously salt them with kosher salt. Smash two, 2 inch pieces of peeled fresh ginger and spread it out under and over the hens. Drizzle a half cup of Chinese cooking wine over top and lay 4 green onions around the hens. Cover the hens with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for about 6 hours (or overnight). My mom swears by this process. She says it intensifies the flavors and does this with all of the different stocks she makes.
Strain the stock, discard all the solids, unless you have a dog who might enjoy the meat and chill in the refrigerator. Once the stock is chilled, remove almost all of the fat that has solidified on top. I like to keep a little for flavor. The stock is now ready to use.
Post script: Photos of the hot pot