Despite its resounding popularity, I'm ambivalent about my slow cooker at best. (Until recently, mine was gathering dust with my tartlet pans, pasta maker, and popsicle molds in
my kitchen's island of misfit toys a closet.) My change of heart has only one explanation: these life-changing beans. This got me to thinking, what other recipes would a slow cooker be an ideal medium for, a technique where a slow cooker's main virtue (low, even heat) is actually allowed to shine.
The obvious, "why wasn't I doing this all along answer" was stock, specifically any meat-based stock (I'm still a quick-cooking vegetable stock loyalist). Why? Because the single most frustrating part of making bone-based stock is skimming off all of the scum that bubbles up to the top as it simmers along. Made in a slow cooker, the liquid is heated to such a low temperature that this need is virtually eliminated, and the resulting stock is practically crystal-clear. It's just the thing for broth-based soups like chicken noodle where the liquid's clarity is allowed to shine.
Some butchers display chicken backs and/or necks in the butcher case; even if they're not on display, most butchers will sell these less-glamorous bits to you if you ask. (Backs and necks are more economical than other chicken parts, as they're trim from breaking down a whole bird for commonly purchased cuts like breasts and thighs.) For the clearest stock, line the fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth before straining.
2 pounds chicken wings, necks, backs, or other parts (raw parts or roasted carcasses)
4 smallish carrots, rinsed and roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 leek, thoroughly rinsed and roughly chopped
1 smallish onion, peeled or unpeeled, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
- Place all of the ingredients in your slow cooker, add enough cold water to cover, and cook on low for at least 12 hours or overnight. You may need to skim the surface toward the beginning of cooking.
- Use a spider skimmer to remove the larger pieces, then strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl, pressing on any remaining solids to ensure you get all of the liquid. Let cool completely.
- Use within a week or freeze in 1- to 2-cup portions.
- Soups/Stews, Stock/Broth
- About 2 quarts stock
- Cook Time
- 12 hours 15 minutes