This is the perfect time of year for soup and all the slow cooked dishes that are based on chicken stock. If you are experienced making stock with a stewing hen, be prepared to take things up a notch by using a whole rooster instead. And if your normal source of chicken stock is a tetrapak or a can, hang on to your socks!
The ideal rooster for this recipe is fully mature but not super old, and has been dressed with head left on and feet scalded and peeled for cleanliness. Don’t throw away the good parts! If you don’t dress your own, tell the processor that you want the head and legs. Since he will be tough, resting the carcass in the fridge for 2 days is a good thing to do. Butcher shops used to be ‘decorated’ by rows of whole chicken with head and legs still on, the meat tenderizing as it hung. Why did they stop doing this? Here is a photo from France:
1 rooster, pref. 1 to 2 years old, including the head and legs.
1 large yellow onion, with papery skin left on if clean, quartered
2 ribs celery and a handful of celery leaves, chopped
2 to 4 carrots, roughly chopped
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 inch fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
Place the rooster in a 2 gallon stock pot, add the veggies and vinegar, and cover with 4 quarts cold water.
Rooster in pot
Bring to a boil and be prepared to skim a lot. One of those very fine skimming spoons that you can buy in Chinatown makes it easier. Simmer (don’t boil!) covered for about 2 hours. Lift out the rooster, let it cool enough to handle, and take it apart. Bones and legs go back in the pot, which should still be on low heat. Skin, cartilage and yucky stuff you didn’t know you left in there, go to the dog/cat/pigs. The meat should slip off the bones easily; set a little meat aside to go back into the soup if you are going to make soup, and the rest in a plastic bag for sandwich meat and cooked chicken dishes. Add salt to taste to the simmering stock, and continue cooking it for another 90 minutes. Then add the ginger and garlic and cook a final half hour. (In the photo you see shredded ginger added at the start - I decided that this is too long cooking for the ginger and garlic, so now add them at the end.) Strain it, and use the stock for making soup right away, or cool it and refrigerate or freeze it.
My favourite simple soup to make with this stock is to simply to add some seasonings – a little more salt, some pepper and some lemon juice – and then carefully poach an egg for each serving. This, with a slice of bread, is heaven!