29 December 2011

Gruesome Footage of Delightfully Gelatinous Chicken Stock

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: one is roots, the other is wings." — Henry Ward Beecher

We can also give them chicken feet so that they can help us make jiggly chicken stock. Yes, jiggly chicken stock, the best kind of chicken stock. Gelatinous, flavorful, and nutrient-rich. The only thing wrong with making chicken stock made out of chicken feet is the chicken feet.

The footage only gets grosser the farther down you scroll, so if this grosses you out, then you should maybe stop reading. Not that I want you stop reading, though. So you should just keep reading, even if you think this picture is gross.

I got as far as purchasing the feet. Once I got home and set them on the table, I got stuck. I sat there with my head in my hands, involuntarily moaning, occasionally poking the package of feet with an old chopstick, wondering why I had decided to spend my Wednesday gagging at nasty chicken feet instead of doing something fun, or even better, normal.

Along came Alice, who noticed my obvious distress and clambered up onto the chair next to me. She put her hand on mine and said, “It’s OK, Mommy. The chicken feet aren’t alive. They aren’t going to get you.”

“I know, but they’re FOUL. I can’t even look at them…how am I going to get them out of the package? How am I ever going to achieve jiggly chicken broth?”

“I’ll do it, Mom. I’m braver than you.” And before I could protest, or ask her if she got my joke, she tore open the plastic wrap, fearlessly grabbed two chicken feet, and gleefully waved them around in the air. A squeal of horror began to leak from the depths of my soul, but was squelched by a sudden, overwhelming rush of love and adoration for my little girl. Tears welled up in my eyes, blurring the scaly appendages so that I could no longer tell what was a dancing chicken foot and what was my daughter’s ecstatic face. My revulsion to chicken feet disappeared, leaving me with nothing but an all-encompassing love of all creatures great and small, furry and feathery, blah blah blah blah. Whatever. My warm and fuzzy bubble was abruptly shattered when Alice requested two skewers (“those giant toothpicks”) so that she could turn the chicken feet into puppets and make them talk to each other. I have never experienced dry heaving and laughing at the same time, but this might have been the closest I’ve ever come.

How are YOU doing right now, anyway? I hope I haven’t lost anyone. But I won’t take offense if you’ve clicked away by now. And in case you arrived on this post to actually learn about making stock with chicken feet, I will eventually get to that. But first I must ramble on about my child for just a little longer. I hope you understand.

Anyway, I gave her some skewers. Who am I to deny her that joy? I did the skewering, of course. Duh. You think I would let a three year old skewer raw chicken feet by herself? Now that’s just unsafe.

She grabbed the skewers and enthusiastically acted out a few puppet scenes. (That was the part of the story where I gave my child wings, by the way, but not real wings, because this story is about feet. Although wings make good stock, too...) Encouraged by her boldness in the face of danger, I marched into the kitchen, unwrapped the rest of the feet, and proceeded to hack off their talons.

The dry heaves returned.

I questioned whether this was a necessary step, but the internet declared it so, in order for the gelatin in the bones to seep out. It turns out I will do whatever it takes to get jiggly broth, so I cut those claws off as quickly as I could and threw the feet into the stockpot. Alice helped. I like to think that she grew some roots that day.

Recipe for Gelatinous Chicken Stock Made with Chicken Feet

Actually, I’m not going to give you an exact recipe, for a few reasons:

1. There is such a wealth of information on the internet about homemade stock that I am not going to pretend that I know enough about it to be proclaiming myself a jiggly chicken stock expert.

2. I don’t really think anyone is reading this post anymore. I’m pretty sure it’s too gross. I’m just writing it down so in twenty years when Alice tells me we never did anything fun when she was little, I have proof that her childhood was fucking awesome.

But if you really are still reading this, and you really are curious, here is one way that you can achieve incredibly delicious, gelatinous chicken broth:


- About 2 pounds of chicken feet. Chop off the talons and discard them. Hopefully your chicken feet will come already skinned, otherwise you’ll have to do that yourself. Ew.

- The bones and carcasses from 2 roasted chickens.
(EXTREMELY HELPFUL TIP: Any time you roast a chicken or bake chicken parts, you can freeze the carcass and leftover bones, even those from your guests. It sounds soooooo gross to be scraping your guests’ bones into a bag and putting them in your freezer, but the stock cooks for so long that the germs have no chance.)

- A few carrots, onions, and stalks of celery. Nothing needs to be peeled.

- Two bay leaves, fresh or dried thyme, perhaps a teaspoon of peppercorns.

- Three quarts of cold water (I might have poured in four; I can’t remember. Someone else can give you more accurate measurements. Anyway, you really can’t mess up, unless you add too much water, and then your stock will be too thin.)


Bring all ingredients to a boil, skimming the scum from the top every once in awhile (or not). Turn down heat and simmer for hours and hours and hours. Then, go to a rehearsal and send your husband a text to please turn off the stove. Then, come home 4 hours later and find out that he didn’t get your text. Oh well, a little more simmering won’t hurt it.

Let the stock cool for a bit. Strain out everything and discard everything but the stock. Separate into various container sizes and freeze for later use.

Result: incredibly unctuous, smooth, thick flavorful stock that jiggles in the container like a bowlful of jell-o.