Making chicken and vegetable broth
Sarah asked a few days ago how I make chicken broth. I'm not really qualified to write the authoritative article on it, but I can tell you what I do. My approach is fairly laid-back.
Method 1: Need chicken?
Here's how I usually make chicken broth: I buy chicken thighs in big packages for a dollar a pound or less, rip the skin off, and freeze them in appropriate portions. When a recipe calls for plain chicken (shredded, etc.), I just pull out a package or two. I thaw it in the microwave for awhile, then toss it in a pot of boiling water (about 1 pint of water to each thigh to begin with, if you want to measure). If I'm feeling ambitious, I might add salt, a celery stalk, a carrot, some leftover onion, a bay leaf, and some peppercorns, but usually I don't think about that.
I cook the chicken until it registers done on my thermometer, then pull everything else out of the broth. Refrigerate overnight, then pour through a fine-mesh strainer to get rid of fat and other gunk.
This is my favorite method of cooking chicken, as I don't have to babysit it on the stove and I get some nice chicken broth into the bargain.
Since most soups I make are fairly strong-tasting, I'm not really picky about the flavor of my broth as the spices end up masking it. In fact, I think I prefer the broth that I make with nothing but chicken, water, and salt.
Method 2: Got chicken?
Sometimes I also make chicken broth out of bits and pieces of leftover chicken, giblets, bones, and such. It's also very easy. Just plop everything you have in a pot and add any leftover vegetables you might have hanging around, but not too much of any one thing (pick vegetables that you won't mind tasting in your chicken broth: you might want to skip the broccoli). Toss in a bay leaf, some salt, and a few peppercorns too, if you like. Or just stick with the chicken.
Cover with water by double or triple and bring to a boil. Simmer for an hour, or as long as you like. Strain into another container and discard all the solids from the pot. Refrigerate the broth overnight, then pour through a fine-mesh strainer to remove fat and little bits of gunk.
Method 3: Got veggies?
Why stick to chicken? I used to do vegetable broth all the time, saving ends of carrots, celery leaves, artichoke extras, potato peels, and anything clean and technically edible. Try to keep a balance: a bit of cabbage is fine, but if you add too much, you know what your broth will taste like! Toss it in a bag in the freezer until you have enough, and proceed with Method 2 above.