I make my favorite chicken stock from the leftover carcasses of Sunday's herb-roasted chicken. In the same way, I hang on to the fish heads and bones and the shells of shrimp, crab, and crawfish as flavor bases for the best stocks. After making a pot of stock, I pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it, then store the cubes in a freezer bag. That way, I can easily retrieve them as needed, without having to defrost quarts of stock at a time.
1/4 cup canola oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 leek, white part, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb roasted chicken bones and carcass
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 tbs black peppercorns
Heat canola oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Cook the onions, celery, carrots, leeks, and garlic, stirring often, until they are soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.
Add the chicken bones and carcass, the bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and 3 quarts of water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, until the stock has reduced by half, about 2 hours.
Strain through a fine sieve into a container with a cover. Allow the stock to cool. Cover and refrigerate, then skim off the fat. Freeze the stock in small batches to use later.
Basic Fish Stock
Substitute 1 pound fish heads and bones for the chicken bones and carcass.
Basic Shellfish Stock
Substitute 1 pound shells from shrimp, blue crab, crawfish, or lobster for the chicken bones and carcass.
Basic Shrimp Stock
Substitute 1 pound shrimp shells for the chicken bones and carcass.
Basic Crab Stock
Substitute 1 pound crab shells for the chicken bones and carcass.
Basic Ham Hock Stock
Substitute 4 smoked ham hocks for the chicken bones and carcass, saving the meat for another use.