I’ve gotten this question a lot recently.  What are the three things or techniques that separate the professional cook’s food from the home cook’s food?

I want to talk about Number 2: the second most important difference is the fact that professional kitchens make their own stock.

I cannot say this strongly or loudly enough: DO NOT use canned stock/broth.  Use WATER instead.  I repeat.  You DO NOT NEED to buy that crappy can of Swanson’s low sodium chicken broth!  It will HURT your food.  Use water instead.  When that recipe says 1 cup of fresh chicken stock (or good quality canned broth), please know that your food, 90 percent of the time, will taste better if you use tap water instead of that "good quality" canned broth.  Water is a miracle.

Last time I was doing a recipe for a book with one of the most lauded chefs in the country—he said to the recipe developer/writer, yes, ok to use canned if you don’t have fresh.  I said, “Really?”  He said, “yes.”  I said, “When was the last time you used canned stock?”  When he didn’t respond, I said, “Have you tasted canned stock?”  He said he hadn’t that he could recall.

I repeat: your food will taste better and fresher if you use that wonderful and inexpensive fluid at the end of your tap rather than anything that you can buy in a can or a box.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I have to say, by the end of Thursday, tens of millions of households will have the most miraculous ingredients for stock right at hand–turkey bones that have been lovingly roasted.  And most of these households will have three more days of holiday to put them to use. That roasted turkey carcass, will make an extraordinary rich delicious poultry broth.  Far superior to chicken stock.  Infinitely versatile.  Health-giving!  Yea, verily, I say unto you!

Chop up that carcass or pull it apart so that it fits into your biggest pot.  Cover it with water, enough so it’s covered by an inch or so of water.  Bring it to a simmer.  Skim off anything that rises to the top that you wouldn’t want to eat if you saw it floating in a bowl of soup.  Then, this is important, stick the pot in your oven at about 180 degrees F (or as close to that as possible).  And forget about it for fours.  Or five.  Or six.  As long as it’s not bubbling you’re good. It should not be bubbling, but it should be too hot for you to hold your hand against for more than an instant.

An hour before you want to take it out of the oven, add a couple carrots and a couple big Spanish onions, cut up, and continue cooking in the oven for another hour (if you have celery, parsely, thyme, garlic, bay, peppercorns, these are good to add as well, esp the thyme).  Strain through a colander.  Then, and this is important in my opinion, strain it through a kitchen cloth, cheese cloth if you have it, or any kind of cloth (I use ones that i can wash and reuse because I’m a cheapskate and hate to keep buying cheese cloth).  Straining through cloth makes a huge difference (chinois won’t do it in my opinon).  Now it’s ready to use or chill it and take the fat that congeals off the top.  Great to try a consomme with.  Make a risotto.  Soup, bien sur.  And it freezes great.

Don’t toss those wonderful bones!