If there is a single thing you could do to elevate any soup or gravy into something mind-blowingly delicious, the kind of stuff you hope your grandchildren will reminisce about when you are gone, it’s starting with homemade broth.
Homemade broth can be the difference between a lentil soup that tastes healthy versus one that tastes hearty and irresistible; between a wan gravy and an unforgettable one; between a risotto that makes a passable first course and one that you want to eat until it’s gone. Not to mention that once you eat homemade chicken noodle soup, you can simply never go back to canned again.
Lots has been written on making chicken soup and stock, including Mimi Sheraton’s classic must-read for anyone who salivates like a Pavlov dog at the mention of soup, The Whole World Loves Chicken Soup. But don’t let all the opinions and rules complicate the issue and make broth-making seem like it’s not worth the bother. The truth is, nothing could be simpler or more worth it. If you’re going to be home for a few hours, it takes about 2 minutes to start, and the simmering does the rest.
Lots of respectable recipes start with a whole, fresh chicken, which will definitely yield a sensational soup, but I don’t think that’s necessary either. If you are budgeting in any way (is anyone not?), you will appreciate a more old-world approach. My grandmother famously got three meals out of a single chicken—the night the bird was cooked, the day after, when something creative was done with any leftover meat, and then the next night, when soup was made from the salvaged carcass.
So I start with a carcass too, although you will definitely need a fresh piece of meat to toss in if you want your broth to have a real depth. Turkey necks, cheap and full of the collagen that enriches broth and gives them a wonderful body, work perfectly (one corner of my freezer has a terrifying graveyard of wrapped bones and necks, ready to go when I’m in the mood). Place your carcass and neck in an 8-quart soup pot and fill with cold water. Bring to a boil.
Simmer as low as you can while still producing an occasional bubbling, and use a spoon to skim off the foam that floats to the top. Once the foam seems to subside, add 1 large peeled carrot, 1 large rib of celery, 1 onion (if you leave the skin on, it will deepen the color of the broth), and, this part is optional but I extremely-strongly suggest you to try it, 1 plum tomato and 1 rind from a piece of parmesan or pecorino romano cheese (just next to the freezer graveyard is the ziploc of cheese rinds). These last two will provide that umami savoriness that will make it impossible to have just one bowl.
Simmer the whole thing for a few hours—2 1/2 to 3 should do it, but if you want a stronger flavor, keep going. Start salting and tasting towards the last hour. Then strain it. That’s it. (This technique usually results in 3 1/2 to 4 quarts of broth.) Freeze in quart containers—that is, if you can resist eating it or cooking with it immediately.