Meat stock or broth (nowadays the distinction is quite blurred) is a very popular dish in Northern Italy for creating hearty soups in these winter days. It is not only used for adding juices to roasted meats, stews and meat sauces during prolonged cooking, but it also creates wonderful dishes on its own. Northern Italy offers a wonderful variety of pastas created to be cooked and served in broth. There is a whole world of different stocks, made with vegetables, beef, chicken, or fumetto made with fish.
This is a family recipe, it includes hen and beef, and the Italian tradition provides many ways to reuse meats that have lost their juices in the stock.
In order to make a sumptuous stock, meats and vegetables are added to the stockpot when water is cold and left simmering for hours.
The traditional family recipes are very simple, you just need to use a very big stockpot, put the ingredients in it and cover with water. Then it must be put on the stove and left gently bubbling for a long period of time.
Now chefs have enhanced the recipe by cutting the onion into two halves and roasting it for few minutes in a non-stick pan. It adds a stronger flavour to the stock, as it extracts the essence of the vegetable.
Place a large stockpot on the biggest burner. Fill with 4-5 litres/4.5 to 5.5 quarts of cold water (about two-thirds full) and add all the ingredients. Bring the water up to the simmering point.
Gently simmer the stock, covered, for 3-4 hours, or even longer if you have time, topping up with water if necessary. Skim the white foam that bubbles to the surface with a slotted spoon.
Strain stock using a fine-mesh sieve and discard bones and vegetables. Let the broth continue to cool until barely warm, then refrigerate in smaller containers overnight. Remove solidified fat from the top of the chilled stock.
Freeze it in ice cube trays and add it to your risotto, stews and roasts.
Dogs love the boiled carrots, and can be given some of the beef bones. The boiled beef is recycled as a stew, in a dish called lesso rifatto or francesina. I add the hen to vegetable soups, to improve the texture.