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One French word: bouillon, a French recipe: bouillon de poule

Bouillon, masculine noun (le bouillon, un bouillon, des bouillons) = stock (in the sense of beef stock for example), pronounced bou-ee-yon, with the emphasis on the first syllable, and the final n hardly pronounced.

Hands up all those who chuck a chicken carcass in the bin once the meat has been eaten? Or a duck carcass Or pork bones?

Well you are missing something, you can get another couple of meals out of a chicken, for instance, if you make stock with the carcass. Any meat bones can be used to make stock, some better than others. You must have a farmer’s market, an ethnic market, maybe an Amish market near you, where you could ask for a ham bone with a little meat that is left after all presentable slices of ham have been removed? This is a real gem.

You can use a pressure cooker, or just an ordinary large saucepan. With your stock, you can make nourishing and tasty soups. Any meat left on a carcass falls off easily after being used for stock, and is sometimes enough for a meal in itself, or an addition to a soup, or at worst, to give to the dog. If you can get a ham bone, put it to cook with beans even if there is little meat left on it, it will give wonderful flavour to the dish.

So my recipe for today is bouillon de poule (or poulet more usually). I’m making some as I speak (write, I mean), mmmm, it smells lovely.

Chicken carcass ready to make stock

Ingredients: a chicken carcass and a few vegetables: onion, garlic, bouquet garni, carrot…


  1. In a large saucepan, put between one and two litres of water to boil.
  2. Add salt, an onion (you don’t even need to peel it, it will give colour to your stock), and a cloveor two of garlic.
  3. Make a bouquet garni, that is, a little bundle of fresh thyme, bayleaf and celery (see picture below).
  4. You may also add other vegetables to the pot if you wish, carrots and such, I personally don’t.
  5. Add the bones, or the chicken carcass, broken into two to fit into the pan. Scrape all the jelly and fat that may be left in the roasting pan. This will give flavour. If you want a less fatty bouillon, you can always degrease it later.

Bouquet garni

6.  Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour.

You can also, as I said, use a pressure cooker, in which case, the cooking time will be at least halved. But I’m not very good on pressure cookers (cocotte minute).

7. Leave to cool, strain through a colander, putting the bouillon into a clean saucepan.

8. Pick the carcass. You will see from my photo above that there was quite a lot of meat left on the carcass I used (I get tired of eating cold chicken). I divide the meat from the carcass into three bowls: one for large chunks of breast or thigh meat that I can make a curry with for instance; one for nice but bitty bits, which can go into a bowl of Chinese chicken and noodle soup; and one for icky bits from inside, and cartilage and such, which I give to the dog (who doesn’t think it’s icky at all!). Do the same with other bones if you are not using chicken.

9. Throw away the bones, the onion, the garlic and the bouquet garni.

10. Strain the bouillon in the clean saucepan once more using a finer strainer. When it is quite cool, put it in the fridge, the fat will rise to the surface and congeal on the top. If the bouillon is concentrated enough, it will turn to jelly.

You can remove the fat if you wish, either throw it away, or use it to cook vegetables for soup. You should use your bouillon within a couple of days, or freeze it in suitable sized portions. It might be a good idea to boil it down and concentrate it so that it takes up less room in the freezer.

There is nothing like home made stock. It is filled with flavour, you know what has gone into it, and you have the feeling of getting something for nothing!

To use it for making soup, just follow any soup recipe, and instead of putting water or a cube, use your home-made stock. If you want to make Chinese chicken and noodle soup (this is not a French recipe but I’ll give it to you anyway!), heat the required quantity of bouillon, with dried egg noodles or rice noodles as per instructions on packet, and the chicken pieces from your middle bowl.  In the bottom of a very large soup bowl, put a couple of lettuce leaves, a raw egg yolk (this is optional), some chopped or grated garlic and the same of ginger, fresh not dried, a teaspoon of Kikkoman soy sauce, a teaspoon of oriental sesame oil.  Remove the noodles from the bouillon and put them into the soup bowl. With a slotted spoon transfer a portion of chicken pieces to your soup bowl. Taste the bouillon for seasoning and pour it, boiling, over all this. Boiling is important, it cooks the egg (soft boiled). You can stir as you pour if you like the egg scrambled “egg drop” style. In this case you can put the whole egg, not just the yolk. On top of your soup, add chopped fresh coriander, sliced spring onion green, and sliced fresh red chili if you like it. This is simply the most delicious soup, and it makes a full meal. I do it about once every two weeks, I love it.

Soupe chinoise

Chinese chicken and noodle soup

So promise me from now onwards you will never, never again throw away a carcass? If ever you don’t have time to deal with it, you can freeze it and do your stock later!

Bon appétit.

PS – are you keeping your vocabulary book up to date? It is essential you do if you wish to remember the words. Keep it in the smallest room in the house, we all spend a certain time there. It will be time well spent if you re-read your French words.


About OneFrenchWord

I was a professional linguist and have been a life-long foodie. I am now lucky enough to be retired and free to roam the beaches around my home at the tip of the Finistère (Brittany, France). Writing is occupying a larger place in my life, with this blog and a children's book in preparation. I shall feel much happier calling myself a writer when I have published a book. And so posts on OneFrenchWord will be published first as an e-book, my ambition being to see a glossy volume on French language and cuisine in print some day. So keep reading, and snap up the book when it appears!

6 responses »

  1. One of these days..I’m going to have to try one of your recipes :)
    I love trying new things :D

  2. I make soups all the time. But I use the whole chicken, take the meat out after an hour to use for enchiladas, and then continue the carcass cooking for another four hours (or more) Homemade chicken soup is the best!!

  3. Thank you for this lovely old recipe, I have not made it for many years, and recall the process being well worth the effort. Cooking slowly, and with many processes (or any some days) is getting more challenging, but with the help of my handy assistants (husband and/or kids), it has become a family affair. Perhaps we can make it together too one day? And at the same time, I’ll share some of my cooking with you too.

    • I do hope we shall, Kate! Thank you for your comment, I know you are usually too weary for that. Show your boys the recipe. They should learn now to make stock, it’ll be useful to them for the rest of their lives.

  4. Pingback: One French word: agrume, a French recipe: dorade en papillotte au beurre d’agrumes | One French Word

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