Stocks, The Base For Great Recipes

Stocks and sauces play an important role in the culinary world. Stocks are the perfect kitchen companion as they are easy to prepare and utilize scraps that would otherwise be wasted. The ability to create delicious stocks will be your ticket to deep rich flavor. Sauces are the decadent derivative of stocks. They are concentrated in flavor, add richness, smoothness, and enhance any dish.

Stock or bouillon in French is the plain unclarified broth obtained from simmering meat and vegetables in water. It is used instead of plain water for cooking certain dishes, and for making soups and sauces. For a versatile stock, the basics are water, bones, meat/fish trimmings (for meat and fish stocks), celery, onion, carrot and a bouquet garni, such as parsley stalks, a bay leaf or thyme sprigs (all three tied in a bundle or placed in cheesecloth), plus a few peppercorns and maybe a few leek leaves. No salt though. Stock isn’t salted, to avoid over-seasoning your finished dish. There are four main types of stock: vegetable, chicken, meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb) and fish. While you can usually substitute one for another with no real effect, it’s usually best to stick with the stock that goes with what you’re cooking. If you’re making a chicken dish, use chicken stock instead of beef, although vegetable stock is a good substitute, and may also add a nice layer of flavor to your recipe.

Meat stocks can take a few hours, so larger batches are wise. Since stocks are made using leftovers or scraps – parts that might otherwise be thrown away- save bones and trimmings in the freezer. You can start making your stock once you’ve collected enough. Although, you can always buy bones cheaply from the local butcher if time is of the essence. A good rule of thumb is to have about one part solid ingredients to one part water.

  • Chop vegetables into large uniform chunks – too small and the long cooking time will cause them to disintegrate. Don’t use starchy vegetables such as potatoes as these will make the stock cloudy, or vegetables that are too green as these can color the stock.
  • Place chicken carcasses/bones into a large pot and top with cold water. Heat to a gentle simmer and skim off any scum that rises up (Dépouiller). The scum is coagulated protein, held together by fat. While it won’t hurt you, it won’t taste good so it’s best to remove it. Top off with cold water if needed.
  • Add vegetables and a bouquet garni. Bring to a simmer again but do not let the stock boil vigorously. Regulate the heat so that a few bubbles rise to the surface. Skim regularly and keep the ingredients covered by topping off with cold water. Cook uncovered for 3-4 hours.
  • Strain the stock, pour into a clean pot and boil to reduce and intensify the flavor. Use your judgment and taste buds to determine how far to reduce. Stock can be frozen. Just pour into freezer bags or ice cube trays.

With meat stock you’ll want it dark and rich, so roast your meat/beef bones and vegetables for about 45 minutes in a 400- 450 degree F oven before adding them to your stockpot and adding water. If you skip this step, your stock will have a lighter color and flavor. Now start saving your scraps and get cooking. Enjoy the process!

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