>Bones. Veggies. Aromatics.
The building blocks of a good stock.
I know stocks may seem like a boring subject, but they’re one of the most important ingredients in many dishes. Stock is the base of many sauces, soups and stews. Plus, they’re just fun to make! (For me, at least.)
So, for the sake of going back to the basics, let’s talk about what makes a good stock. In making it yourself, you’re allowed to introduce many of the flavors you like – such as thyme, rosemary, tomato, garlic, etc.
Ratio is important. You really need a lot of bones. Whenever you roast your chicken, or buy one already roasted from the store, save the bones! You’ll need all the bones you can get. Just put em’ in the freezer. When it comes to vegetables, you’ll need carrots, celery and onions. The ratio for veggies is about 25% carrots, 25% celery and 50% onions. One time, I used a pizza pan to roast my veggies, and made a sweet looking pie chart that put that ratio into perspective.
But, I’m also a total nerd.
Roasting your vegetables will surely give you a darker, more robust stock, but you don’t have to.
A good stockpot is generally something that’s heavy bottomed and taller than it is wide. I don’t have a bunch of space in my kitchen, but I generally have one pot that I use just for stock. As enjoyable as it can be to make stock, it’s a lot of work for relatively little product, so you want to make it count when possible.
This is how I like to throw down.
Throw you veggies on a pan, coat with a bit of olive oil and roast on 350° for 30-40 minutes. Once they’ve gathered some color, throw them into a big stockpot, fill with cold water and add the rest of your aromatics. Peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme and garlic. [Follow below instructions.]
Chicken bones (back, neck, breast), carrots, celery, onions, a couple of bay leaves, teaspoon or so of peppercorns, thyme, and a few cloves of crushed garlic.
I can generally find good knuckle and joint bones from the grocery store. They’re pretty cheap, so get as many as you can. If you want, smear a little tomato paste on the bones and roast them in the oven (along with your veggies) at 350° for 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally. Be careful to not burn them; just brown them up a bit. The smell will drive you crazy – well, at least I like it. Then, I add the bones and the same barrage of veggies and aromatics to a big pot.
Fill the pot to the very tip top with cold water and bring to a nice, slow simmer. Generally, I’ll bring the pot up to a boil and turn it down immediately. You never want to boil your stock. It won’t affect the taste too much, but it will disperse the fat too rapidly giving your final product a somewhat greasy mouth feel and will cloud up your stock (which is not really important unless you want a very clean, clear soup).
You really just want to see a few bubbles popping up. Slow and simmering. If you see oil, foam or scum, feel free to skim it off the top. This will help you out in the long run.
After about 4-5 hours, you can go ahead and strain your stock. It’s best to use a fine mesh strainer and cheesecloth, if you have it. The more you strain, the better. After you strain your stock for the first time, you can cool it off and store it for future use. You can keep reducing it, as well. The more you simmer, reduce and strain, the stronger and more flavorful your stock will be.
For beef stock, you can make what is called “demi-glace” which is a highly reduced beef stock (generally veal stock). To get demi glace, you need some red wine at about a fourth the volume of your stock. Throw in a few peeled shallots to the red wine and reduce on high heat till the volume of wine has been cut in half. Once the shallots and red wine have been reduced, go ahead and add you beef stock and continue to reduce.
Your final product will be a dark, intensely flavored brown sauce. You should know it’s thick enough when it coats a spoon.
This stuff is gold (and usually really expensive to find for such little volume). If you want, pour off some demi glace into an ice cube tray and keep for you soups, sauces or stews. It’s sorta like adding bullion cubes, but a million times better. That rich beef and wine reduction adds so much to the final dish.
As you can see, it’s a lot of work for a little product, but I love it.
It makes your house smell so, so good. I’ve heard of people having stock parties, but I’m not nearly cool enough to make that seem fun. (Or maybe I am!)
I love using stock to make rice, lentils and beans. Any time the water you cook with is absorbed into the product, it’s almost always better to cook with stock. It’ll automatically up your final dish.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, enjoy making your stock and as always, share your meal with others – after all, you put in a lot of hard work!