Soups On!

If We had to pick one thing that separates really good restaurant quality food from most home cooked stuff more than any other, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to vote for making good stock.

Now, that’s a process that scares some folks, and it shouldn’t. Making stock need not be super laborious or scary. We’ll show you a very effective, relatively quick and easy method.

So, first things first, what is stock, and especially, what is stock vis a vis broth? In simplest terms, stock comes from bones, while broth comes from meat. Think of stock as the root of superior soup, sauce, or maybe risotto. I’ve heard broth spoken of as seasoned stock, and that’s not far off the mark. That said, there is certainly an enhanced mouth feel and richness to stock, brought forth by the gelatin released from bones, that you just don’t get anywhere else. Certainly, what you make at home from great ingredients will always beat the pants off anything store bought and stock is no exception: When you want to pull out the stops and make a personal culinary statement, make it in house.

The first and most important step to take toward home stock production is to not throw out the bones, carcass, etc of your last wonderful roast, chicken, turkey, etc – Keep ’em and freeze ’em and set ’em aside for future use. If you get meat in volume as we do, You can ask for beef/veal/etc bones from your provider: If you hunted your own, save that stuff you might otherwise throw out and put it to good use; be it beef, chicken, grouse, pheasant, bambi, moose, buffalo, etc, they’ll all make fine stock, (And making stock is also a great opportunity to clean out the ol’ freezer).

In many restaurants, ‘Dark Chicken Stock’ has replaced veal stock as the go-to root of great soup, sauce, etc. If you’ve read that on a menu or seen it online, I bet you wondered what the heck they were talking about, right? The sole difference between light and dark chicken stock is whether or not the bones have been roasted; same goes for beef, veal, etc. Roasting yields a deeper, richer flavor profile.

So, let’s do some up and see where it takes us.

For this exercise, we chose beef, since down there in our freezer there were a couple of packets marked ‘soup bones’. Unwrapping those guys, I found a bunch of meat on some beautiful big hunks of bone, so I trimmed that off and set it aside for marinating; more on that in a sec. And FYI for your nice big stock pot full of finished product, you’ll want a couple pounds of bones to work with.

Preheat your oven to 325 F, and set dem bones in a baking pan. Now it’s mirepoix time, an essential component of great stock. You’ll want a mix of roughly 50% onion to 25% each of carrot and celery. You can whack all of that into nice big chunks, then toss everything into the baking pan with the bones. Give everybody a nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper.

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Toss the whole shebang into your preheated oven and let ’em get it on. Leave the mix in until you start to see light browning on the bones and veggies, about 1.5 to 2 hours.

While your bones are roasting, turn your attention to the meat. If your bones had generous flesh attached as ours did, use it; you don’t need any fancy cut, in fact, the cruder the better – Time and marination will make that stuff fork tender in the end run, believe me. We went for a simple marinade of:

2 cups red wine
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, rough chopped
1 Sprig fresh rosemary
A shake and a grind of Sea Salt & Black Pepper

Place everything into a glass dish and refrigerate overnight.

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Back to the bones and mirepoix. Fill a stock pot with a gallon of nice, clean water over high heat. Toss in everything from your baking pan. Add a couple of Bay leaves. Once the mix starts to boil, crank the heat down to a nice, slow simmer and let things take their course. You’ll lose some volume to evaporation, and that’s just fine. Leave the pot on over that low heat all day; at least 6 hours and up to 8 is just fine.

Remove your pot from the stove, cover and refrigerate overnight, (Or stick it out on the back porch if its cold out).

In the morning, you’ll find a nice, gooey layer of fat has formed on the top of your pot. Carefully ladle that off and discard. Now, using a sieve or a chinoise, remove all the chunky stuff from the liquid.

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You should end up with something that looks about like this:

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Now we’re gonna do some reasonable clarification. You’ll need that sieve or chinoise, plus a decent chunk of cheese cloth; if you don’t have any handy, most grocery stores sell it. If all you find is the very loose weave stuff that looks like badly spun spider web, no worries, it’ll work fine so long as you have a length of a few feet, which is what most packages contain. Take the cheese cloth and fold it into a nice, thick blanket and line your sieve with that. Carefully pour your rough stock through, then do it again and again; you want to get maybe 5 or 6 pours through your home-made filter, so go slow and let that cheese cloth absorb all the crusties. When you’re done, your stock will look like this

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Maybe not textbook perfect, but when you take up a spoonful of that lovely stuff and it looks kinda like this, screw the textbook…

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That, friends and neighbors, is beautiful stock.

You can stop right there and move on to making soup, or you can freeze the stuff for future use, or you can put it back on the stove and simmer some more, reducing it by roughly 50% and end up with some truly wonderful glace, that thick, flavorful, intense root for sauces, soups and all kinds of experiments. If you go the glace route, try freezing the results in an ice cube tray; then, when you need a little something to really kick up a sauce or soup or stew, you just pop out a cube or two and viola, instance intense flavor…

So there you have it, serious homemade goodness; you can do this with veggies, fish, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, whatever floats your boat – So, what kind are y’all gonna make first?

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4 thoughts on “Soups On!”

  1. I second the idea of reducing to glace! I’m lucky to have a bro who makes wonderful glace and gives me cubes of it, which I pop out of the freezer whenever needed–it’s my secret weapon for stew, soup and wonderful with a steak. He filled a candy box with frozen glace for me for Christmas and it’s indeed better than the most expensive box of chocolates. Glace takes your cooking to the next level. Follow Eben’s advice, folks!

  2. I use my slow cooker and after a lovely meal, shove everything appropriate in there; veg prep scraps, bird carcass, skin/bones etc, leftovers, salad (dressing ok too), add water to cover, slow cook overnight, then skim & etc in the am. I also cook way down, sometimes by accident (inattention), and freeze in the ice cube tray I use for freezing pestos or herb slurries. Then I bag the cubes and add to soups, gravy, sauces, etc…..

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