Nephew Ian put in another topic request, this one for making homemade stock. If we had to pick one thing that separates really good restaurant quality food from most home cooked stuff, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to chose the making and judicious use of homemade stock.
The difference between homemade and anything store bought is night and day; you’ll enjoy far greater depth and breadth of flavor, as well as the common sense step of keeping and using the stuff you need to make stock with, instead of throwing it away – Everything from the ends of trimmed veggies, to fish racks, bones, and carcasses are the stuff of great stock. Making stock at home is neither particularly laborious or complex. Once you get in the groove of thinking about using your leftovers accordingly, it’s a pretty simple process.
First things first, let’s define stock, vis-a-vis its thinner cousin, broth, and thicker progeny, demi-glacé. In simplest terms, stock comes from bones, while broth comes from meat. Think of stock as the deeper and more complex root of superior soup, sauce, risotto, and a thousand other variants. When the first taste of one of those dishes blows you away, it’s a safe bet there’s rich, house-made stock at the core. There’s an enhanced mouth feel and richness to stock, brought forth by the gelatin released from bones, that you just don’t get anywhere else.
Preparation for making stocks begins with saving the ingredients; Don’t throw out the bones, carcass, etc of your last wonderful roast, chicken, turkey, ribs, etc – Keep ’em and freeze ’em and set ’em aside for future use. You can also certainly ask for beef/veal/etc bones from your butcher; with a resurgence in small, local butchers in full swing across this country, do your due diligence and see if you’ve got one close by – They’re sure to be prepared and happy to get you what you need.
For hundreds of years, the go-to restaurant stock was veal, or beef. Nowadays, Dark Chicken Stock has replaced those more traditional variants as the root of great soup, sauce, etc.. It’s probably healthier for you than beef or veal, and frankly, it’s far more versatile; we use it almost daily in our kitchen. For the record – The sole difference between light and dark chicken stock is whether or not the bones have been roasted. Also, If you prefer to do beef, veal, pork, etc, you’ll want about 3-4 pounds of bones to substitute for the chicken carcasses used herein.
What you’re going to do is a three part process – slow roast, simmer, clarification. The slow roast will breakdown and deepen favors from the carcasses or bones and a trinity of aromatic bases, (in this case, mirepoix – onion, carrot, and celery), and a touch of tomato paste. The slow roast works on everything, breaking down cartilage, marrow, fat, skin – drawing out the essence of the veggies with slow caramelization. The tomato paste enhances color and flavor, and the acid therein helps break down connective tissue in the bones, aiding in the production of usable gelatin for your stock.
You’ll need the following to build a good stock pot worth of the real deal.
2-4 Chicken Carcasses
2 medium Yellow or Sweet Onions
3-5 stalks Celery
Small can Tomato Paste
Olive or Avocado Oil
Fresh ground Pepper
Decent Cheesecloth, (60 to 90 pound is best)
3+ Gallon Stock Pot
Colander, Strainer, or Chinoise
Slotted or perforated Spoon
Preheat oven to 250° F.
Have carcasses or bones defrosted and close to room temperature.
Rough chop onion, celery, and carrots to a final mirepoix of 50% onion, and 25% each celery and carrot – You don’t need to be exact. Rough chop means fairly uniform pieces of each, about 3/4″ big.
Spread the mire poix evenly across a rimmed baking sheet.
Season veggies with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of oil.
Break down carcasses minimally, just enough that you can evenly cover the mire poix.
Using a spatula, dab a thin coating of tomato paste over the carcasses; this doesn’t have to be thick – use a whole, small can for a batch of this size, evenly spread.
Slow roast everything for about 3 hour, flipping once about half way through, until bones have browned, and veggies are caramelized.
Remove everything from the oven and carefully transfer into a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add water until you’ve got a good two inches over the top of everything in the pot.
3-4 Bay Leaves
Teaspoon of Sea Salt
10-12 whole Pepper berries
Once the water begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and continue simmering for at least 6 hours, (and as much as 8.)
As fat and associated scum rises to the surface, (If you see Dick Cheney, push him back under), skim that off with a slotted or perforated spoon.
You’ll lose water to evaporation; keep adding fresh to maintain that couple of inches over the contents.
Remove pot from stove, and allow the stock to cool to room temperature. You can place the whole pot in an ice bath, (50% – 50% ice and water), to cool it faster; this is also safer than simply waiting it out.
Cover and refrigerate overnight, (Or stick it out on the back porch, covered, if it’s cold enough out).
In the morning, you’ll find a nice, solid layer of fat has formed on the top of your stock; carefully ladle that off and discard.
Now comes clarification;
Set up a colander, strainer, or chinoise, with a large mixing bowl beneath.
Pour the contents of your stock pot carefully through; this first pass will remove the big chunks from the stock.
Discard the bones, veggies, etc.
Now you’ll need decent cheesecloth at this point, as it’s time to really clarify.
Line your straining device with a layer or two of cheesecloth big enough to drape over the edges somewhat; place the stock pot or mixing bowl underneath.
Slowly pour the stock through the cheesecloth.
After each pass, rinse the vessel you poured from, and the cheesecloth, before making another pass.
You’ll want at least 6 – 8 passes to get to reasonable clarity, something like this – beautiful, flavorful house made stock.
We freeze stock in quart sized freezer bags; this is a good size to use as the basis for soups and stews. You can store some refrigerated, in an airtight container, for up to 5 days. Some should most definitely be further reduced into demi-glacé, and here’s why.
In his epic tale of back of house whackiness, Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain wrote of demi-glacé, “Freeze this stuff in an ice-cube tray, pop out a cube or two as needed, and you are in business – you can rule the world.” And when you’re right, you’re right. If you knew how many amazing sauces spring from this one source, you’d be gob smacked. While demi-glacé is traditionally made from veal or beef stock, you certainly can and should make it from chicken stock – Like the stock, chicken demi-glacé is amazingly versatile. Traditional demi-glacé is served over beef, veal, or lamb – chicken glacé not only works on those proteins, it’s amazing with chicken, pork, veggies, potatoes, and rice or risotto.
There’re a myriad of ways to make it; doing so with fresh stock is one of the easiest and most satisfying, and it only makes sense, when you’ve already been working through stock production. You can, if you like, simply return some stock to a sauté pan over medium heat, turn it down to a bare simmer after it gets bubbling, and reduce that by roughly 50% – What you’ll have is a more concentrated, intense iteration of the stock you just made, and that is indeed demi-glacé, no matter what pretentious foodies tell you. That said, putting a few more refinements in the mix will pay big dividends. Here’s how.
2 Cups fresh Chicken Stock
1 Cup Old Vine Zinfandel
2 Tablespoons minced Shallot
2 teaspoons Lemon Thyme
1 teaspoon Grains of Paradise, (Black Peppercorns are fine)
1 Bay Leaf
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, combine all ingredients, except the butter.
As the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced by roughly 50%.
Test thickness by pouring some of the demi-glacé from a spoon; it should leave a noticeably thick, even coat on the spoon.
Remove from heat and cool to room temp, (again, a mixing bowl in an ice bath does a great job).
Transfer demi-glacé to a pop-out ice cube tray, filling evenly. Slip the tray inside a gallon freezer bag, press excess air out, (I suck all the air out to avoid freezer burn), and freeze.
When you want an amazing pan sauce, pull out your tray, pop out a cube or two, and melt over medium heat. Finish with a thumbnail sized hunk of butter, and viola. You can also add a cube to boiling water for rice or veggies. A cube add to your regular gravy ingredients is especially delightful – Potential uses are as broad as your imagination.