by Prof. Steve Holzinger
In eGGsalad #1, I said that we were going to talk about stocks again. Do you remember the old fashioned broccoli soup my friend's grandmother made? First she cooked some garlic in olive oil, and added broccoli with enough water to cover, and simmered it for a long time, till the broccoli was tender. Then she garnished the soup with cooked pasta, seasoned it, and finished it with grated cheese and a little more olive oil. Hungry yet?
What she was doing, in technical terms, was making a vegetable stock when she cooked the broccoli in water. A stock is a water extract of food. Simple as that! There are some interesting subdirectories to that idea. Had Grandma served coffee or tea, she would have been serving an infusion. An infusion is a water extract of herbs or spices. Tea is an herb, coffee a spice. Why? An herb is the leafy part of an aromatic plant usually grown in temperate zones. A spice is any part of an aromatic plant usually grown in the tropics. Does that definition fit? Try it on herbs and spices that you know. Cooking the garlic in fat, was an extract. The most common solvents (vehicles for extraction of flavor) used in cooking are water, fats or oils (which are the same thing but one is solid at room temperature, the other liquid) and alcohol. Water dissolves sugars and minerals. Fat is a great flavor transporter. Try cooking some red chilies in oil. Taste the oil. HOT! That is an extract of a basic flavor, all right!
While we are at it, can you name the basic flavors we season with? Sweet, sour, salty, hot or peppery, and bitter. I think that is it. What a small palette! Yet how well we do with it. The broccoli stock was an example of a single vegetable stock with a garlic flavor extracted in oil, and a pasta and grated cheese garnish. We often use a vegetable stock as a background to balance the flavor of meat stocks by using mirepoix. Mirepoix are finely chopped vegetables. Mirepoix can either be either light or dark in character, depending on use.
A light mirepoix consists of chopped celery, onion and the white parts of leeks. We cook it slowly, by sweating in butter so as not to create color, sometimes adding shallots, and it is associated with white stocks and sauces, and the more delicate flavors.
A dark mirepoix consists of chopped celery, onion, both the white and light green parts of leek, and carrots, and sometimes garlic, tomato and /or peppers, sweet or hot. We tend to sauté, (cooking at high heat in a small amount of fat and causing browning) using stronger flavored fats such as beef, lard or bacon, and it is associated with brown stocks and sauces, and more robust flavors.
So both white stocks and brown stocks have a mirepoix component, an aromatic component, a characteristic flavor source and a water base.Very often, but not always, the source of the characteristic flavor is protein, meat, fish or fowl. A favorite soup of mine, Mushroom Barley, is made on a vegetable stock, but sometimes I make it using meat or meat stock. It is very versatile, and soon we WILL do hearty soups, perhaps in the Fall. Add that to your mise en place. Any original recipes for great peasant soups that make a meal with bread, cheese and wine? Send them in.
General guidelines I use for making stocks. A stock should be made in the same way all the time, so as to have a standard product. As it is the basis of many dishes, it is an important element to standardize if you want to cook to a professional standard. Generally speaking, bones and meat from older animals and portions of the carcass that are well exercised like oxtail and shin have deeper, richer flavors, and bones and meat from younger animals like veal are less flavorful, but richer in gelatin. I like to add chicken feet to get good jellied stocks, of whatever kind. Naturally, the greater the cross section of the bones, the longer they take to cook. Bones like neck bones are hard to bone, and have lots of meat left on them, so they give good flavor. Add some to the brown stock you are making for brown sauce. Pork bones are very sweet in flavor. Try a chicken and pork broth flavored with cilantro. Add some won ton. Invite me!
If cost is no object, add some sliced shin meat to your stock. Remove it after an hour and a half or so. It makes wonderful boiled beef, with gristle so chewy and with some carrots and parsnips from the stock, and some freshly grated horseradish on the side. Tap out some of the marrow in the leg bone pipes onto crusty rye bread to go with it. "Plain don't mean poor, and fancy ain't always better!" Who said that? I did!
A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. The meaty bones should be 50% of the weight of the water, or 4 lb. per gallon, a little more for chicken stock. If they are not meaty, add part of them as oxtails or shank. A half pound of chicken feet (they freeze) per gallon aids the gelling process (and make a nice snack). Mirepoix should be 10 percent of the weight of the bones, or 6.4 oz (say a half pound) per gallon. Then you need some aromatics. Parsley stems, dill stems (don't overdo these, easy to add later) 1 or 2 bay leaves, a few crushed peppercorns and some leaf thyme.
Use only fresh bones, there is NO way to deal with smelly ones but to throw them away.
Blanch the bones for white stocks. This means to cover them with cold water, bring to a boil, throw away this first water, and rinse the bones. This helps to make nice clear stock by removing the excess blood. Oddly enough, you don't loose flavor or strength. Add all your ingredients together, bring to the boil, skim, and simmer. As much as 24 hours for beef, 12 for veal 3 for chicken, and 20 minutes for fish. Strain while hot into scalded clean containers, cover with saran and keep refrigerated. Any stock in excess of three or four days supply can be frozen, as it doesn't get better on standing. If there is a fat cap on the stock, leave it there until using, as it creates a physical barrier against airborne bacteria and such.
Roast the bones for brown stocks. On a bed of dark mirepoix with tomatoes and garlic, and a little brown bacon rind, place the bones for the brown stock. Place the roast pan in the oven, and roast slowly, at about 350 degrees F, taking care not to burn anything. A slow brown is best. It wouldn't hurt a bit if you had some inexpensive or leftover red wine to baste this with, if you see some parts getting too dark. Turning down the heat if you see this helps too. I use Gallo's Hearty Burgundy, about a quart for a 10 gallon batch. I also use it in my red meat sauce for pasta.
For the brown stock, I use beef and veal bones in equal quantities, and chicken backs and necks, and cook it the same as for a white stock. I like to use the fat from the brown stock for making a brown roux for sauces. More about this under sauces, but a brown roux is a mixture of equal parts of fat and flour, roasted slowly in the oven to toast the starch in the flour, forming simple sugars called dextrins, and producing a nutty aroma.
When you are making a brown stock that you want to use entirely for making brown sauce, you can sprinkle the flour over the bones, to brown along with them. I put some on the mirepoix and a little on the bones. The fat from the bones melts and fries the mirepoix and the flour. More about this when we talk about brown sauces and roux.
These recipes are for 5 gallons, but you can cut them in half. It hardly pays to make less than 10 quarts, but if space is a factor, reduce the stock by boiling to half its original volume. The flavors will be more pronounced, as will any errors introduced.
© 1995, Steve K. Holzinger. All rights reserved.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Copyright © 1995, 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.
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