Please post any questions here -->> Q & A
Instructors are: Fat Guy and Carolyn Tillie
Overview of the lesson
Unit 1, Day 1, Friday: Introductory material, ingredients, equipment
Unit 2, Day 2, Monday: Simmering the basic stocks
Unit 3, Day 2 or 3, Monday or Tuesday: Straining, defatting, reducing
Unit 4, Day 4, Wednesday: From stock to sauce intro, white (Part A) and brown (Part B) sauces
Unit 1, Day 1, Friday: Introductory material, ingredients, equipment
by Steven A. Shaw (Fat Guy)
Stock: there is no substitute
When you roast a turkey, or a hunk of beef, the pan juices form the basis of the gravy, which is of course the best part. Turkey without gravy is considerably worse than, say, a day without sunshine. Since I don't live in California and am not even sure where my swimsuit is located in my closet, a day without sunshine is hardly even noticeable to me.
As any gravy lover will tell you, however, there's never enough gravy. Which is to say, there's never enough of the pan juices to make a sufficient quantity of gravy to service all the meat.
For a French aristocrat in the 19th Century, this was no problem. All your chef had to do was roast a couple of extra turkeys, crush them in a gigantic press in order to extract all the juices from them, and throw out the turkeys.
For us, however, the solution is stock. Stock is, in the first instance, a more pure, technically versatile version of the pan juices given off by roasted meats. Stock allows you to make enough delicious gravy to cover your turkey, without making extra turkeys. But more importantly -- and this is where the true conceptual liberation of stock comes into focus -- you can make gravy without making a turkey at all.
Stock serves two primary functions: it adds flavor and body to food. This is especially the case with sauces and soups, but stock is also tremendously effective as a braising liquid and in several other applications we'll discuss later. I'm only, of course, using gravy as an example -- it's a relatively minor application in the grand scheme of stockmaking and stock-based saucemaking. When you cook with stock, your options are nearly limitless.
If you've ever wondered why restaurant food tastes different -- and, in the case of good restaurants, better -- than home cooked food, stock plays a big role in the answer. And if you want your home cooking to move more in the direction of restaurant cooking, stock is an essential tool.
Yet home cooks -- even the serious ones -- are often reluctant to make stock.
First, they're concerned about the time commitment. And it's true that making a good stock takes hours and hours and hours. But nearly all that time is passive time. It took me less than 15 minutes to prep all the stock ingredients for this lesson (which produced enough stock to last me for several months), and that included photography delays. A little while later, I had to attend to skimming for a minute or two on a couple of occasions (I also performed some exercises for the purposes of instruction, but those don't count). The stock finished cooking overnight, while I slept.
Second, they're concerned about storage. But one of the many miracles of stock is that you can reduce it to a super-concentrated essence known as demi-glace or glace (the latter being more heavily reduced). One of my stockpots is 16 quarts. At the end of the stockmaking effort, I had reduced the entire end-product from that pot to less than 2 quarts. In a typical meal I might make two people, I'll use maybe 1 tablespoon of that product as the basis for a sauce, or I'll use maybe a cup of it for a large pot of soup. And of those 2 quarts, only one went into the freezer. Glace can last for months in the refrigerator -- it does not have to take over your entire freezer or even a small part of it.
Third, they think they can get away with using store-bought stock. And in many cases cheating is possible -- I'm sure it would be possible to fool most people most of the time in blind taste tests, especially when tasting highly seasoned dishes. But in the end there is no true substitute for your own homemade stock. In the past couple of years, I've tried at least 25 store-bought stock products and none has compared favorably to homemade. Most don't even come close, and even the $25-for-a-tiny-jar, price-is-no-object glaces sold by Williams-Sonoma and others aren't as effective as good homemade product, primarily because they contain too much salt.
Fourth, they see stock as old-fashioned -- a vestige of classical sauce-intensive cooking that no longer has much relevance. But this couldn't be farther from the truth. Stock is a fantastic tool for modern cooking, because it allows for exactly the kinds of sauces favored by nouvelle cuisine chefs: lighter, naturally thickened sauces that let high quality ingredients speak for themselves while enriching and enhancing their favorable qualities.
Overview of the lesson
What we're going to make in this lesson is a basic poultry (aka chicken) stock and a basic meat (aka beef or veal) stock. These will loosely fall under the classical definitions of a "white" stock (the poultry stock) and a "brown" stock (the meat stock), although these categories -- as well as many of the formalities of classical stockmaking -- are not of great concern to us for the purposes of this approach.
The stocks we'll make will contain no added salt, virtually no fat, and an extremely limited number of aromatic components (no herbs, peppercorns, or anything like that). What we're going to create are blank slates upon which you can draw anything. These stocks can later be gussied up for classical European recipes, or they can be given an Asian twist, or they can serve most any purpose. Because they're effectively salt-free, you will maintain total control over flavor until the last minute of saucemaking. And you will know exactly what's in them and enjoy the satisfaction of true cooking-from-scratch with building-block ingredients you crafted the old-fashioned way, in your own kitchen, by hand.
After we make the stocks on Day 2 of the lesson, and process them in the first part of Day 3 (or at the end of Day 2, depending on your schedule), I'll present some basic recipe examples (a soup and a braised item) and then I'll be turning the rest of the instruction over to Carolyn Tillie, who will guide you through making several basic brown and white stock-based sauces both classical and contemporary. All the while we'll look at a lot of photographs in order to illustrate every step of the process, which is simple enough already but will become foolproof when you actually see it all unfold. And when this is all over, you'll have enough stock to last you through the entire eGCI curriculum and beyond.
This weekend, you will need to acquire the following basic ingredients for the stockmaking part of the course:
- A small can of tomato paste
And that's it.
To elaborate somewhat:
Meat and bones
As mentioned above, stock adds flavor and body. Generally, the body-enhancing properties of stock come from the natural gelatin in bones. Bones alone, however, do not create particularly flavorful stock. The flavor of stock comes from the meat on the bones, aromatic vegetables (typically the trinity of carrots, onions, and celery, otherwise known as the basic vegetables of mirepoix), and other flavorings (which we are not using here, but which could include herbs, peppercorns, ginger, and the like). In the case of a brown stock, additional nutty, roasted flavor can come from basing the stock on roasted bones, and additional color can come from the addition of tomatoes or a tomato product like tomato paste.
The options for meat and bone sources are many. If you do a lot of cooking of whole birds and bone-in cuts of meat, and you have extra freezer space, you may very well be able to accumulate enough byproduct for periodic stockmaking just by saving your bones and trimmings. But most of us will have to go to outside sources. If you have a good relationship with a butcher, you may be able to get "soup bones" for free or for a negligible sum. I don't have that option, because the butcher I use locally makes and sells his own stock (which isn't particularly good). And in much of the world, supermarkets have almost totally displaced real butchers. So for me, and for most people, the supermarket is going to be the most likely candidate to supply the raw materials for stockmaking.
One option is to buy parts specifically designated for stockmaking. Most supermarkets sell beef soup bones, a lot sell veal neck bones, and some (especially ethnic markets that bone out their own chickens on premises) sell chicken backs, frames, and other stock-appropriate parts. If you can pick these up for just a few cents a pound, great. But once you get up into the range of a dollar or more per pound, it becomes ridiculous, especially when you consider that whole chickens often cost only 59 cents a pound. If you're going to pay more than that for soup bones, you may as well buy the whole chicken and make the stock from that.
Which is exactly what I do. Because if I make stock from whole chickens, I not only get the stock, I also get a nice fringe benefit: the most beautiful poached chicken meat, enough for several large sliced-chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, or even chicken fried rice. When I went shopping for this batch of stock, chickens were on sale at Stew Leonard's in Yonkers, NY, for 59 cents a pound. I bought two chickens approximately 3.5 pounds each. That wasn't going to be quite enough for my 20-quart stockpot (more on quantities and ratios below), so I looked around for what else was on sale and picked up, in addition, a tray of several pounds of thighs for almost no money.
A bizarre twist of modern agriculture and food distribution is that it's often cheaper to make stock from whole chickens than from parts
These chicken thighs -- the day's sale item -- will add plenty of flavor and body to our stock
The beef and veal choices were quite diverse at the market as well. I find that veal makes a slightly nicer stock, but beef makes a very good stock and is usually much cheaper. Sometimes I get a mix of beef and veal parts, but this time around the beef bones (there were four different types on display) were so advantageous price-wise that I went with all beef. In particular, there were some soup-bones available that had quite a lot of meat attached. After you're done making stock, this meat is great for hash (especially since you will have the ability to throw a couple of tablespoons of stock into your hash).
Three variants of meat bones I found at the market
Gelatin-rich neck bones, ready for roasting
Quantity-wise, I recommend at least 1 pound of bones-with-meat for every 2 quarts of the size of your stockpot. That is to say, if you have a 16 quart stockpot, you should use at least 8 pounds of bones-with-meat. More certainly will not hurt. Less will result in a weaker stock.
For the mirepoix, the easiest thing to do is get a standard 3-pound supermarket bag of onions, a standard 1-pound supermarket bag of carrots, and another of celery, for every 16-20 quarts of stockpot space. That is to say, 3 pounds onions, 1 pound each carrots and celery for a 16-20 quart batch, or half that amount for an 8-10 quart batch. You want to maintain a ratio, roughly of 2:1:1 onions:celery:carrots. In other words the carrots and celery combined should be about as much volume-wise as the onions (you will lose some onion to trimming and peeling so your 3:1:1 purchase quantity will be more like 2:1:1 in the pot). Stock is incredibly flexible, though, so all you need to do is eyeball it.
Aromatic vegetables for stockmaking
Finally, for the brown (beef/veal) stock only, you may wish to add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste, so you'll want to have a small can of that on hand.
In addition, you will need to have or acquire the following for the saucemaking part of the course:
- The completed stocks from the stockmaking part of the lesson
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- 3/4 pound all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- one lemon
- white pepper
- 1/4 cup capers
- enough fresh tarragon for 1 tablespoon chopped
- 1/4 pound onion
- 2 oz. celery (this will be diced)
- 2 oz. carrot (also to be diced)
- 2 oz. tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp. fresh thyme
- 4 parsley stems
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
You will also need basic equipment:
-Miscellaneous normal kitchen tools (knife, slotted spoon, a skimmer if you have one)
-For the saucemaking unit you will need the above plus a saucepan, a whisk, and a measuring cup
As you can see, stockmaking isn't complicated. We can talk about it for three days, but all it boils down to is, well, boiling. Or, rather, simmering -- but more on that later.
You can perform this exercise with any size stockpot, even if it's only 4 quarts. But the bigger the better. It would be very nice for you to have at least two 8-quart stockpots for this lesson, even if that means borrowing one or -- since you're going to be a stockmaking genius from now on -- picking up a new one at Target or your local equivalent for $30. My preference, however, is to use at least a 16-quart stockpot. The amount of labor is the same, pretty much no matter how much stock you make. When I do this routine, which is a few times a year, I use both my 16- and 20-quart stockpots. (Remember, even if you use a big pot like that, your yield after serious reducing will only be a couple of quarts.)
Front/left, a 20-quart heavy-gauge stainless-steel stockpot with an aluminum-clad disc bottom, purchased by mail from A Best Kitchen of Akron, Ohio, for $59, including the lid; back/right, a 16-quart Le Creuset enameled steel stockpot, these tend to cost around $100 at kitchen-and-housewares shops but often go on sale for much less; note that while these quart-sizes sound large to many people, the laws of volume are such that the overall apparent dimensions of a stockpot don't increase radically as between, say, 12 and 16 quarts -- as you can see, both of these large stockpots fit side-by-side on a 30" rangetop with room to spare, and both fit in the bottom rack of my dishwasher
You will also find it convenient to have a third stockpot, at least half the size of the one you use for the actual stockmaking, into which you can strain the stock. It's not absolutely necessary -- you can use a few large bowls as a temporary home for the stock while you wipe out the main pot and transfer it back in for defatting and reducing. But having a third pot is nice. I use an 8-quart stockpot for this purpose.
A Calphalon 8-quart stockpot, receiving strained stock from a 16-quart stockpot -- it will all fit on account of the volume lost to the meat and vegetables, plus some of the reduction that has occurred already
A strainer is also a necessity, preferably a chinois-style strainer but any strainer will do for a rustic homemade stock. You may also use, if you have one around for pasta-making already, a colander or one of the devices in the middle of this picture -- it will prevent large chunks from falling into your fine-mesh strainer. Or you can use the lid trick shown in the image above, which I'll talk about more later.
Left-to-right: a fine-mesh chinois, a pour-off sieve, and a regular old strainer
A dedicated skimmer is not a necessary tool -- a spoon or small ladle will work just fine -- but it's convenient for skimming stock with minimal waste
I've tried to go into considerable detail here not because stockmaking is complicated but because I'm hoping to demystify it as much as possible. It's going to be very simple all the way through, even when it comes time to make some very interesting sauces.
See you on Monday. Simmering the Basic Stocks
Please post any questions here -->> Q & A
Stocks and Sauces Class - Unit 1 Day1
No replies to this topic