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Veal Stock -- a personal reflection

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Here's how simple using veal stock is. Dice mushrooms, about a cup's worth, and mince a shallot. Have ready a quarter cup of tasty white wine and a cup of veal stock. Get a sauté pan smoking hot over high heat. Add a coating of oil, which should ripple when it hits the pan and begin to smoke. Toss in your mushrooms, let them cook for a few seconds, then stir -- the more browning you get the better the flavor -- and cook for a minute or so. Add the shallot and cook, add the white wine and continue cooking till it’s almost cooked off, then add the veal stock and bring it to a simmer. Add some salt and pepper, stir or swirl in a couple tablespoons of butter, and you have sauce for four portions of a meaty mild fish, such as halibut or cod, or slices of beef tenderloin.
I followed Mr. Ruhlman's directions for this sauce, with two differences: I used red wine instead of white (because I had it and also because I was using the sauce with beef) and I reduced the sauce a bit before adding the butter (because it was way too thin). It was very good; I can see the points about texture, certainly.

But I agree with Steven: this was not a neutral sauce. I can't, in a million years, imagine serving it with fish, unless for some reason I wanted to substantially mask the taste of the fish.

Ah, but you didn't follow the recipe. :smile: Use white wine next time. I have made sauce for fish with veal stock, and believe it or not, it works. But not with red wine.

You said the sauce was very thin...had you cooked down the stock? It should be practically solid when cold, and fairly viscous when warmed.

I agree. I am not sure why you would want to serve this sauce that you made, not Ruhlman, with fish! I bet it tasted good with beef though. Almost anyone who has cooked before knows that red and white wine produce very different results when cooked down.

I have no opinion of the book itself just yet because I have not read it. I am definitly picking up a copy soon though. Just like someone said upthread, it's like a Coens' film, even the imperfect ones are still worth watching more than once.

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Far from being put off, I found the finger-wagging in Elements crucial in these days of Rachael Ray, Food TV's paragon of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

That phrase is the perfect description of the FN.

Hallelujah!  Preach it, brother Ruhlman.  Can I get an amen?

A-men!

I haven't finished reading Elements yet, but found it to be entertaining and informative. If nothing else, he has inspired me to hunt down some veal bones or breast and try veal stock.

I do have a quibble about his claim that organic eggs are less likely to have salmonella because that is not what the science I have read asserts.

I have only started on the glossary of terms and look forward to a leisurely reading when the holidays are over. I have thousands of cookies and candies to make in the next few weeks. :wacko:

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Having waded through about half of the book (essays and then picking around in the glossary), and having seen Ruhlman speak in person a couple of times, what I get the impression he is trying to do, with this book, with his in-person talks supplementing the book, the occasional cooking class and yes, including some of his previous books as well is to let the reader in on some secrets, surprises, tools and insight he has been privy to that many "average" home cooks like me will never be privy to as we will never cook in a professional kitchen (as he has) or go through the CIA's training (as he has). In writing this book and in his discussions, I get the feeling he is trying to share that knowledge with us, which I much appreciate.

I get the feeling many of the reviewers on here are not really the right audience for the book and thus are tearing it apart in criticism that, to me, seems off base. It's just my opinion, but reading the book and hearing him speak, it seems he's trying to do many of us a favor by giving us an expanded "lesson" beyond the peeks and glimpses he has given us previously about what some of the important (in his eyes) take-aways are when going through training at the CIA, that "us normal folk" might otherwise not know. I for one appreciate the supplemental lessons, insight and information he imparts, and am enjoying the book quite a bit.

Just my opinion, but speaking as someone who I think is more the target audience for the book, getting some reviews from the more amateur people like me might be good balance to those reviewing it who are clearly more advanced like Steve/fatguy and chrisa.

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Dear rockandroller and anyone else so inclined: please do write and post reviews!

I am particularly interested in which "secrets, surprises, tools and insight" you found useful.

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Just my opinion, but speaking as someone who I think is more the target audience for the book, getting some reviews from the more amateur people like me might be good balance to those reviewing it who are clearly more advanced like Steve/fatguy and chrisa.

I'm not sure that it's a matter of being more advanced, I think the book was written to address cooking fundamentals in a way that isn't concisely documented elsewhere. It's interesting to note that some of the content of this book overlaps with the content offered in the eGCI. I think the negative reviews that have been posted here are frequently inappropriate. The most obvious example is that once you make significant changes to a recipe you can no longer argue that the end result wasn't what the recipe described. The review posted by hjshorter is spot on.

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.

If his mantra “How to perfect a good recipe: Do it over again. And again. Pay attention. Do it again.”  strikes you as affected machismo, then the real world instruction "This is bullshit.  Do it again." is going to hurt your feelings.  :laugh:  Far from being put off, I found the finger-wagging in Elements crucial in these days of Rachael Ray, Food TV's paragon of the soft bigotry of low expectations.  Book store shelves are groaning with books advocating half-assed technique, but finesse is vital and that essay may be the most important bit of information in the book.  Finesse can be tasted in fine food and seen in the presentation, it's what makes places like The French Laundry worth the expense, and it makes Thomas Keller's cookbooks worth the hair pulling.  The results are superior.  It's worth the care and attention to detail.  If you want a meal in thirty minutes, you know where to go and you might as well put the book down now.  It's not going to tell you to open a few bags and call it dinner.

Do it.  Do it again.  Practice.  Pay attention.  Don't take short cuts.

Hallelujah!  Preach it, brother Ruhlman.  Can I get an amen?

I'm expecting my copy of the book tonight, so I'll be able to read it. But, how often have eG'ers seen me "do it again" on these forums until I get it right? Biscuits. Again and again and yet again. I can make them in my sleep now. (you'd be so proud, Heather. :biggrin: ). Fish and chips. Did it three times I think. Pie crust, don't ask how many times. The only way to get better is to "do it again. Practice. Pay Attention. Don't take short cuts.

Amen.

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I followed Mr. Ruhlman's directions for this sauce, with two differences: I used red wine instead of white (because I had it and also because I was using the sauce with beef) and I reduced the sauce a bit before adding the butter (because it was way too thin). It was very good; I can see the points about texture, certainly.

But I agree with Steven: this was not a neutral sauce. I can't, in a million years, imagine serving it with fish, unless for some reason I wanted to substantially mask the taste of the fish.

Ah, but you didn't follow the recipe. :smile: Use white wine next time. I have made sauce for fish with veal stock, and believe it or not, it works. But not with red wine.
I agree. I am not sure why you would want to serve this sauce that you made, not Ruhlman, with fish! I bet it tasted good with beef though. Almost anyone who has cooked before knows that red and white wine produce very different results when cooked down.

I'd really be interested in knowing what you think of the sauce if you make it again with white wine, following Ruhlman's instruction.

This story couldn't help but remind me of a something that happened to me decades ago. I was a young mother with three children, two in diapers. My next-door neighbor was in the same situation. She never cooked anything. I often slung stuff together, cooking with one child on my hip and another tugging at my leg. So one afternoon around four o'clock, she called in a panic. Her in-laws had just announced they were coming for dinner and her husband was insisting that instead of ordering the usual pizza, she cook something, anything. Couldn't I think of something, she begged, that would be tasty and that even she could do with only one quick trip to the store?

So I gave her a recipe for Easy Minute Steaks Parmesan. You buy some of those minute steaks that have been tenderized. In a bowl, you combine 1 cup cracker crumbs aned 1 cup grated Parmesan. In another bowl you beat 1 egg with a little S&P added. You dip your minute steaks first in the beaten egg, and then in the cracker/parmesan mixture and then you fry them in olive oil in a hot skillet. Then you arrange your steaks in that long, glass baking dish we all have, dump a can of pizza sauce over it, dust with a little crushed red pepper to taste, sprinkle any leftover cheese/crackers around the edge, and a nice handful of mozarella/parmesan/romano/whatever you like in the center and bake it. Serve with a nice mound of hot cooked pasta tossed with butter alongside.

About a week went by. We happened to be at a neighborhood coffee and I overheard her talking to another of the wives: "Well," she said, "Jaymes isn't such a good cook. I made one of her recipes and it was TERRIBLE. And I made it for my IN-LAWS, too!'

I immediately hustled over to quiz her. "It was TERRIBLE?"

"Yes. I didn't want to tell you, but it really was. A mushy mess. And it didn't have much flavor, either."

"No flavor? What did you do?"

"Well, I did make just two substitutions...."

"What?"

"I didn't have any pizza sauce so I subbed a can of cream of mushroom soup. And parmesan cheese was so expensive that I left that out entirely."

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Jaymes, that sounds like George Washington's axe, which belonged, you know, to my children's Great-Grandfather.

He'd bring out the trusty, rusty old instrument, worn and chipped, and tell them that it was TRULY the axe. It HAD had to have the handle replaced three times, and the blade twice, but it WAS the one used by George himself. :raz:

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Well, I ordered the book and, all fired up after reading the first essay, decided to make veal stock. Missouri, however, is a somewhat backward state (I've met any number of adults who have never tasted lamb and never want to), and I called five Saint Louis butchers asking for veal breast (I know I can get osso bucco from one for about $4plus a pound), and only one had it -- for $2.50 a pound! Yes, I'd love to try the velvety silkiness of it, but $25 seems a bit much.

Ruhlman was perhaps unwise, or overreaching, to echo the title of Strunk and White's classic. "An Alphabet for Cooks" with a subtitle promising "Professional Chefs' Secrets for Home Cooks" might have been more descriptive, and aroused less ire from disappointed or persnickety readers.

I can't give my final judgment, I've not yet finished the book. But -- sigh -- unless I locate a European or wholesale butcher, veal stock will probably remain a mirage.

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Joan I really think that if you divert to beef stock or even poultry stock, using readily available supermarket ingredients and the exact same formula and directions from Ruhlman's book, you'll still achieve the key texture and flavor benefits of veal stock. Certainly, with that mushroom preparation described in the book, beef stock will be a home run.

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Well, I ordered the book and, all fired up after reading the first essay, decided to make veal stock.  Missouri, however, is a somewhat backward state (I've met any number of adults who have never tasted lamb and never want to), and I called five Saint Louis butchers asking for veal breast (I know I can get osso bucco from one for about $4plus a pound), and only one had it -- for $2.50 a pound!  Yes, I'd love to try the velvety silkiness of it, but $25 seems a bit much.

Ruhlman was perhaps unwise, or overreaching, to echo the title of Strunk and White's classic.  "An Alphabet for Cooks" with a subtitle promising "Professional Chefs' Secrets for Home Cooks" might have been more descriptive, and aroused less ire from disappointed or persnickety readers.

I can't give my final judgment, I've not yet finished the book.  But -- sigh -- unless I locate a European or wholesale butcher, veal stock will probably remain a mirage.

Even in The Hill area? I'm stunned!

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I'll try the Hill. Found a wholesale butcher, who does not carry it, and another, who has veal breast at $4.00 a pound. I'm beginning to learn why so few people make veal stock.

Fat Guy, I make chicken stock regularly (keep the backbones from spatchcocked and roasted chickens in the freezer, and when I have enough, or when I see a fat hen at the farmer's market, I make more). I also make and freeze beef stock, and fish stock when I can get bones and possibly a head - yucky to clean, but lovely result!

Veal stock just seemed like a challenge. Actually, I've got glace de viand in the freezer that I bought from Provimi -- I thought it was expensive, but now that I'm pricing veal, perhaps it costs less than making your own. Many years ago, I did spend two days making glace de viand, but it took so long that I hated to use it.

Sigh...

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Well, I ordered the book and, all fired up after reading the first essay, decided to make veal stock.  Missouri, however, is a somewhat backward state (I've met any number of adults who have never tasted lamb and never want to), and I called five Saint Louis butchers asking for veal breast (I know I can get osso bucco from one for about $4plus a pound), and only one had it -- for $2.50 a pound!  Yes, I'd love to try the velvety silkinesselatin of it, but $25 seems a bit much.

I find it difficult to get veal bones or breast, so I will have to substitute osso bucco trays

(last day markdown) and calves' feet, or even pigs' feet. There was a mention upthread of chicken wings for their gelatin, so a few might go in. If veal breast was available at $2.50/lb. I wouldn't mind 10 lb. of it, but that seems unlikely here. I'm not too happy with Steven's substitution of beef or chicken stock for veal. Too different. I'd rather keep beef bones for espagnole, and combine with reduced white veal stock for my demi-glace. But this is all self taught (lots of help from E. David and Escoffier) and I can't wait to see what Ruhlman might recommend, when I get the book. Reviews be damned :raz:

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It’s nice to see some other positive comments here. For me, this book has changed the way I cook in at least one regard -- I’m salting and tasting much more carefully. I’m prone to underseasoning so that guests can adjust at the table. Lots of passing the salt! No more of that. And I’m paying more attention at restaurants. We visited a well-regarded local restaurant and had braised lamb. Perfectly cooked, lovely-looking sauce, but just plain bland. At another place, we had a trio of soups that were salt bombs, nearly inedible. The Salt essay would be of use to the young cooks in those kitchens.

I checked my local supermarket for veal bones (and breast) and can’t find them. But more than that, my wife objects to cooking with them, so I won’t be able to try the veal stock, though the debate has piqued my interest.

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So far as gelatin goes, which is apparently one of the advantages of veal stock, I generally put lots of chicken feet in my chicken stock. They're available at the Chinese markets here, and give the stock a wonderful gelatinous texture.

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Veal is beef. The differences are primarily in the way veal is raised (restricted movement) and its age (younger). My original point, which is now being demonstrated by members' posts, was that veal can be a difficult-to-find, expensive specialty item, whereas beef is easily and widely available at supermarkets everywhere Ruhlman's book is being read. And, I argued, and still assure everybody, that the difference between veal and beef stock for the overwhelming majority of home-cooking applications is insignificant. Sure, if your goal is to make a sauce for fish, you might have a situation where you want total eradication of the beef flavor (which you can still pretty much achieve if you use only bones), but for mushrooms? For any kind of red meat? Not significant. If the point is to encourage cooks who have never made and used stock to start using it -- and that's how I understood the section -- it strikes me as a mistake to insist on veal stock the way Elements does. If you've never made and used stock in the home kitchen, and you don't live in a place where veal is cheap and plentiful, then just start with beef stock. Don't hesitate for an instant. The ingredients are cheap and easy to get, you can just follow the Elements recipe as written, and you'll be very happy with the results.

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My Asian market has a busy meat counter, with $1. bags of bones available. They are surprisingly meaty, as their customers expect to get a meal from a bag. That will be my choice today, with a pig's foot, and in the pressure cooker for an hour (no one can seriously object to the quiet, hissing aroma). I know some experts object to the pressure cooker method, as stock may be cloudy, but it extracts flavour and gelatin very quickly, and if a sauce is the ultimate goal, rather than, say, consomme, clarity is not my goal. One advantage to my particular climate is that I can cool the stock fairly quickly on the patio, later today. :rolleyes:

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Thanks for your reassuring words Fat Guy. I tried two more places, one in the Italian section on the Hill; he knew of no one there who carried veal --too expensive -- and he suggested a local supermarket chain. They said they could special order it for me; I'd get it in two weeks, at $2.79 a pound. Fugeddaboudit!

Obviously veal stock is possible only in large metropolitan areas, or for millionaire cooks who don't have to worry about the bottom line. Or haute cuisine restaurants, where they can factor it into the cost of the dish.

Mr. Ruhlman, I wish you had done a little research in the less enlightened parts of the US before being so positive about the necessity of making this stuff.

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Well, I ordered the book and, all fired up after reading the first essay, decided to make veal stock.  Missouri, however, is a somewhat backward state (I've met any number of adults who have never tasted lamb and never want to), and I called five Saint Louis butchers asking for veal breast (I know I can get osso bucco from one for about $4plus a pound), and only one had it -- for $2.50 a pound!  Yes, I'd love to try the velvety silkiness of it, but $25 seems a bit much.

Ruhlman was perhaps unwise, or overreaching, to echo the title of Strunk and White's classic.  "An Alphabet for Cooks" with a subtitle promising "Professional Chefs' Secrets for Home Cooks" might have been more descriptive, and aroused less ire from disappointed or persnickety readers.

I can't give my final judgment, I've not yet finished the book.  But -- sigh -- unless I locate a European or wholesale butcher, veal stock will probably remain a mirage.

Joan,

If the butcher who carries osso bucco cuts his own shank for it, then he should be able to save you the bones from the end cuts that can't be sold as osso bucco. I used these bones supplimented with some veal stew meat from the reduced section and made an excellent veal stock just last weekend. Bones - free, veal stew meat - $4. (well it did cost me the time to take some demi glace back to the butcher)

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You're kidding, right? I was just in Mount Wolf, PA (population 950) and the local grocery store there carried veal bones. And, it's far from a millionaire town. Yipes...

Thanks for your reassuring words Fat Guy.  I tried two more places, one in the Italian section on the Hill; he knew of no one there who carried veal --too expensive -- and he suggested a local supermarket chain. They said they could special order it for me; I'd get it in two weeks, at $2.79 a pound.  Fugeddaboudit!

Obviously veal stock is possible only in large metropolitan areas, or for millionaire cooks who don't have to worry about the bottom line.  Or haute cuisine restaurants, where they can factor it into the cost of the dish.

Mr. Ruhlman, I wish you had done a little research in the less enlightened parts of the US before being so positive about the necessity of making this stuff.

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I'll try again. But most of the butchers here seem to get their meat pre-cut in packages; none of them really butcher any more. I know one old-fashioned butcher -- he's in his 80's and broken-hearted because his son can't wait to get out of it -- he's the one who had veal breast at $2.50 a pound. But I don't even know if he carries osso bucco (although I must say, he's one of the few people around who often have hangar steak!). Perhaps small towns, with real butchers, and perhaps real cows and calves in the area, still cut their own meat. But like tinning copper pots, it's becoming a lost art. Somehow, I doubt if I can find anything affordable at Whole Foods - they've got local grass-grown steak which is delicious, if cher, but anything even slightly recondite is either overpriced or absent. (I've been trying to find sweetbreads, with no success - they all say something to the effect of "I have to order 10 pounds in order to get it for you, and no one else will buy the rest.")

End of rant. Or perhaps it's a whine...

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In dairy herds, 50% of the calves are male, and may end up as veal. The problem is finding where they are sent for processing.

Joan, it might be practical to buy the $2.50/lb. breast, simmer it for an hour, cool it and remove the meat for stew or "pulled veal", then return the scraps to the stock pot. Just a thought, as I have to pinch pennies as well.

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gallery_14010_5452_63171.jpg

I lead a dual life, part time NY, part time Italy, so when I got back to NY last week, and to a totally empty refrigerator, veal demi-glace was one of the first things I made as I replenished my kitchen. It's a unique ingredient, with unique properties. Yes, you can use chicken stock or beef stock, but it will yield different results, not unlike using white or red wine will yield different results. And no, it's nothing like the MSG that it was compared to.

What's interesting in reading everyone's take on this book, is on one hand there is a case being made for not dumbing down recipes, for not subbing ingredients, and then an equal case being made for just that thing.

Joancassell, I feel your pain. There are frequently ingredients that I can't obtain, and that's just the way life is, really annoying but true. I'm not sure its a fair criticism to say that Mr. Ruhlman should have researched the availability of veal bones, or discussed the moral aspects of veal. He's telling you, from his personal chef point of view, what he thinks about veal stock. That's all. Isn't a bit refreshing to have someone tell you what they really think rather than the p.c. response?

And, if you do track down a good, real butcher, kiss him, hold him, and tell him how much you treasure him as real butchers are a vanishing breed.(this is paraphrased from something Fergus Henderson has said).

And Annecross, thank you for giving me a great gift idea. My son and his girlfriend are becoming very good and passionate cooks and this just might feed their passion. (for cooking...for cooking! :laugh: )

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What's interesting in reading everyone's take on this book, is on one hand there is a case being made for not dumbing down recipes, for not subbing ingredients, and then an equal case being made for just that thing.

The train has already left the station on the issue of dumbing down and subbing. As Ruhlman notes, many of the top professionals rejected veal stock long ago: "But, of course, Vongerichten and Rodgers can work wonders with plain water. It’s the non-pro who stands to gain the most from veal stock, the home cook." So the assumption that home cooks can't cook like professional cooks is already out there. The question is, does it make sense to draw this arbitrary line at veal stock? On the one hand, the professionals Ruhlman admires most aren't actually using the recipe he recommends. On the other hand, he's saying the home cook must, must, must use it. Well, I think the home cook who's having trouble getting veal, or who has to pay $30 to get enough of it to make a pot of stock, should maybe take a step back and evaluate the intended purpose of a stock. Planning to make a sauce for beef with it? Well, certainly beef stock is fine for that. Mushrooms? Beef is going to work really well for that too. Chicken? Maybe a poultry stock would be preferable, then again I bet beef stock would work pretty well. Worth trying, especially if you make your beef stock mostly from bones such that it approaches the "neutrality" of veal stock. A sauce for fish? Well, I don't particularly enjoy most veal-stock-based fish sauces anyway.

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I'll try the Hill.  Found a wholesale butcher, who does not carry it, and another, who has veal breast at $4.00 a pound.  I'm beginning to learn why so few people make veal stock.

I had trouble finding veal breasts/bones here in Albuquerque, NM and I went to several places. One place was able to get me the veal breast at that price you listed, but it turns out that is the price for it when it is boned. Seems a lot of folks don't want veal breasts with bones anymore. They want it to stuff, if they want it at all.

The other place, where I eventually ordered, was able to get them for much less, and it was much less expensive if I ordered in a larger quantity. And the lower price they quoted was for unboned veal breasts.

My point is, check to see if the price is for veal breast with bones, or without them.

Christine

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