It’s time to learn one of the fundamental skills in culinary school; the technique and end-product upon which almost every other aspect of French cuisine rests: stock. The French are masters at wringing every ounce of flavor out of an animal, right down to the bone. And today, the instructor will teach the eager students how it is done.
Stock has gained quite a lot of mystique over the years. Many people are under the impression that stocks are difficult to make. This is not the case. They are time consuming, but only for the stove. Many stocks are born in the wee hours of the night: the last cook out the door makes sure that the liquid is at a perfect, very slow simmer, and then the stock is left to itself until the next day.
A stock is based on bones. A broth (bouillon, in French) is based on meat. While a broth can be very flavorful, a stock delivers a rich mouthfeel courtesy of the gelatin that is slowly extracted from the bones.
Along with depth of flavor, it is the extraction of gelatin that is the goal of stock making. Rule number one: don’t rush it. For veal stock, take the time to brown the bones and roast the vegetables. Bring the temperature up slowly; never let it boil; skim diligently, and you will be rewarded with a wonderful stock.
Culinary students get a lot of training making veal stock, since the milder flavor of veal marries with a wider variety of foods, but it is much easier for a home cook to find beef bones, so you may want to try your hand at beef stock. The ingredient list and procedure are identical, regardless.
7 pounds veal or beef bones, cut into 2 or 3-inch pieces
1 can best quality tomato paste
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup red wine or water, for deglazing
Small handful peppercorn
4 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, F.
Spread bones in a roasting pan and roast for about 30 minutes, turning once. Remove from the oven, and paint a thin layer of tomato paste over the bones. Put the vegetables on top of the bones, and roast an additional 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables begin to caramelize.
Remove the bones and vegetables to a stock pot. Deglaze the roasting pan with wine or water, and pour this into the stock pot. Add peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme. Cover the bones with cold water.
Over medium heat, slowly bring the bones up to a very gentle simmer. Don’t let the stock boil. Adjust the temperature to maintain a gentle bubbling. Every thirty minutes or so, skim off any foam that rises to the top of the pot.
Let the stock simmer gently for at least four hours. If you have the time, it can simmer for up to 12 hours. Add a little more water and lower the heat if you are getting too much evaporation.
When the stock is done, remove the bones and discard. Strain through a very fine mesh strainer or through a colander lined with three or four layers of cheesecloth. Chill quickly, then refrigerate. Skim off the fat from that has solidified on top, and discard.
Culinary students use this stock as the base of mother sauces. It might be the beginnings of demi glace. But how do we, as home cooks, use veal stock? Use this rich stock as a base for French Onion Soup. Use it in any vegetable or beef-based soup, chili, stew, etc.
Making your own veal stock for soup might seem like growing your own wheat to make bread, but the depth of flavor afforded by using a homemade stock cannot be denied. You will be able to tell the difference.
And while, for day to day cooking, you can probably get away with using low sodium canned beef broth, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to making homemade stock. We live in a fast-paced world, and making stock gives you the perfect opportunity to slow down and connect with food on a level that we don’t often have time for.
Some of you may be thinking, there's no way I'm going through that process to make veal stock for my soups and sauces. Lucky for you there are commercial products on the market that are almost as good as making it yourself but without all the fuss.
More Than Gourmet makes a great product called Glace de Veau Gold. It is a 20 to 1 veal stock reduction that is made from a delicate combination of veal bones and other all natural ingredients. These guys do the work for you so all you have to do is reconstitute with hot water. It's not a powder or some salty cube but the real thing.
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