Stock: The Foundation of Cuisine
Stock is a basic ingredient to most soup recipes. And while it is readily available in your supermarket, it is an easy thing to make yourself. It just requires time. The main ingredients are aromatic vegetables and bones. The typical vegetables are what the chefs call mirepoix, which includes carrot, onion and celery. You can definitely add other vegetables if you’d like. The more you add, the more nutritious your stock will be. Be wary of excessively strong flavors (fennel, for instance, can overpower a soup if too much is added) and strong colors (beets will make your soup red). As far as bones go, you can buy them cheap from a butcher, or do what I do and save them after serving a large roast.
The bones of young animals and joints are the best choice for stock because the cartilage and connective tendons release collagen into the stock, making it rich, flavorful, and thick.
One trick of mine is to save scraps of meat, bones and vegetables in the freezer. I keep an empty paper milk carton in my freezer, adding scraps to it throughout the week. When it’s full, I peel the paper off the frozen block of stock scraps, toss the block into the stock pot and cover it with water. Voila! Instant stock ingredients.
4 lb. meat parts: poultry carcass, especially wings and joints; or beef, veal, or lamb bones, especially joints and meat scraps.
2 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. black peppercorn
1 sprig fresh (or 1 tsp. dried) parsley
1 sprig fresh (or 1 tsp. dried) thyme
About 4 quarts cold water
- Preheat oven to 500˚F. Wash meat and spread into a roasting pan in one layer. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place in stockpot.
- Add to the stockpot carrots, celery, onion, bay, pepper, clove, parsley and thyme. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and cook at a bare simmer for 4-6 hours. Skim the top of the stock periodically to remove any residue.
- Drain stock and cool. If there is meat left on the bones, let them cool and pick the meat off for use in soups and stews.
- To de-grease the stock, refrigerate overnight, then remove the fat that has solidified on top. Good stock will have a jellied consistency when chilled. Store refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen for 1 month. Makes about 4 quarts.
Dark Brown Stock: Toward the end of roasting add the mirepoix and a small can of tomato paste to the bones, and roast just until the veg start to brown. Be careful not to burn the mirepoix, or the stock will be bitter.
Vegetable Stock: Omit the meat, and replace with a variety of vegetables. Choose an even assortment, as too much of one vegetable will overpower the stock.
Light Stock: Instead of browning the bones in the oven, put them directly in the pot with the vegetables. The stock will be slightly less rich in flavor, and lighter in color. It’s a good choice when you want the other soup and sauce ingredients to shine.
Fish Stock: Fish meat and bones have strong flavors, and do not need browning or prolonged cooking. Combine fish bones, heads, tails, skins, shells and meat scraps with vegetables, herbs the juice of 1 lemon. Cover with water and simmer for only 30 minutes.
Onion Brulé: Some chefs like to deepen the color of their stock with a charred onion. Simply cut in in half and cook on a grill, griddle or skillet until deeply carbonized. It’s weird, but wonderful!