Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lesson 1: Soups, Stocks and Broths

White Stock - Brown Stock - Roasted Vegetable Stock - Crème Olga - French Onion Soup

When a recipe calls for broth or stock, many home chefs pull out a bouillon cube or canned. The end results are usually too salty and lack depth of flavor. Not many of us think we have time to make stock from scratch on a regular basis, yet making stock is one of the most cost-effective and most flavorful ways to enhance our favorite dishes. These days, it just makes sense to maximize all of our grocery purchases. The best part about stock, you can use many ingredients that would simply be thrown away – carrot tops, peels and bottoms, celery tops, onion skins, potato skins, poultry, pork and beef bones, parsley stems, mushroom stems, and vegetables or meats that simply would not look good on your plate. And it’s easy to keep a supply of these throw away ingredients on hand whenever you have time to simmer up a batch. Simply wash and pat dry any produce leftovers and place in a freezer bag. Be sure to date and list the ingredients on the outside of the bag and place in your freezer (freeze up to three months). You can use these ingredients in addition to other vegetables, fresh proteins, dried and fresh herbs and spices.

The stock recipes that follow include mostly whole vegetables and fresh protein; however you can use approximate measurements for any of your leftovers. A good rule of thumb is for every ¾ pound of protein, use 1 carrot, 1 stalk celery, 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 2 sprigs thyme and parsley, 4 black peppercorns, and about 6 cups cold water. Stocks freeze well, so you can always keep some on hand.

You can also make quick versions, using more concentrated quantities of ingredients and less water. Probably the most familiar quick broths used in home kitchens today are from simmering necks and innards from turkey, chicken or other poultry which is then used to make homemade gravy. Many home chefs will also cook poultry carcasses after roasting to make a batch of stock for homemade soups.

Making great stock is not difficult, yet takes time, patience and low heat. A good quality stock makes all recipes that much better by providing a delicious base on which to build additional flavor layers. As a base, it’s important not to include ingredients that have strong flavor profiles or you risk overwhelming the other ingredients. Stay away from vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cabbage, radishes, bitter greens and beets as a general rule.

A few other points to remember when making stock:

Never let it boil for more than a minute – bring it up to a boil and quickly reduce heat to allow it to simmer gently

Never cover the pot as this causes the steam to condense on the lid and then flow back into the stock, making it cloudy. Covering the pot also means less evaporation which is essential to making concentrated flavors.

Don’t stir the pot – this will only make the stock cloudy.

Don’t add salt to your stock – remember this is a base – season your finish dish, not the base or you risk over salting.

When making stock from a chicken or turkey carcass, a couple of other thoughts to consider:
1. Use the carcass quickly, without allowing it to get stale;
2. Don’t cook a carcass too long, or it can become strong and bitter;
3. Whenever possible, add a small amount of raw meat, such as veal, chicken or beef, and some uncooked marrow-filled bones to your stocks to provide more body and flavor.

One quick note on the differences between stocks and broths – most recipes call for one or the other, yet they can be used interchangeably. Older recipes generally call for stock, while newer recipes generally call for broth. The biggest difference noted in recipes are that broths generally call for meat and vegetables, while stock usually includes bones, as well as meat (sometimes) and vegetables.

Recipes for Lesson 1 include a white stock (can be poultry or red meat, but is made using un-roasted meats and vegetables, a brown stock (usually made with red meat, marrow bones and vegetables, roasted in the oven first), a roasted vegetable stock – technically a brown broth since it is roasted and does not include bones.

For occasions when a small quantity of stock is called for in a soup recipe, use the following oven roasted brown stock recipe.

Simple Oven Brown Stock:

¾ lb. stew meat or chicken (breasts, thighs, tenders), cut in 1” pieces
1 carrots, cut in 2” pieces
1 stalks celery, cut in 2” pieces
1 medium onion, cut in half, not peeled
1 tomato, cut into quarters
1 cloves garlic, smashed with back of a knife
1 Tbs. Canola Oil
2 sprigs each parsley, thyme
1 bay leaf
4 black peppercorns
6 cups cold water

Preheat oven to 375° F. Place all meat, vegetables and garlic in bottom of Dutch oven or roasting pan. Drizzle canola oil over top and toss with a spoon to distribute well. Place pan in oven and roast for approximately 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven, add in water, herbs and spices. Return pan to oven and bring mixture up to a simmer. Use a spoon to skim off impurities and fat that rise to the top. Reduce heat to 250° F, and continue to cook for about an hour. Remove stock from oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve. Yield is approximately 5 cups of clear stock.

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