Take Stock, Make Stock
Stocks are to cooking what foundations are to a house
– Georges Auguste Escoffier
Escoffier was a French chef, restaurateur, and culinary writer and his quote is as true today as it was 100 years ago. In French cooking, stocks are used to make sauces and to reinforce flavor in many dishes. In culinary school, we learned all about stocks (fonds) and I enjoy making homemade stocks for sauces, soups, stews, etc.
I know it is easier to pick up a box of stock or broth from the grocery store, but honestly, it is better to make it yourself. It’s fresher, economical, and downright satisfying. I’m often asked what the difference is between stock and broth – here is a great explanation.
My usual rotation in making stocks include chicken stock (Fond de volaille), fish or shellfish stock (Fumet de poissons ou crustacés), and beef stock (Fond de bœuf). During the week, I save fresh vegetable scraps such as carrots, onions, celery, and parsley stems to create a mirepoix. I toss everything into a freezer storage bag and periodically add more things including garlic scraps, onion skins, the green parts of leeks, scallion trimmings, carrot peelings, celery leaves, fresh sprigs of thyme – all great aromatics that will ultimately flavor your stock.
For chicken stock, I grab my frozen mirepoix mixture, some raw chicken wings and chicken bones and toss everything in a large pot with cold water. Bring it up to a boil and then drop it down to a simmer. After a good simmer for over 2 hours, you must strain the stock from the bones and vegetables through a chinois into a container. The stock should be chilled down quickly if you are not going to use it right away.
The result is a stock flavored with the essence of all its ingredients and the kitchen is heady with a comforting aroma. A big pot of stock will fill about 8 quart containers – remember to name and date your freezer items. I buy freezer labels that are super easy to remove when cleaning your used containers. A sharpie and a stack a labels are indispensable and you will thank me by never having to guess the frozen mystery item in the back of your freezer ever again.
Stocks are also used to create classic French sauces or sauces mères (mother sauces) that can be adapted into a variety of other sauces. But that topic deserves its own post so more on that later.
Today, I’m making a beef stock with beef femur bones I purchased at the market as well as meaty ox tails. For this stock, you take your rinsed bones and toss them into a roasting pan with rough chopped carrots, celery, onion, 2 bay leaves, about a dozen black peppercorns, and a few garlic cloves – be sure to coat the bones with a little bit of canola oil so that the bones roast properly. Then into a 400 degree oven for about an hour – after 30 minutes give the bones and aromatics a good stir and turn bones over to roast evenly for the remaining time.
Once the bones are roasted, the entire mixture gets transferred to a stock pot with fresh cold water. I ensure that the oil left in the roasting pan is ladled and removed. A good beef stock needs to simmer for many hours. I personally like it to go for about 8 – 10 hours. Those chunky bones release their flavor and collagen very slowly. So, it’s a perfect thing to do when you’ll be home all day.
Once you are satisfied that your beef stock has simmered as long as possible, the same rule of thumb requires you to run it through a chinois and chill down. Lately, I’ve also added one extra step when finalizing a good stock – by clarifying it - check out this video by Chef Jacques Pépin.
My suggestion, if you are trying to cut down on processed foods, then take stock and make stock.