Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Stock Boy

Stocks can be either white (neutral) or brown. While they're both made with a combination of bones, vegetables, and seasonings, different methods  produce different results. Whether using veal, chicken, or beef bones, the more familiar white stock (proteins, mireproix, and seasonings simmered in water) should be clear with a high gelatin content. Brown stock changes it up a bit because the bones and mirepoix are roasted  before they're simmered in water. The caramelization adds a darker color and more intense flavor. Brown stock should have a rich color, body, and high gelatin content.

The stock mantra.
Bring it to a boil.
Reduce it to a simmer.
Skim the scum.
Don't stir.

We made a lot of stock in school. On any given day, huge steam kettles bubbled away with chicken, veal, and beef stock. As Basic Lab minions, we were the keepers of the stock. We had to roast, blanch, watch, simmer, skim, chill, and store all the stocks while juggling other tasks in the kitchen. Although it all seemed fairly straightforward and basic, I managed to utterly botch my first attempt at making brown chicken stock. I knew that I supposed to roast the chicken bones separately from the mirepoix, but I got caught up in the hectic pace of the kitchen and roasted them together.  Bad move.  By the time the bones were deeply browned, the vegetables were incinerated. Do over. It wasn't a good day. Lesson learned.

Nowadays, I love making stock. Whenever I have the time and the scraps stashed away, I'll throw together a batch. Last weekend, I had an entire day to putz around the kitchen and play stock boy.

The Stock Market.
Typically, my freezer would have been filled with bags of chicken parts. I buy them whole, cut them up, and toss the parts in the freezer. Nope. I had one chicken back and a few wing tips. Market tip. Elmwood Stock Farm sells organic chicken stock packs at the farmers market. Who knew?  Brilliant.  I made a quick early morning run to the market and picked up 4 pounds of bony chicken backs. Back in business.

Brown Chicken Stock.
The chicken backs were huge. Fleshy carcasses, really. Perfect for stock. After using a cleaver to hack the chicken backs into manageable pieces, I tumbled the bones into a  roasting pan and slid them into a 400 degree oven to roast for an hour.  While the chicken sizzled away , I chopped the mirepoix ( 3
unpeeled carrots, 2 large onions, and 3 celery stalks) into large pieces and set them aside.

When the chicken bones were deeply caramelized, I pulled them out and dropped them into a large stock pot. I poured the residual fat from the pan into a small bowl and deglazed the pan with 1 cup of water before ladling the fond-flavored water into the pot with the browned bones.

I tossed the vegetables with 1/4 cup of the reserved chicken fat, scattered them into the cleaned pan, and roasted them for an hour.  During the last 10 minutes, I slathered the vegetables with 4 tablespoon of tomato paste. When the tomato paste browned and the vegetables caramelized, I scooped them into the  pot with the chicken.

After filling the stock pot with 14 cups of cold water, I added 2 bay leaves, 5 peppercorns, 10 parsley stems, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. I brought the stock to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and let it rip for 4 1/2 hours, occasionally skimming the accumulated scum. Low maintenance.

8 hours for stock? Yep. Because  the simmering process extended well into our designated parlor wine hour, I let it go a wee bit longer.

I strained the stock through a cheesecloth-lined colander, cooled it completely  in an ice bath, and tossed it into the refrigerator to set.

After the stock chilled, I used a spoon to crack open and remove the thin layer of fat covering the top.


No comments: