Me: ” What do you think we should make for dinner? ”
Hank: ” What proteins do you have?”
Me: ” Not many. ”
Hank: ” That’s very odd. ”
Me: ” I agree, but I do have goat necks. ”
Hank: ” Great, lets make risotto and a quick stock. ”
So it began, the 4 day binge of stock making spurred by Hank offering to cook dinner for Kate, Butter and me. Stock is magical, it’s an air freshener for your house, the base for many sauces and one of the most useful ingredients you’ll have in your kitchen. The best home cooks have stock in their freezer and any restaurant worth a damn is always making stock. Vegetable scraps and animal bones all end up in the continual cauldron of stock found on the back of the stove.
Stock is as basic as it gets, the whole idea is to make water awesome. Some vegetables, bones if it’s a meat stock and cold water. Stock can take on two forms, a general stock base that has almost no flavoring other than the obligatory onion/leek, celery and carrots with some black pepper corns. Some are specifically made for a single use and may have more ingredients in it to achieve a specific flavor profile. The gist is though, you want to have a rich flavored stock that you can use as a base whatever dish you’re making.
Hank: ” You know what would be great, some pigs feet so we can get that awesome gelatin in the stock. ”
Me: ” Oh, I have some. ”
Hank: ” Are you serious? ”
Me: ” Well not feet, but I have the stock from them with all the gelatin. ”
Hank: ” HA, this is why you’re awesome. ”
This was the next exchange with Hank and me when talking about making stock. I always have odd pork parts or byproducts of pork, hanging around just for situations like that. While making stock is simple, making great stock is a bit more difficult. Things like gelatin, roasted bones, perhaps some dried mushrooms or mushroom stock may add the little something that take it over the top. The mouthfeel of gelatin, the umami of mushrooms, it’s definitely something to play with. Stock should simmer for as long as possible. It’s always better to have a concentrated stock then a large volume of stock, so don’t let impatience take over, let it go, just let it go. I cooked most of these for at least 24hrs.
Over the next four days, I made about 12 – 14 quarts of stock:
- Goat Neck Stock
- Goat Neck Remoulage
- Pig Head Stock
- Bunny Stock
Remoulage is what exactly? Well, remoulage literally translates to regrinding or remilling. It’s basically using the same stock ingredients twice to create another stock. it’ll be lighter and potentially a little less flavorful, it’s a frugal way to work when you have some great ingredients.
After the stock was complete, I strained them by ladling the stock through a paper towel. Resist the urge to just dump it into the strainer, it will certainly cloud. Clouding is one of the trademarks of lazy stock, at least in my opinions. One of the key watch-outs for making clear stock is not to let it boil and do not stir it … ever. This will for sure make it cloudy, and while I’ve never noticed a difference in taste per se, the mouthfeel is definitely a little more slimy. Being cloudy is in large part emulsification of fats and as you might expect, this would make the feel of the stock a bit slimy. But fear not, we have a solution for this. The poor man’s consommé.
First though, a true cosumé is a bit of a complicated and delicate process. You clarify the stock of all of it’s impurities through the use of ground meat, vegetables and eggs. The meat and vegetables adding flavor and the eggs providing structure. Clarifying this way is a classic French technique that, when done well, results in a crystal clear stock. At the CIA, they say you should be able to read a nickel at the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket.
All that being said, there is an easier way to get a reasonably clear stock and that’s through the use of egg whites and a little bit of vinegar. What happens is the albumen encapsulates the fat molecules after the vinegar helps to separate the fat from the “water”. I’ll explain the how-to steps below.
At this point, you have a clean stock and a bunch of left over bones, usually with some meat on them. Do -not- throw these out, but rather take the meat off the bones and reserve it for use in things like ravioli and tortellini. I did just this with the meat from the pig’s head and the rabbit and made some great stuffed pastas. The waste not want not in me takes over in times like this and can’t bear to waste anything.
In closing after this long ramble, there is virtually no excuse to not make stock. It’s simple, requires very few ingredients and goes a long way in anyone’s kitchen regardless of skill level. Make it and enjoy it.
This is a quick method for clarifying stock that may have gotten cloudy. It's by no means a conumé or classic method, but it does in fact work well.
- Stock - 1 qt of strained stock that may be cloudy
- Egg Whites - 2 egg whites
- White Vinegar / Lemon Juice - 1 Tbsp
- Water - 1 Tbsp
- Combine eggs, acid and water into a bowl and mix well
- Add stock to a pot, add in the mixture and bring to a rolling boil
- When the boiling starts and a raft is formed, turn the heat off and let stand for 15 - 20 minutes
- After letting it stand, gently ladle the clarified stock through a paper towel to catch the egg whites
- When you reach the bottom, resist the urge to pour the last bits into the strainer so as to not disturb the collected fat and adding it back into the clarified stock
- Enjoy the newly clarified stock