Food Sunday: Of Stocks And Sauces, Them Tiny Bubbles!
"Photo: courtesy of www.wa.gov.tourism"
Working in the food business is a fast paced life, pedal to the metal all day. Open, prep, set up your station, serve, tear down, inventory, prep for next shift and do it all over again for dinner.
While the front of the house has a different pacing because they are exposed to the public, behind the scenes in the kitchen it’s an insane dance of frantic urgency because there’s never enough time and anything can go wrong and mess it all up. And so it’s a non-stop mad rush at 150% while trying to keep it all under control and not get hurt.
I mean, we’re talking about at LEAST one oven at 500F, another one at 425F for a small 20 table restaurant, blazing hot stoves with hi fires on the tops for the sauté station, maybe a hard wood grill with grill temps at 400F or more, deep fryers, convection ovens off the line with doors flying open and closed. Stock pots, steam kettles, all at varying temps with stuff in them that can scald in a flash.
You learn fast to open the door to an oven and keep yer head back for a few seconds to let that blazing wave of unleashed heat go by without burning your face before you reach in to grip a metal handle that’s blazing hot or a casserole dish, or any number of things in fiery hot ovens. Same thing with the steamer if there’s one on the line or off the service line.
Sharp knives, large robot coupes (big food processors), meat grinders, whirling paddles in big mixers (don’t get a towel on your belt or an apron string caught) and a hundred other things all there to cut you, burn you, catch you and make you hurt. Toss in constantly wet and slippery floors just BEGGING you to tumble and fall and it’s a wonder work comp even LETS restaurants operate!!!
But when it’s all over late at night, after final service and all the stuff’s put away, the stations and the lines are cleaned, the steam table is emptied and washed out, the oven tops are broken down to the dishwasher as you wash the oven inside and out, the grills emptied of coals, the walls washed, the filters pulled from the hood vents, the hood themselves washed then polished (you climb up on the grills and oven tops to clean the hoods), and each station’s refrigerated drawers are emptied, pulled out and then cleaned and the reefer is cleaned too . . . . and then your inventory is done, and if you are the lead dog, the kitchen manager, the chef, you’ve called in the next day’s meat, fish, produce and dairy orders and reviewed the tickets to match them up with the front of the house to see if anyone’s stealing, and reviewed the station inventories and taken the walk-in and freezer inventory to see if anyone’s stealing . . . whew, yer tired!!!!!
After all of this, all that’s left on in the kitchen are low lights and maybe one hood vent fan, and a low, low flame under the stock pots.
And the bubbles. The little, tiny bubbles in them stock pots, plop plop, slowly, every 15 seconds or so . . . that’s the magic time, and that’s the magic act taking place. . . .
It’s my favorite part of any day in the kitchen. Dead quiet for the most part, and that little plop, plop . . . and the scent in the air coming from the stockpot(s). Those tiny bubbles are part of the process of reduction. It’s how stocks are made. It’s how flavors are concentrated in the first stage.
And stocks are the building blocks of the life of the food. They are the one item that permeates EVERYTHING ELSE THAT’S DONE in the kitchen to make the food that’s served. Without GREAT stocks, the food will fail. Simple as that.
So, what the heck are stocks? I’m glad you asked!!!
Stocks are a mix of roasted, sometimes un-roasted, bones and body parts of animals and vegetables boiled/simmered in water for various periods of time. They are placed in cooking pots that range from one gallon or less, to 25 gallons or more. The larger ones have faucets and a mesh strainer inside the pot to strain larger particles when you empty it.
Stocks are used to make soups, sauces and also heavily concentrated finishing liquids that are often used hot or cold to paint plates with . . . usually put into plastic squeeze bottles with nipples of varying sizes.
The Basic Stocks (European/American)
- Vegetable Stock
- Chicken Stock
- Beef Stock
- Veal Stock (demi glace)
- Fish Stock (fumet)
Other stocks are made thru out the world for different purposes, such as the Asian/Chinese Master Stock which is used primarily for poaching meats and fowls. I’ll be covering the Euro/Amer stocks for the sake of brevity (I know, WHAT brevity, Larue?).
What’s IN A Stock?
Glad you asked!
Besides the vegetables one cuts especially for the stock, any restaurant or household has saved in different containers the following:
Other items might include celery root peel, unused parts of the celery root that are too tough and the tops to celery root. Scallion ends, shallot peelings, etc.
These are only the basic vegetables. Further down the line, as one specializes in a stock or a sauce, more exotic herbs and vegetables such as fennel, assorted root veggies (parsnips, rutabagas, beets, and more) are incorporated to make a DISTINCT signature stock or sauce, but that’s outside the boundary of the stock basics.
Yeah, But, How Do I MAKE A Stock, Larue?
Glad you asked!
Light Vegetable Stock
This stock can be used to steam, sauté or boil vegetables or any NUMBER of things . . . even dumplings, ravioli, wonton. It can be used to poach items including vegetables, meat, fowl, and game where you want a light scent that’s uncomplicated, you can cook rice with it, use it for risotto, stir-frys and anything else your imagination can render.
- Rough chop of 50% onion, 25% carrots, and 25% celery.
- Whole cloves of garlic. For one gallon pot of beginning stock, 10 cloves.
- I usually shoot for half the pot of veggies, and water to the top.
- Place in stock pot, add water to within two inches of top of pot.
- Using YOUR choice of items from the saved end pieces and leftovers, and YOUR choice of herbs, add those items to the pot.
- Common items in ALL veggie stocks are parsley, thyme, and some basil.
- Even in a light veggie stock, I personally like to add tomato bits, but not a lot.
- Add 10 peppercorns per gallon of water.
- I always add SOME amount of Worcestershire, light or dark.
- I always add some red chili flakes, too.
- Adding a lot of any one kind of herb will give you a specialty flavor.
- Bring to a boil, and then lower to a slight simmer for 45 minutes.
- Skim acids on top as they form.
- Reduce volume by half
- Drain, strain, let cool to room temp and cover and refrigerate (or freeze in ice cube trays for those at home).
Dark Vegetable Stock
This stock can be used as the light stock is used but will have more intense flavors.
Same as above, but I roast the vegetables and garlic at 450F for 20 minutes or more to caramelize and brown them. I also might splash some balsamic vinegar over the veggies before they go into the oven. The cooking and cooling and storage are the same as above.
Chicken Stock-Light Chicken Stock
This stock can be used to steam, sauté or boil vegetables or any NUMBER of things . . . even dumplings, ravioli, wonton. It can be used to poach items including vegetables, meat, and fowl, game where you want a light scent that’s uncomplicated. You can cook rice with it, use it for risotto, stir frys and anything else your imagination can render.
I often make the basic chicken stock, and use it for soup bases.
I’ll also use the cooled product and reduce it by half or more for some sauces.
We’ll talk about sauces in another posting. THAT’S my favorite pastime and where one’s artistic and creative abilities are TRULY unleashed.
Depending on what you will do with the stock, you might use all the left over parts of chickens that have been broken down (cut up) into separate parts for different purposes.
There’s always the carcass, perhaps bones you clipped (off the wingtip or leg tips) in the process of dressing your whole chickens and gizzards, livers and such. It all depends on what you want to DO with the stock.
For a basic light stock I want ¼ of the pot filled with bones, and another ¼ filled with vegetables, as I would use for light vegetable broth.
No roasting of bones or vegetables. For a TRULY light stock, only use white or lite vegetables, no tomato bits, no carrots (unless white). Onions can be yellow or white, and celery is fine . . . parsley bits and stems are ok, also. And don’t use any dark pieces of the chicken . . . .
A basic chicken stock WOULD use carrots and tomato bits.
If you don’t have enough chicken parts on hand, you have two options.
1) Take your whole chickens and bring them to a fast boil in the stockpot with seasonings and vegetables. Let them boil for 5 minutes, lower the flame and remove the chickens to break down for other purposes. Take any bones you didn’t keep and return them to the stockpot.
2) Buy chicken bones, and/or, chicken feet (very much used in Asian and Jewish cooking) from your local meat market.
Once your stockpot is set up with the combination of bones and vegetables you want, season it as above with peppercorns, etc.
I like thyme and bay leaf in my chicken stock, but light amounts.
Some white Worcestershire . . . chili flakes are optional depending on what you do with the stock.
Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then lower flame and simmer for 4 hours.
Drain, strain thru stockpot faucet. THEN, take it thru a fine mesh strainer/china cap with paper filter for a VERY clear stock . . .
Cool and refrigerate or freeze as you wish.
Dark Chicken Stock
Dark Chicken Stock
Roast your vegetables, garlic and chicken parts/bones for half hour at 450F to caramelize them. Should take about a half hour or 45 minutes. Don’t burn the bones/veggies. Dark brown is ok, burnt is black and one step too far!!!
Make stock per above, and this time again you use carrots and tomato bits.
Strain, cool and refrigerate or freeze as needed.
I don’t make this a lot, but when I do, it’s for further reduction to make special sauces.
It CAN be used as a base from some Cajun dishes including jambalaya or gumbos. And it goes well with dark curries. It’s all a matter of individual choices.
I don’t usually make soups from it other than one category . . . roasted root vegetables.
Roast the root vegetables, boil with the dark stock, take a hand held blender to it and puree it . . . . strain it, and serve with various crème fraiche toppings and roasted garlic type crostini (croutons).
Used for base to make sauces, soups, and for meat-based dishes, pot roasts. Can be used to poach/braise meats.
I don’t use a lot of beef stock, but it has some specific applications in recipes calling for meat-based elements. I DO use it for a meat chili when I mix meat and pork and want a dark red chili color and taste.
Beef bones. They can be from most any part of the cow or steer, but ideally you want the parts that have the most protein and marrow . . . lower leg bones sliced up in rounds, upper thigh bones that connect to the shoulders and hips, some rib bones, etc. Consult your local butcher for what they have, and suggest.
Same veggie mix as above for dark veggie stock, MORE garlic!
I like to mix tomato paste into the chopped veggies before roasting.
I like a 400F oven for this one, so as not to burn the bones at all.
I want them dark, but not too dark. I DO lightly season the beef bones, rubbing them with EVOO, and adding some sea salt and ground pepper, light amounts, do not over salt as it will condense!
- Place to roasting pan, and roast for half hour.
- Remove roasting pan, add the vegetable mix (don’t add leftover tomato bits and parsley bits to roasting).
- Add a 16 oz. can of drained chopped tomatoes to roasting pan, diced tomatoes, or whole plum/pear tomatoes (reserve liquid and add to stock pot), and roast bones and veggies for another 30 minutes.
- The bones will get an hour or roasting, and the veggies a half hour.
- Remove pan from oven and transfer bones first, then vegetables, to stockpot.
- Add the reserved liquid to stockpot.
- Add two cups red wine per gallon of stock to roasting pan, and bake for 5 minutes or until it boils.
- Remove from oven, scrape out the bottom and dump it all into the stockpot.
- Fill pot to 3 inches from the top with cold water and bring to a boil.
- Add peppercorns, all the tomato and parsley bits from the leftover bin.
- Reduce flame to a good simmer, and reduce liquid to half of the pot.
- Add water to fill pot to 2/3, and reduce to halfway point again.
- This can take 12-24 hours depending on how fast you simmer.
- I like to simmer real slow, and take the full 24 hours.
- Skim regularly to remove acids.
- Taste and adjust seasonings/herbs as you go, DO NOT ADD SALT!
- You’ve already lightly salted the bones, it will condense
- Strain, run thru fine mesh strainer/china cap with holes, no paper filter or cheesecloth.
- Cool to room temp, and refrigerate or freeze as needed.
Veal Stock (demi glace)
This is the beginning of the art. This is where the saucier starts to earn their keep.
All the other stuff before is easy . . . fundamental.
This is where those 2am bubbles become works of art in motion, in the reduction. Demi glace is the foundation for about 60% of all the sauces one will find in any good restaurant. It’s the foundation for all the best.
I want to address a situation I’ve read about in preparing this missive of mine.
Wiki insists that demi-glace is the product of combining veal stock with sauce espagnole.
In all my time in kitchens, working with French and Italian chefs, not one of them ever said demi-glace was the product of two things. So either I had bad chefs I trained under, or wiki and other references are wrong.
For the purpose of moving forward, I’m sticking to MY guns and describing demi-glace as a basic veal bone/vegetable stock reduction. It’s my belief that the incorporation of a tomato product into the demi-glace of the French, which they got from the Spanish, IS the root of this misunderstanding.
But as far as I’m concerned, Sauce Espagnole is a by product of beef stock and further reductions. And ROUX. Flour and butter. They have NO place in a good demi glace reduction from a stockpot . . .
How it is incorporated with OTHER stocks or sauces is a matter for further consideration. As is glace viande. Beef. Not veal. Sure, it’s all moo, but there’s a DIFFERENCE in the moo. Harumph!
And I’m not sure WIKI puts forth Escoffier’s treatise on culinary reality or any OTHER culinary building blocks from the 17-18 hundreds in proper form. Certainly not like I was taught. But I’m not Cordon Bleu or CIA trained!!! Only served under those who were.
Onto the demi-glace!
Bones. Dem bones, dem bones, all dem bones!
- Gotta be veal bones, not beef bones.
- Bones from calf. Veal. Bones with marrow in them. Lots of marrow.
- Again, cut from the parts of the calf that has the most marrow.
- And cut up to release that marrow and protein when roasted and simmered.
- Prep to roast, with EVOO, light sea salt and ground pepper.
- Prepare the vegetables as with beef stock.
- Add twice the garlic as to beef stock (just me).
- Roast bones, roast vegetables as in beef stock.
- Deglaze roasting pan with red wine
. . . different wines will yield different flavors, subtle, but different. I like Merlot. Gamays are too light, and Cab Savs are too expensive. Zinfandel’s are ok, but a bit light for me . . .
- Fill stockpot half way with roasted bones, and to 2/3 with roasted vegetables.
- Add all the leftover bits from previe vegetable stock recipe.
- Add same drained tomatoes from beef stock.
I add fennel bulbs ends I don’t use and celery root ends I don’t use, to the veggies being roasted in this recipe.
That’s the beauty of all of this, find your heart. Mine is in the basil/fennel side of life.
- Empty roasting pan to stockpot, bones on bottom, veggies on top, so you don’t burn veggies on bottom of stockpot.
- Deglaze roasting pan as in beef stock.
- Add another two cups of wine to stockpot, after cleaning out the roasting pan and it’s juices and wine.
- Fill stockpot to 3-4 inches of top with cold water, and bring to boil for 30 minutes.
- Reduce, and simmer till half reduced. 8 hours minimum for 20 gallons.
- 4 hours for anything under 5 gallons. More, under less heat, I’d suggest.
- Add water to fill to 3-4 inches again, and reduce that half again.
- Taste, and season.
- Reduce till only 1/3 of stock pot is liquid.
- 24 hours should be the cause.
- Strain thru faucet on stockpot, or thru first a medium holed china cap, then through a fine sieve china cap.
- Cool, put to plastic containers, and refrigerate or freeze to use.
The demi-glace recipe can be used with chicken bones, half and half veal/chicken bones, roasted or unroasted vegetables, and is a HELL of a base to work with for lighter sauces.
The demi-glace recipe can be used with chicken bones, half and half again, with roasted bones, and roasted or unroasted veggies to yet another usage.
Suffice to say, at the end, the demi glace, the beef stock, and the chicken stock will yield tubs of a gelatin like product with some fat on the surface as it’s cooled in the refrigerator.
And then, the real fun starts.
But it all begins, with them little tiny bubbles going plop, plop, at 2am.
When the kitchen is quiet for a short time.
And magic is being made from reductions. Pure magic.
Plop, plop. Tiny little bubbles. All your heart and mind and soul at work.
Fish Stock (fumet)
- White fish only, unless you are making something special for salmon recipes.
- But basically, fish stock does NOT have salmon bones in it.
- Used to poach, steam, braise fishes.
- Used to reduce and make sauces, usually light and/or cream based with mustard sauces.
- Caper sauces with fish stock as the base for a buerre blanc or buerre rouge or buerre noir to go WITH fish . . .
- Fish bones, fish heads (lots of marrow) and unroasted veggies without tomato . . . often without carrot, too.
- Same proportions, half bones and veggies to half the pot.
- Cold water, and in this case, lemon ends, bits, and such to taste.
- Parsley, thyme and basil ok.
- Bring to boil, lower flame, and simmer 10 minutes.
- Skim acids all the time.
- Strain, strain again for clear stock.
- Cool and refrigerate or freeze.
- In some recipes, add shrimp peels, or lobster shells.
- Or make stock with ONLY shrimp peels, or ONLY lobster tails.
And that’s that! Stocks for the culinary soul.
It’s all about the tiny little bubbles for the art, for the flavor, for the love.
Many plops to all, and I’ll see ya on the next post, All About Sauces From Stocks.