The importance of GOOD stock
And I’m not talking about breeding cattle! Quite possibly the biggest difference I’ve seen between domestic cooking and the commercial kitchens I’ve been lucky enough to do work experience in, is the time, effort and care taken into producing good quality stock.
From the asian masterstock at Dan hong’s MsGs to Colin Fassnidge’s Pork hock stock, these are some of the most important things to be cooked in these kitchens.
These are the basis for the flavour profiles that we enjoy in the final product.
At home I make stock weekly, in large batches then freeze until required. The main stock I use is chicken. Chicken stock is quite neutral in flavour therefore can be used in a variety of dishes other than chicken. For example if I’m making seafood Paella or risotto, I will use half chicken stock half fish stock so is not to make the flavour to overpowering.
The second stock I use a lot of is veal. Again add flavour without being to overbearing or distinct in its flavour.
Veal stock would be the base for most of my red meat sauces for beef and lamb, also the base sauce for my red wine jus.
Thirdly, I like to use seafood bisque quite a bit. This is a stock made for shellfish.
I like to use lobster and prawn heads, any shellfish waste is good.
When it come to a white fish stock I will generally make this as I need it, as it’s a very quick stock and can actually turn bitter if cooked too long.
I don’t tend to use a lot of vegetable stock, I would generally use chicken stock in its place unless cooking for a vegetarian of course!!
Other stock can be derived from other cooking processes, such as the liquid you braise meat is, Don’t throw this type of stuff away, strain, then freeze.
Now for my recipes. All of my stocks contain 4 basic ingredients.
For heavy boned stocks (beef, lamb,veal ect) Its important to roast the bones off in the oven first, get them really carimalised, this will add a huge amount of flavour to your stock.
In fact I roast the bones of all of my stock except a white fish stock.
While the bones are roasting, rough chop your vegetables and sauté in the pot you plan to cook the stock in. A rough guide would be-
4 sticks of celery
2 bay leaves
Not that I would ever measure this out!! Include any vege scraps you might have as well. Another tip is to cut you carrots nicely as they can be used once the stock is finished for other things.
Add the roasted bones to the sauted vegetables and cover with water. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer, don’t cover as we are after a reduction in liquid.
A rough guide on time is-
These times are until I strain them, there maybe further cooking to reduce to the desired flavour/consistency.
Its also important to “skim” the surface of these stock during the process. This means to remove the scum that rises to the surface, this can be done with a ladle quite easily.
Once you have strained and reduced (remembering you can water down later, but cant add more flavour!!) I then let the stock cool before separating it into containers of the the most practical portions before labelling and freezing.
For example I may put my chicken in 1 litre containers for risottos and soups and my veal stock may be heavily reduced and in small portion,s as small as an ice cube tray for making jus and gravy. You workout the portions you require, but remember you can get 2 containers out, but its sacrilege to throw away any excess!
Start making your own stocks at home and you will not only find a dramatic difference in your end dishes, you will also discover why all the good chefs refer to good stock as “liquid Gold”