Building Blocks:

Stock

"The usefulness of stocks in cooking is arguably the most important ingredient that can be produced by a chef that will define their worthiness in the kitchen. In classic French cooking, with its focus on quality building blocks that develop layers of deep flavors, taking care to produce stocks of the highest quality will ensure the chef's success in the recipes in which they are utilized"

A cook who pays attention to the detail and nuance of quality stock production will inevitably possess the passion for other tasks involved in the preparation of exquisite cuisine. Just as one could not build a house before first installing a quality foundation, a great dish cannot be prepared without first paying close attention to the foundation elements from which it will derive. This chapter, therefore, is dedicated to providing the cook with a basic understanding of stock preparation, with its many nuances, all of which will determine the character of the final preparation’s depth of flavor. Please note that in the professional kitchen, where product utilization is of paramount importance to the efficiency and profitability of the operation, stock ingredients are literally “fluid”. This means that often ingredients that are discarded by home cooks, are utilized by professional chefs. Operations that are concerned with profitability understand that when they purchase an ingredient, that ingredient translates into a percentage of overall food cost. If you peel an onion, carrot or garlic bulb, you have essentially “lost” a percentage of that product unless those peels are utilized in a profitable way. The same holds true for stems, bones, and any other ingredient that is purchased by weight. 

Mirepoix:

In French cooking, there is a term that must be defined if the cook is to streamline recipes. This term is Mirepoix. Simply stated, mirepoix refers to two interconnected descriptions. The first is the size that vegetables are cut into. Mirepoix vegetables are cut into ¾ inch dice. The larger cut of these vegetables is sufficient for stocks due to the fact that they will be cooked for a long period of time, thus slowly releasing their flavor and substance fully into the preparation. Since time costs money for professional chefs, taking additional time to cut vegetables into smaller pieces serves no benefit to the final product, while costing more in labor expense. This is why professional chefs often “build” their mirepoix over the course of the stocks’ cooking process, by adding ends, peels, and trim as the preparation of other dishes provide these items. This brings us to the second description of what mirepoix is. Carrots, onions, and celery. Generally, two parts onion to one part carrot and 1 part celery is the accepted ratio of these three vegetables. So a chef, who is utilizing trim to comprise their mirepoix, can add the trio according to this ratio.   

Chicken:

Chicken stock preparation is a good place to start when learning the basic method

of transforming animal protein into a flavorful liquid that can instill flavor throughout the

spectrum of a finished dish. Chicken carcasses contain a very high percentage of collagen

due to the fact that there is much connective tissue holding them together. Collagen is

essential to the creation of a rich “mouth feel” in quality stock. Since the entire carcass is often used in the creation of chicken and poultry stocks, the ratio of collagen to bone is very high. After a stock has been prepared and then cooled completely to 38 degrees, the quantity of gelatin in it can be observed by the firmness of the resulting product. Good quality stock will have the consistency of grandma’s gelatin dessert mold at the minimum and of a child’s super ball when it is of very high quality! Generally, stocks require a long slow reduction to achieve this level of firmness. We will discuss reductions later in this chapter. Before I give a recipe for chicken stock, I feel that we should re-visit how collagen is derived and broken down in the cooking process. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION! Collagen is only broken down at around 160 degrees f. and requires long periods at this temperature to completely dissolve into gelatin. Therefore, trying to “speed up” the cooking process by boiling a stock rapidly will be counterproductive. This is why your mother's “famous” beef stew was tough and almost inedible- she was far too busy to wait for dinner to cook slow and low. Plus she was probably convinced that a leaner, more expensive cut of meat was healthier for her family. But lean cuts do not contain the collagen-containing sinew and “grizzle” necessary to result in gelatinous stock.   

Equipment needed for proper chicken stock preparation: 

5-gallon stockpot with thick sides and bottom.

Cutting board 

French chef’s knife 

China cap/ ladle 

Heat source 

Storage container(s)   

Chicken Stock- yield: 2 gallons 

4 gallons cold freshwater (never use hot water from the tap, due to the fact that it sits in a hot water tank that often contains sediment)

Carcasses of at least 6 chickens, including feet and trimmed skin (Note: whole chickens can be utilized, 3 will do nicely. But if you would like to consume the meat after cooking, only cook them to 160 degrees, remove to partially cool, remove meat and return the carcasses to the pot for further rendering. This is important to ensure that the meat retains its juiciness and firmness in your recipes) 

4 pounds mirepoix 

1 pound fresh leeks- washed and cut

6 cloves of fresh garlic 

6 bay leaves 

Fresh thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley. Leave the stems on and use whole sprigs. 

2 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns 

½ cup sea salt 

Procedure:

Place all ingredients in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down until the liquid is barely simmering. Cook for 4-8 hours at 160 degrees f.   *Turn off heat and let the stock sit for 30 minutes. Strain through a china cap into a vessel capable of holding all of the stock. Cool completely to 38 degrees f. within 6 hours to inhibit bacterial growth. Can be poured into quart-sized containers and frozen for later use, or used fresh within 3 days. *This step will be necessary for all of the stock preparations in this chapter, and therefore will be omitted from the remaining recipes.   

Beef/Veal    v

For the purpose of this guide, I have combined the use of beef and veal

into one heading. The preparation of both is essentially the same. August

Escoffier goes into great detail in his writing to establish the need for veal

stock as opposed to beef stock in recipes that call for a very delicate flavor profile. My experience leads me to conclude that very few people possess the refinement of taste buds to discern the very delicate character difference between roasted veal bones and roasted beef bones. Furthermore, my personal preference is for a more robust flavor in my beef and veal recipes, so the older the animal is at slaughter, the better the resulting stock will be. This is due to the fact that older animals possess much greater quantities of collagen than their younger counterparts. My preference for producing quality bovine stock utilizes oxtail, neck, and backbones as well as hip joints and shanks. These parts contain the most collagen per pound on larger animals where the entire carcass is not utilized in the making of stock. To produce the robust flavor that I prefer in my bovine stocks, the bones and mirepoix should be roasted at 300 degrees f. for two hours prior to placing them in a stockpot. This results in a rich caramelized flavor and color that is characteristic of quality beef/ veal stock.  

Equipment needed for proper beef/veal stock preparation: 

5-gallon stock pot with thick sides and bottom. 

Large roasting pan 

Cutting board

French chef’s knife 

China cap/ ladle 

Heat source 

Storage container(s)   

Beef and Veal Stock- yield: 2 gallons 

4 gallons cold freshwater 

5 pounds beef or veal bones as described above 

4 pounds of mirepoix 

6 cloves of fresh garlic 

2 cups tomato paste

 6 bay leaves Fresh thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley. Leave the stems on and use whole sprigs. 2 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns 

½ cup sea salt 

Procedure: 

Place the bones and mirepoix into a roasting pan and cook in the oven for two hours at 300 degrees f. Place all ingredients in a stockpot and pour 2 quarts of the water into the roasting pan. Place pan on stovetop and heat gently. Stir and scrape any stuck bits of caramelization from the pan surface, allowing them to dissolve into the liquid. This is called deglazing and is important to gain the most flavor from the roasting process. Pour this liquid and remaining water into the mirepoix/ bones contained in the stockpot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down until the liquid is barely simmering. Cook for a minimum of 8 hours at 160 degrees f. Follow the procedure for straining and storing your stock as described above. 

Game Stock(s) 

Game stocks can provide the cook with much richer, more flavorful versions of the stocks described so far. Due to the fact that wild game is most often free range, and thus feeds on forage from the forest, it is considered superior to farm raised animals that generally consume a strict diet of commercial feed or singular crops. Also important is the fact that wild animals are often leaner, but their carcasses contain more collagen due to their mobile lifestyle. In general, wild game is classified as either large game or small game. Large game examples include: venison, moose, elk, and caribou. Examples of small game include: partridge, pheasant, duck, game hen, rabbit and squirrel. 

To avoid redundancy in this guide, I can generalize the preparations of game stocks as thus: For small game, follow the recipe for chicken stock. For Large game, follow the recipe for beef/veal stock.   

Fish Fumet 

Fish fumet is a stock that is produced by                                                   utilizing the bones of certain types of ocean fish. Professional chefs and fishmongers                                         refer to the carcass of these types of fish as “racks”. Fish chosen for fumet should have very mild flavor characteristics. Examples of these types of fish in order of preference are halibut, sole, flounder, grouper, snapper, striped bass, turbot, and Atlantic cod. Professional chefs prefer to purchase whole fish, so that they can discern the freshness of their purchase. For home cooks, find a reputable fishmonger that you trust, and purchase whole fish, have the monger cut it for you, and ask that they give you the racks. Once you get home and have portioned and frozen the extra fillets, turn your attention to the preparation of the racks. Begin by rinsing them with very cold water to remove any contamination from entrails and blood that was deposited during the filleting process. Then remove the gills and discard them. Cut the racks into 4-6 inch lengths. The head contains a lot of collagen, so be sure to utilize it in your fumet. For larger fish such as halibut, cod, and striper, your fishmonger should remove the cheeks and include them with your fillet. They are the most prized part of the fish, and it would be a shame to waste them in the production of fumet.  

Equipment needed for proper fish fumet preparation: 

5 gallon stock pot with thick sides and bottom. 

Cutting board 

French chef’s knife 

China cap/ ladle 

Heat source 

Storage container(s)

Fish Fumet- yield: 2 gallons 

3 gallons water 

5 pounds fish racks as described above 

2 pounds mirepoix 

1 pound fresh leeks- washed and cut 

6 cloves of fresh garlic 

6 bay leaves 

2 lemons cut in half

Fresh thyme and parsley. Leave the stems on and use whole sprigs. 

2 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns 

½ cup sea salt 

Procedure:

Fish fumet is an exception to the rule of cooking your stock for several hours. Since fish bones are almost entirely comprised of collagen, and they are very thin, a much shorter cooking time is called for. Not to mention that a fish stock that is cooked for a long time will become very “fishy” and cloudy, resulting in subsequent preparations that have a “muddy” character. Therefore, the entire cooking process for fumet should not exceed 1 and ½ hour. Place all ingredients in stock pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down until liquid is barely simmering. Cook for 1 hour at 160 degrees f. Follow procedure for straining and storing your stock as described above.

Lobster / Shrimp

 I have decided to individually identify the two most essential shellfish stocks that should be included in the chef’s repertoire. This is because while each can be used interchangeably in many recipes for bisque, sauces, and consommés, they each hold specific traits that should be discussed. Lobster stock is the more robust of the two, and therefore produces a richer – heartier flavor profile than shrimp stock. This is due to the fact that lobster stock is derived from the flavor found in the head and body of the fish, while shrimp stock is generally produced only from the outer shell of the tail meat of a prawn. Usually, a professional kitchen’s decision to make one vs. the other is based on which is currently on the menu of the restaurant. Of course, larger seafood restaurants that serve both would logically make both stocks, or more commonly, make a stock that combines both shrimp and lobster.   

Equipment needed for proper lobster/shrimp stock preparation: 

5-gallon stockpot with thick sides and bottom. 

China cap /ladle 

Heat source 

Storage container(s)   

Lobster Stock- yield: 2 gallons 

4 gallons water 4 pounds raw or par-cooked lobster bodies (tail and claws removed) 

2 pounds mirepoix 

1 pound fresh leeks- washed and cut 

6 cloves of fresh garlic 

6 bay leaves 

1 cup tomato paste 

2 lemons cut in half

Fresh thyme and parsley. Leave the stems on and use whole sprigs. 

2 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns 

1 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning 

Procedure:

With your hands, pull apart the outer shell from the body of the lobster. Place them all into a 5-gallon stockpot. Add the remaining ingredients and place on the stove to heat. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook the stock at 180 degrees for 3-4 hours. Let cool for ½ hour on the stove, and then strain through a china cap into a vessel that has the capacity to hold all of the stock. Press the shells well with the back of a ladle to ensure retrieval of all of the stock from the shells. Follow the storage procedure as described above.

  

Shrimp Stock- yield: 2 gallons 

4 gallons water

4 pounds raw shrimp shells 

4 pounds mirepoix 

1 pound fresh leeks- washed and cut 

6 cloves of fresh garlic 

6 bay leaves 

1 cup tomato paste 

2 lemons cut in half Fresh thyme and parsley. Leave the stems on and use whole sprigs.

2 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns 

1 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning   

Procedure:

Place all of the shrimp shells into a 5-gallon stockpot. Add the remaining ingredients and place it on the stove to heat. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook the stock at 180 degrees for 2-3 hours. Let cool for ½ hour on the stove and then strain through a china cap into a vessel that has the capacity to hold all of the stock. Press the shells well with the back of a ladle to ensure retrieval of all of the stock from the shells. Follow the storage procedure as described above. 

Please note: Lobster and shrimp shells do not contain the same type of collagen density that previously discussed animals have. Therefore your stock will not have the gelatinous texture of those either. The quality most prized in shrimp and lobster stock is its slight ammoniated scent and briny flavor characteristics. Generally speaking, reductions of these stocks will result in flavor and aroma intensity, without the “mouthfeel” of gelatin. This is why fats such as cream and butter are often found in preparations made from these stocks. The fats create a rich texture that matches their exquisite flavor profile.

Reductions

Glace de Viande: 

Glace de Viande or literally Meat Glaze in English is a very strong reduction of either beef/veal stock, large game stock, or one of the shellfish stocks (glace de crustacea).

To make this preparation, place your finished stock into a thick-bottomed stockpot and bring it to a boil. Continue to boil until the stock is reduced by ¾ of its original volume. Turn down the heat and simmer the reduced stock further, until a spoon placed into it comes out coated, and when you draw your finger across the spoon while turned upright, it leaves a pronounced “trail” that does not flow back together. While your yield will vary based on the collagen content of the original stock, you should end up with approximately 1 quart of Glace. This preparation is used to enrich and finish many sauces in French cooking. For example, a loin or saddle of venison could be accompanied by a sauce that is prepared with a red wine reduction, to which is added some good quality large game stock. This is reduced further until desired consistency is reached. The sauce is then finished with a dab of good quality butter and a small amount of Glace de Viande. The resulting sauce is incredibly rich and bursting with strong meat flavor and gelatinous “mouth feel”. Extraordinary!  

Demi-Glace- yield 2 quarts: 

Demi-Glace is the basis for many French sauces. Literally, it means “Half Glaze” which is a bit of a misrepresentation of its preparation.

To make a very high-quality demi-glace, you of course need to start with a very high-quality stock. There are variations of demi-glace based on a chef’s training, but to me the recipe that I give here is of the highest quality and value to achieve superior results. 

Procedure:

In a thick-bottomed stockpot, place 2 pounds of mirepoix and ½ pound of good quality butter. Cook on medium-low heat until the vegetables caramelize in the bottom of the pot. Add 1 cup of all purpose flour to the mixture and stir constantly until flour is slightly browned. Add ½ cup of tomato paste to the mirepoix and while stirring regularly, allow the tomato paste to caramelize as well. Pour in 1 gallon of beef/veal or large game stock. Whisk well to incorporate the mirepoix mixture. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to a simmer, and reduce by ½. During this reduction process, a skum will form on top of the sauce. Using a ladle, remove the skum and discard. Be careful to only remove the skum, and not the precious sauce just underneath it. Once the sauce has reduced by half, pour in another gallon of the stock. Repeat the straining of the skum treatment, and reduce by ½ again. Strain the sauce through a china cap, and it is finished at this point.

 Uses for demi-glace are many, but generally, they include wine reduction sauces and sauces that are garnished with additional ingredients such as wild mushrooms or in the case of classic Sauce Robert- a white wine reduction is enriched with demi-glace, reduced again, and then finished with glace de viande, a pinch of powdered sugar and a pinch of dry mustard! – Exquisite!  

Additional Stocks That Have Culinary Value   

Miso Stock:

Miso is a Japanese paste made from fermented soybeans. The flavor of this paste is salty and pungent – much like soy sauce. There are various types of miso paste, but for the sake of clarity, I generally use white “Shiromiso” or red “Akamiso”. The addition of Kombu seaweed to miso paste and water produces a very briny, pungent stock that can be the basis of delicious and savory vegetarian soups. I encourage experimentation with miso pastes to create your own stocks based on your personal preferences.    

Sea Water (sea salt and spring water):

To duplicate the flavor of the ocean for use in poaching fish and vegetables or to steam shellfish, I have devised a culinary recipe for “seawater”. It matches that of true seawater- 35grams of sea salt to 1 liter of spring water. I use spring water, as it is not treated, and therefore it comes closest in flavor and purity for use. 

Wild Mushroom Stock:

Dry wild mushrooms are readily available in most grocery stores. The flavor of dry wild mushrooms is earthy, funky, and delicious! Simply add 4 ounces of your favorite dry wild mushrooms such as porcini, trumpet, morel, chanterelles, etc. to 2 quarts of cold water. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer. The mushrooms will impart a very aromatic flavor to the water. This stock can then be used to flavor gravies, soups, and stocks. The mushrooms can be removed from the stock, chopped, and then returned back to it for interesting texture and further flavor enhancement. Dry mushrooms also make a nice addition to meat stocks, but remember that they will turn your stock very dark if used in quantity. 

Corn Stock:

By removing corn kernels from the cob, you can end up with a very useful byproduct- Corn cobs. When the cobs of corn are cooked in water with the addition of fresh thyme and chopped leeks, you can produce a sweet corn stock that has many uses. About 12 cobs will make 2 gallons of delicious stock. Usually, if I am making summer chowders such as corn or clam, I use corn stock as the base. It imparts a depth of corn flavor that is hard to match. Product utilization points abound! 

Vegetable Stock:

If you are a vegetarian, or you simply find yourself prepping a quantity of vegetables without the benefit of having animal carcasses in your larder, a simple way to add a building block of flavor to your dishes is to place the trimmings into a pot, cover with water and slowly cook to make vegetable stock. Soups and stews that utilize vegetable stock as a base can be healthy and delicious. Pasta that is cooked in vegetable stock takes on a depth of flavor that simply cooking in water cannot duplicate. The vegetable stock also makes a soothing broth to warm weary bones and revive the spirit. 

Tomato Water:

My final offering is not really a stock at all. I have a good friend who owns an incredible heirloom tomato farm in New Paltz NY. He started trying to come up with alternative uses for the abundance of nonsaleable tomatoes that he inevitably ends up with each season. Tomato water was one of his discoveries. He simply purees fresh tomatoes and then places the puree into a cheesecloth to strain the puree of its “water”. The result is crystal clear liquid that tastes of the ripest- delicious- in-season tomatoes! The water can be used to enrich soups and sauces, to poach fish, or simply to add a twist to a savvy bartender’s martini menu. Imagination is the only parameter for its culinary use. There are certainly more variations of stocks than are covered by this guide. But to understand the techniques, ratios, and logic behind stock making has been my goal. I hope you find this information useful, and that your stockpot is always full. For there is nothing more soothing than the smell of a home that has a delicious stock on the stove.

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