Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stock - the easiest way to cook like a pro

Hello again all,
Today we're going to be talking about stock. It really is a simple process, and is the quickest route to add a "restaurant" flavor to your home cooking. I think one of the main differences between home cooks and chefs is that home cooks use bouillon. It is easier, it is quicker, but it just doesn't come close to the depth of flavor, or the delicacy that stock has. For one, most of them, even "low sodium" ones, just taste like seasoning salt. No offense knorr, but I can just buy lawrys if that is my goal. Stock should add a layer of delicate flavor to whatever you are cooking. It should be savory, complex, deep, rich, and delicious. Combine that with the fact that it's absolutely simple to make, and it's a no brainer to add it to your culinary arsenal.

First off, there are many types of stocks, but we, today, are going to be outlining the basics of three: shrimp, poultry, and vegetable. Let's start by talking through a few principles.

1)There are two types of stock when you really break it down - roasted and unroasted
These variations exist because, in my mind, there are two end goals to using stock. One is to add that deep, roasted, savory, umami flavor to a dish. The other is to just add the essence of something, or just some extra flavor to the dish. For a braise, you want all the flavor you can pack in there, so roasted. To make a shrimp bisque, if you roast everything, the flavor and color may be too aggressive, so unroasted. Just think of your end goal and it should answer which one you should use.

2)I will give a recipe for each of the stocks below - for roasted, simply place all the vegetables, and the bones/shells in the oven at 400 degrees for one hour, or until nicely caramelized. We want a lot of color, just don't burn them. For unroasted, simply combine the ingredients in the pot.

3)Whatever the recipe is, follow the above instructions, then these:
1)place all ingredients in large deep stockpot, cover with COLD WATER (I even add ice, doing this ensures that your stock comes up to temp gently, and won't be cloudy), add wine (if you decide to use it), bring just to a boil, reduce till barely bubbling, and cook for a minimum of four hours. You don't need to stare at it, so don't feel this is a huge commitment. Just get it at the right simmer, and let it be. Following this, strain it through a fine sieve, or chinois if you want to be fancy. Store in freezer in 1 qt containers, and pull as you need it. I promise, your soups, braises, sauces, and risottos will never be better once you ditch the "cubes" and make it "in house".

4)TIP - Do you roast chickens once a week? Do you make scampi, or peel and eat shrimp ever? Just wrap your carcass or shells tightly in plastic, and freeze until you build up enough in the freezer to make a stock. Saves you money, and improves your flavor. WIN WIN. By the way,
have no fear, the below picture is not meant to suggest K9 stock. It is a picture of Houser, formerly my, now my parents dog. She eats two rotisserie chickens from Costco/Kroger a week, thus my mom makes a LOT of stock. Just thought I'd give House her 15 minutes.

OK, now to the recipes

4-6 chicken carcasses
4 onions
3 carrots
1/2 head celery
1 head garlic
2 sticks rosemary
3 bay leaves
1/2 c wine (red for roasted, white for unroasted)
2 large tomatoes, only use for roasted
1 tblsp peppercorns
water to cover

Shells from 3-5 LBS of shrimp
1 head of fennel, optional
1 head of garlic
1/2 head celery
3 white onions
1 parsnip
1 head parsley
1 tblsp peppercorns
3 lemons
1/2 cup wine, always white
2 bay leaves
water to cover

5 carrots
5 onions
1 head celery
2 head garlic
1 head parlsey
3 tomatoes
1 head fennel
3 lemons
1 tblsp peppercorn
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup wine, always white
water to cover

I know it sounds a little simplistic, but you'd be amazed at the difference this will make to your cooking. You can get all of these made on one rainy Sunday, freeze them in qt containers, and just pull them as you need them. It will have a huge impact on your cooking, just make one risotto, and then try to argue with me. :) ENJOY

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