As you may recall from “If it ain’t broke”, I am a bit of a chauvinist; but, for that matter, what male isn’t. However, as with most things in life, it isn’t my fault….no, as a “victim”, it is never your fault. My chauvinism is just the ying to my wife’s yang; a counter balance, if you will, to her sexism. See, as difficult as it is for me to handle women TV personalities, Seite has a hard time with the male chef personalities. And the bane of her existence happens to be Alton Brown. That is right, the nerdy, science guy that has as much culinary creativity as our lab Otis. But nerdy or not, the sumbitch knows what he is doing and if you can get past his childish demonstrations, you may learn a thing or two about the how’s and why’s of cooking. And understanding what to do and what not to do is the foundation for good culinary creations.
Today’s blog has little to do with a recipe and more to do with a technique: The making of stock. Now before we dive too deep into cooking techniques, I am going to go a little Alton Brown on you and briefly explain the difference between a stock and a broth, minus the dorky demonstrations:
Broth: is a strained liquid made from meat and/or bones and aromatic vegetables. The broth is simmered until the meat is cooked tender, strained and typically used to flavor soups.
Stock: on the other hand, is made from browning of bones and vegetables and simmering the liquid for several hours. This extended cook time breaks down the collagen in the bones, producing gelatin, thus making stock richer and heartier. Stock is typically the flavor base for main course meals and sauces.
Now that our science lesson is out of the way, I must say “ah bullschit”. Although most restaurant chefs will tell you differently, the difference between broth and stock is negligible and for the average cook, the two are interchangeable. Hence forth, our flavor concoction shall be known as “stock”.
There is a saying in the restaurant world “a dull knife will produce dull food”…….same goes for stock “schitass ingredients produce schitass stock”. Now I know we are all busy and from time to time, I to have used store-bought stock; but the truth of the matter is that there is no good substitute for homemade stock. Yes, you can doctor up store-bought stock, but good homemade stock does something store-bought stock can’t do, adds flavor to food. Be it Midnight Gumbo, El Jeffe’s Tortilla Soup or South of the Border Fettuccini, homemade stock is the only way to go.
Here is how it goes. Find a Saturday and/or Sunday when there is plenty of good TV watching: college football, The Masters, soccer, whatever floats your boat. Then, convince the wife that you want to make dinner for the fam, but the only drawback is that the recipe calls for homemade stock and of course, homemade stock takes time. Excited to not be cooking, the wif takes the squids and run around performing the weekend rituals, soccer games, baseball practice, shopping, all the while leaving you home alone. Walla, life is suddenly good.
Next, turn on the tube to your favorite sporting event, crack open a beer and get after it. Now you may be thinking, if the wife and kids are gone, why in the hell would I want to cook all day. Patience grasshopper, patience. See, the beauty of making stock is that after a little prep time, stock making takes care of itself, leaving you plenty of time to get your drunk on, take a nap and if you are really, really lucky and the wife stays gone for a long time, you can wake up and do it all over again. At a minimum, by the end of the day, you will have created a great batch of homemade stock and maybe impress her so much with a culinary delight (see past recipes suggestions) that you get a piece once the kids are put to bed.
3 celery stalks
1 medium onion
1 head of garlic
2 bay leaves
As stated earlier, there are two ways you can approach this: stock vs. broth. For stock, I would preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and roast the chicken and vegetables for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until brown. Then throw browned chicken and vegetables into a large stock pot, add water, peppercorns, salt and bay leaves, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer as long as you desire. As with most low and slow cooking, the longer the better. If the water level gets low, simply add more water and continue to simmer as desired.
For broth, place chicken in boiling water. Boil for about 10 minutes, then remove chicken, rinse off and set aside. Next pour out the water and rinse the stock pot. If you choose to skip these first two steps, you will develop white foam during the cooking process, which will result in cloudy broth. Next place chicken, celery, onion, carrots, garlic, peppercorns, salt, bay leaves and water into the stock pot and bring to a broil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer as long as you desire.
These techniques can be used to make most stocks and/or broths (veal, beef, vegetable, fish). The great thing about making stock is that there is no wrong way. Add the ingredients you like, bring to a boil, then simmer for as long as you like. Please note that when making seafood stock, the length of simmer time should be reduced (1 to 2 hours max). Extended cooking of seafood will cause the stock to become bitter.
* When preparing to cook meats and seafood, don’t whole away the spare parts (chicken necks, spines, bones, shells). Place them in a Ziploc freezer bag and freeze them for later use.
** I like to cook more stock than necessary and freeze the remainder. I will typically have one to two gallon size Ziplocs remaining, which I place in the freeze and have them ready for future use.