Saturday, January 1, 2011

Making Stock, the Julia Child Way

For our New Year's Day dinner, I am making stuffed veal breast. I couldn't turn down the butcher's offer to keep the bones, so I hurried home to make stock. While I've made basic chicken stock from a leftover roasted chicken, I had some time so I brought out my "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" cookbook. Who else could tell me more than I ever wanted to know about making stock than Julia Child!

Before I jump into the process, first lesson: stock is supposed to be clear. The cloudiness comes from the fat and scum (unpleasant but an accurate description) incorporating into the stock when allowed to boil. Instead, stock should simmer very slowly "just a bubble or two of motion at the surface."

Second lesson: never cover your simmering stock completely. Leave an inch or so open to let the steam escape, otherwise it will sour.

Third lesson: you can extend the life of your stock in the fridge by reboiling every 3 - 4 days. Not sure which is more work - remembering to defrost my stock in time for use, or remembering to boil it twice a week? I am trying the freezing route.

Fourth lesson: keeping your stock clear is hard. Maybe impossible? For this attempt, I definitely failed! But not to worry, Julia explains how to clarify it on the chance that I want to serve "a rich homemade consommé, jellied soup or aspic." Simply by beating egg whites into cold stock, then heating to just below simmer for 15 minutes, "the egg white globules dispersed into the stock act as a magnet for all the minute cloudy particles. These gradually rise to the surface, leaving a crystal-clear liquid below." For now, I am leaving it as is. :)

So, to make "fonds blanc" or white stock from veal bones, I first blanched the 2 lbs. of bones I had. Turns out veal releases a tremendous amount of scum so Julia recommends a quick boil, drain and rinse to remove much of the scum.

Back in the pot they go, covered with water by 2 inches, brought to a simmer, skimming any remaining scum as necessary. Then, I added a quartered onion, the leafy tops of my celery and a bouquet garni of herbs (thyme, bay leaf, parsley sprigs, two unpeeled garlic cloves tied up in cheesecloth) and 2 tsp. salt.

Now, the way Julia describes it, "my taste should convince me that I've simmered the most out of my ingredients" to know that the stock is done. After 5 hours, I was not confident in my taste as I am so used to heavily salted store bought stock, but I can tell you it has a nice rich flavor. If I had doubts, I could boil it again to evaporate some of the water content and concentrate the flavor.

When removed from the heat and cooled, I refrigerated the stock overnight. After removing the hardened fat on the surface, I strained into a glass jar and it's ready to go! Now, back to the kitchen to get started on my stuffed veal breast.

Happy new year everyone! I hope 2011 is full of culinary adventures and good eats.

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