Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Homemade Stocks

Most of the world’s great cuisines rely on the use of stocks and broths for depth of flavor in many dishes. They are used as the base for soups, stews and sauces, as well as the liquid in many grain dishes such as risotto and paella. Thrifty European cooks have made stocks for generations, realizing not only their culinary and nutritional value, but also their practical economy. Stock is made primarily from bones where broth is made using meat. A brown stock is made by first browning the bones, whereas a white stock is made by using uncooked bones. A combination of both can even be used for a well balanced flavor. Healthful and delicious stocks can be made with any number of meats, poultry, seafood and vegetables and often can be made with scraps that have no other use in the kitchen. Recipes usually call for an assortment of aromatic vegetables such as leeks, onions, carrots, celery and tomatoes. Occasionally, we even use some apple peelings to give the stock a little more sweetness. What most recipes do not tell you is that the fresh vegetables can be augmented by scraps saved up over a period of time and stored in the freezer until you are ready to make stock. Although the stock pot is not to be used as a garbage can, in traditional European kitchens (home and professional) many often discarded items can be used. The finished stocks can be divided into conveniently sized plastic bags stored in the freezer as well. Stocks do require a fairly long cooking time but except for an occasional skimming they more or less cook themselves. A nice vegetable stock can be made by omitting the bones and meat and increasing the vegetables. Do taste your stocks as they cook to understand how the flavor is developing. Yes, of course there are many prepared stocks and bases available, but I think there is something fundamentally satisfying about making your own. When we make stock the whole house is perfumed by the appetizing aroma and at least for me there is always a sense of “doing things right”.

Please note: Salt the final dish made using the stock not the stock. Also, the wine and vinegar are important because of not only the flavor they add, but because they also help draw out the gelatin from the bones.

Brown Poultry Stock or Beef Stock

Ingredients: (*Available at Avanti Savoia)
3 or 4 large onions
4 stalks celery
4 carrots
4 or 5 fresh cloves of garlic
(Any saved peelings and scraps from leeks, green onions, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, as well as unusable stems and stalks from fresh herbs etc.)
6 lbs. poultry pieces and bones, cooked or uncooked or substitute an equal amount of
meaty beef bones
6 to 10 whole black peppercorns* #32000 Ferri Dal 1905
4 or 5 whole cloves* #32020 Ferri Dal 1905
4 or 5 whole allspice* #32070 Ferri Dal 1905
3 bay leaves* #32110 Ferri Dal 1905
1 Tblsp thyme* #32055 Ferri Dal 1905
I Tblsp. tarragon* #32140 Ferri Dal 1905
Small handful of fresh parsley stems
2 heaping Tblsp. tomato paste
¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar* #25001 Claudio Rosso
1 to 2 cups of a dry white (or red) wine
Enough cold water to cover all ingredients

1. Preheat oven to about 425 degrees.

2. Wash and coarsely chop fresh vegetables. Also wash any vegetable scraps saved from previous food preparation. Use aromatic vegetables pieces and peelings such as leeks, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and tomatoes. Do not use scraps from potatoes, eggplant, or too many strong flavored vegetables like cabbage.

3. Place the various vegetables in a large stock pot over a very low heat and slowly simmer or “sweat” them. Do stir now and then, but the heat should only be high enough to cook them very lightly, not high enough to be able to cause scorching.

4. Meanwhile, wash the bones and pieces and arrange them in a large roasting pan. Place the pan in the preheated oven and allow them to cook until the majority of the pieces are a medium light brown. This is a pretty individual call that can be varied according to taste; you want all pieces to be cooked and browned, but not burned. A few larger pieces may need to be turned over during the process.

5. Remove the browned pieces from the roasting pan and place them in the stock pot with the vegetables. Pour grease from roasting pan and discard it, pour in vinegar and wine and return pan to oven. This is called “deglazing the pan” and after it has cooked a few minutes the wine will loosen the caramelized meat juices. You then pour the hot wine mixture back into the stock; also scrape the matter that is still clinging to the roasting pan into the stock pot with the other ingredients.

6. During the few minutes during which the pan is deglazing, add enough cold water to the stock pot to completely cover the ingredients. Place on high heat and allow it to come to a boil while finishing adding the rest of the ingredients.

7. Stir in peppercorns, whole spices, tomato paste and other herbs to the stock. A frugal cook can also save the stems from any number of fresh herbs to add at this point as well. (Parsley, basil, sage, etc., etc.)

8. When stock comes to a rolling boil, reduce heat to simmer and allow to cook 3 to 4 hours. From time to time, skim off fat and other material that will float to the surface.

9. When the stock is a rich color and the bits of meat are falling apart the stock is done. Allow the stock to cool awhile and then pour through a large strainer lined with cheesecloth.

10. Cool stock in refrigerator and when completely cooled, scrape any remaining fat off the top The finished stock is now ready to be used as it is in many recipes or it can be further reduced for more concentration of flavor. Place stock in heavy plastic bags for storage in freezer until needed. There is really a lot of latitude in the choice of amounts and ingredients in stock making. Experience will help you discover your own style and preferences.

Seafood Fumet (Stock)

A stock made with seafood is usually called a “fumet”. In a pinch, commercial Clam juice can work well. The richest fumets are made by including not only pieces of actual fish, but also fish bones, tails and heads. (I’ve been accused of making “fish head soup” for years.) Also, shrimp and lobster shells add a lovely color and flavor. Be aware that some people have reactions to shellfish and plan accordingly.

Ingredients: (* Available at Avanti Savoia)
1 shallot
3 large purple onions (any onions will work but red ones add color)
2 carrots
2 leeks
2 stalks of celery
Small handful of parsley stems
Any saved appropriate vegetable scraps
3 Tblsp. extra virgin olive oil* #10002 Colonna
1 cup dry white wine
3 ½ lbs. (more or less) scrap pieces of fish, fish bones and shrimp or lobster shells
1 bay leaf* #32110 Ferri Dal 1905
Juice of 1 lemon
8 to 10 white peppercorns* #32002 Ferri Dal 1905
6 whole cloves* #32020 Ferri Dal 1905
6 whole allspice* #32070 Ferri Dal 1905
½ tsp. hot Chile flakes* #32121 Ferri Dal 1905
About 1 gallon of cold water

1. Wash and coarsely chop vegetables. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Stir in vegetables and cook 15 minutes.

2. Pour in white wine and stir well.

3. Add pieces of fish, bones, etc.

4. Stir in bay leaf, thyme, lemon juice, white peppercorns, cloves, allspice, pepper flakes and water.

5. Bring fumet to a boil, reduce to a low simmer and cook for about 2 hours. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough for easy handling.

6. Filter fumet through a cheesecloth lined sieve. The fumet can now be reduced or used as it is in a variety of recipes.

BBR made a comment recently in response to our Mardi Gras Recipe for Oysters Bienville. “I appreciate that you can use clam juice as a short cut, but don’t you find it a rather one dimensional substitute for real fish stock? Also, why can’t you just use the oyster juice and be done with it?”

Well BBR, to be honest with you, we always have real Seafood Fumet in my freezer (much to my wife’s credit) ready for any recipe. That is part of the beauty of making homemade stocks and keeping them frozen. But, I know not many home kitchens have that luxury and so I suggested the commercial clam juice. It really works just fine. I can also guarantee you that with the aromatic vegetables, herbs, Tabasco Sauce and other ingredients in this recipe it will be anything but one dimensional! You could indeed use the oyster juice (or more accurately, oyster liquor) instead of the Fumet or clam juice, but it might be a problem having enough of it from only 24 oysters. In the case of Oysters Bienville, one could actually use water, because when blended with the other ingredients, it simply provides the binding to hold the sauce together.

Now, just so as not to be only one dimensional about all of this I had a most interesting conversation with my friend Capt’n Andre at the Shrimp Dock in Knoxville, Tennessee. ( The Shrimp Dock sells an excellent and economical fish stock that they make fresh in 100 quart batches. It would be perfect to use instead of bottled clam juice. I asked Capt’n Andre about the oyster liquor just to check with a real expert.

He informs me that using fresh oyster liquor in cooked dishes is just fine but he does not recommend using oyster liquor after it has been frozen, because of the way it breaks down and separates. Also, check out their list of Creole, Cajun and Bayou lingo- Y’all will get a kick from it.


This is a quickly made broth generally used to poach fish or to flavor and liquid to some dishes. Court- bouillon can be used, filtered, frozen and used for poaching again and again; it will only get better and better.

Ingredients: (*Available at Avanti Savoia)
1 cup dry white wine
¼ cup White Wine Vinegar* #25002 Claudio Rosso
1 each: carrot, celery stalk and medium onion, all medium diced
1 bay leaf* #32110 Ferri Dal 1905
1/2 tsp. thyme* #32055 Ferri Dal 1905
1 Tblsp. tarragon* #32140 Ferri Dal 1905
1 tsp. whole white peppercorns* #32002 Ferri Dal 1905
1 tsp. whole cloves* 32020 Ferri Dal 1905
1 Tblsp. Sea Salt* #35021 Sel de Mer, Artisan
About 3 to 4 quarts of cold water

1. Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Cook for about 1 hour, then cool and strain. Use to poach fish and then freeze to use again.

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