In order to achieve a superior, good quality stock, as with all food, using the right ingredients is fundamentally important. There are different types of stock including chicken, beef, veal, fish, and vegetable. That is not to imply (nor should one infer) that a good stock requires expensive or hard to source ingredients. Don't be afraid to ask your butcher for bones for your stock. A good stock is born of frugality and economy. The very nature and goodness of stock lies in its humbleness. The secret is to tease, nay, command goodness, richness and flavour from the castoffs of your butcher, cupboards, pantry, and larder. Rather than discard those off-cuts of vegetables, carcasses and bones - I use them to make stock. Add to your stockpot a bouquet garni of fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, and 2-3 bay leaves) from your garden or window box, some freshly cracked black pepper (do not add salt), lots of cold water and set it to boil over a medium flame. Once it comes to the boil, reduce to a very low flame and let it simmer - uncovered and allow the liquid to reduce intensifying the flavours as it does. Fish stock should simmer for 30-40 minutes, vegetable for 45 to 60 minutes, chicken for 4-5 hours, and beef or veal for 6-8 hours. Be patient.
Wait, watch, whiff and your patience will be rewarded with that which is truly wondrous and delicious. Store and keep your stock wisely and it will add luxurious flavour and depth to your soups, sauces and savoury dishes. To start you will need the following utensils:
- a roasting tray (for the vegetables and bones, if any)
- a large stockpot
- a large ladle or perforated cook's spoon (to skim your stock)
- a fine sieve or cheesecloth
- a second pot or large container to receive the strained stock
Basic StockChicken, fish, beef or veal bones (Cook's choice)
Celery including the leaf
Bouquet garni - a string tied mix of parsley, bay leaf, thyme (and sometimes celery stalk)
Tomato paste (only for beef and veal stocks)
Roughly cut 1 bunch of celery, 1 large leek (split length-wise and well washed), 5-6 carrots, and 3 large peeled onions.You will need enough to cover the bottom the roasting tray. Reserve a quarter of 1 onion that you should finely chop along with a handful of chopped leek. If you are making a vegetable stock, you will want to add more vegetables to increase the amount. Try turnips, swedes (rutabagas), bulb fennel, mushrooms or cabbage. Do not use potatoes when making any stock as they will leave you with a pasty, gloppy mess!
If you want a brown stock, you should roast your chicken, beef or veal bones drizzled with olive oil in a hot oven (400F/200C) in a roasting tray for 25-30 minutes. Fish bones should never be roasted, but simply added to the stockpot. I prefer not to roast chicken bones as I like a lighter coloured stock. After you have roasted the bones, add your roughly cut vegetables (drizzled with more olive oil) to the roasting tray and roast a further 30 minutes.
Place your stockpot over a medium flame and add some olive oil. Sauté (or sweat) the reserved diced onion and leeks in the olive oil until translucent. Remove your bones (if any) and roasted vegetables from the oven and add to the stockpot. Be sure to deglaze (déglacer) the roasting tray using a little wine (white for vegetable, fish, or chicken and red for beef or veal) and add that to the pot. Immediately cover the contents with fresh cold water. Allow the liquid to come slowly to the boil, then lower the temperature to a very low flame or heat and simmer uncovered until reduced by about a third. Add the bouquet garni to the pot and season with black pepper. Continue to simmer until the liquid is reduce to about half of its original volume.
Using a ladle or perforated spoon skim the stock frequently to remove and discard the foamy scum that comes to the surface. When you have finished reducing your stock, strain it through cheesecloth or a fine sieve into another pot or large container. Discard the vegetables and any carcass and bones. Do not be tempted to re-use the vegetables as they have now given up all their flavour and value.
If the stock is not for immediate use, immerse the pot of stock in ice water in your sink before refrigeration. Refrigerating the stock allows you to eliminate as much of the fat as you wish as it will congeal on the surface and can be easily removed. The stock may be conveniently kept in the freezer in smaller plastic containers for future use.
2-3 large cuts of chicken (white and dark meat - skin on and on the bone)
1 T. (15ml) Olive oil plus some for drizzling
1 small onion or a large shallot
2-3 stalks of celery
2 medium sized carrots
Salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle a roasting tray with olive oil, add the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place into a preheated, hot oven (375F/190C) and roast for about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest.
Peel and dice the onion or shallot. Dice the celery and carrots into bite size pieces, roughly of similar size. Place a large sauce pan (2.5 litre) over a medium flame, add 1T. (15ml) olive oil and then the diced onion or shallot. Sauté until translucent, then add the carrot and sauté just until the carrots start to cook. Next add the diced celery and continue to sauté until the celery is no longer crisp but remains somewhat firm (al dente). Season with salt and pepper. Add enough stock to fill two thirds (2/3) of the pan. Bring to a slow, gentle boil.
Remove the skin from the roasted chicken and discard. Pull the meat from the bones and check that no small bones remain in the cooked flesh. Discard the bones. Add the pulled meat to the pan and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve hot in soup bowls and garnish with bread or toasted croutons. Always better the next day, if there is any leftover.