Monday, April 7, 2014

What I Learned in Cooking Class - Stocks

I've been away for far too long again, but my excuse is that I have been attending gourmet cooking school at night, as well as working at a new job so things have been a bit hectic.

I thought I might as well share some really good tips I learned about while in cooking class, so here you go:

Lesson 1: Stocks

The difference between stocks and broths are how they are made. Stocks are made using the bones from the carcass, and bits and pieces of the other parts and some meat. Broths are made from the meat only.

There are two different types of stock: brown stock and "white" stock, for lack of a better term. Brown stock is made by browning the bones and bits before you start making the stock, to draw out the flavors. White stock is made without pre-browning. Fish stock is another animal, as it's usually made from the leftover shells of sea creatures, like lobster and shrimp - so if you have those at home, start saving the shells to make fish stock later on. I can post a recipe for it, and I made a lovely shrimp bisque during class using fish stock that I made in under an hour, if you are interested.

My family thinks I am crazy because now every time we have a roast chicken or turkey, I am trimming the carcass,  hacking it up with a meat cleaver, and putting the bones in a freezer bag until I have enough to make a fresh batch of stock.

Making stock at home is surprisingly easy - and adding it to the things you are cooking enhances the heck out of the flavor profile without adding a lot of fat to your dish. So without further ado, I give you a simple recipe to make chicken stock.

You will need:

Approximately 2 quarts of chicken bones and scraps (usually two roast chickens will yield this nicely) - chopped into 1" bits
Enough water to cover by 1"
2 tsp salt

And your mirepoix (a fancy French name for mixed flavorful vegetables, I guess). But I love to say it: Mirepoix. Mirepoix. Mirepoix. Say it three times, fast :-)

(Mirepoix is 1/2 cup each chopped onion, carrot, and celery)

Throw in a bay leaf and some fresh parsley if you so desire.

Step 1: Put the bones in a large pot and cover them with water, and add the salt. Bring it to a simmer.
Step 2: Skim the scum - some gray scum will rise to the surface for several minutes. Skim it off until it stops rising.
Step 3: Add your mirepoix and optional seasonings.
Step 4: Cover the pot loosely and let it simmer for about 1 1/2 hours - add more water if you see that enough has evaporated so that the ingredients are exposed.
Step 5: Strain into a bowl, separating the stock from the flavorings and discard the flavorings. Or keep them in some of the stock and make soup.
Step 6: Cool the bowl and refrigerate/freeze the stock.

My tip: Buy yourself some ice cube trays and fill them with the stock to freeze. When you're cooking, it makes it very easy to pop some stock out of the tray and into whatever you are making. Each ice cube is about 1 1/2 oz of stock. Just don't confuse them with ice cubes for drinks - that may end up being quite a surprise for someone.

You can use the same recipe for turkey stock (same thing, just turkey bones/carcass) around Thanksgiving.

Beef stock is a little more complicated as the bones are huge and you'd need a bone saw to cut them down, so the cooking class instructor recommended buying an ingredient that you can find next to the bouillon in your grocery store - called base. It's a little pricey at around $4 a jar, but you only use 1 tsp of it to 8 oz of water to create instant beef stock, and it's really, super delicious.

OK that's enough of that - I'm using stock now to make black beans and rice for dinner, and I believe it's almost completely reduced.

Until next time :-)

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