Monday, May 25, 2009

Basic Stocks, from whence the soup is born.....

Stocks are necessary for Good Taste

Stocks provide the foundation for a variety of dishes. They are very versatile and depending on how you make them they can be used in an infinite number of applications and recipes.
You have to use stocks as the building block to add more flavors for soups, sauces, and braises. Stocks are also used in poaching or steaming, a flavorful alternative to water in rice and polenta, and sometimes a substitute for oil in some pestos and vinaigrettes.

Stocks are made by cooking meat, poultry or fish bones, vegetables, herbs, and other aromatics in plain water for a real long time. When you finish you have a very flavorful and complex liquid. While the ingredients that go into a stocks may vary, the techniques used to make stocks and the mix of ingredients are basically the same.

It is extremely important not to allow stocks to boil as they cook.

This often causes impurities and fat to be dispersed in the liquid.

The fat is extremely difficult to remove after the stock is finished. And adds a lot of time to first chill the stock, remove the fat and then heat it up again to use it.
Instead, a stock should be simmered over a medium to low heat and every so often you should skim the top to remove anything that is floating on the top of the liquid.
The most popular stocks Light White, Rich Brown and Vegetable Stocks.

Light White Stocks

White stocks are made from bones that are blanched before they are combined with other ingredients. Blanching allows the impurities, which makes a stock cloudy, to be leached out before the bones are used. Usually only pale colored vegetables are used so no dark colors get into the stock (No beets here!)

Rich Brown Stocks

Brown stocks are like white stocks, but the bones and vegetables are roasted before they are put in the water and aromatics. Usually brown stocks have some tomato product and better brown stock has a rich and deep color and flavor.
Most of the time the stock making process is a long several day affair, with you removing the pot cooling it down completely, removing the fat which solidifies on the top, putting the pot back on the heat to reduce down and enhance the flavor even more.
The end product is usually a gloppy gelatinous syrupy mix, especially when cold, and has a potent concentration of flavors so that when you add a spoon or two to a soup , or sauce you can tell of it's lengthy beginnings! The Glop is called a Glace.
Glaces are often used as a sauce themselves or sometimes with a some other ingredients added to balance it out forming an nice rich sauce.

Hearty Vegetable Stocks

Vegetable stocks are often made from left over end pieces, peelings, and scraps from any combination of vegetables used in the kitchen. One thing a serious cook does is never toss out any trims, cuttings, tops, peelings of any vegetables. The simply was is to have a bin that after your cooking session ends, you take the trims, place them in a zip lock bag and freeze them. When you are read to make a vegetable stock you have oodles of stuff to which you fill the pot with. The only thing to be careful about is that you have a good balance of flavors, and not overwhelmed by one thing or another. A good vegetable stock has a little of everything not just 10 lbs of potato skins.....
The normal mix you should look for is onion, carrots, greens of some sort and some basic root vegetable. Do not use seeds as they impart sometime strange flavors.

Next Chapter, some basic stock recipes........

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