Today was my first day back in the kitchens for the semester. Usually, the first week at the culinary school, everyone is still scrambling for books and uniforms and whatnot, so the chefs give us a week to ease in before we get back to cookin’.
My class tonight was Stocks, Soups and Sauces. The mere fact that one of the books is Escoffier’s tome to sauces of all kinds (among other things) is a sign that I’ll gain another 20 pounds this semester just tasting. Oh, well.
Tonight we made chicken stock, which will be the basis for many of the sauces we’ll make as we go along. Most of us made a “white” stock, meaning the bones and veggies went in raw; one group made a “brown” stock, meaning the bones and veggies got a little color in a hot oven before the simmer.
I had actually already learned stock procedure from Crescent Dragonwagon’s Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread Cookbook years ago, when I first started cooking more adventurously at home. It’s a great place to start if you want to learn stocks and soups (and a killer cornbread). If you’ve never made stock, you really should give it a go!
Based on what we did tonight in class, here’s the basic procedure for the white chicken stock:
- Place raw chicken bones (mostly stripped of meat) in a large stockpot.
- Fill the stockpot with cold water, until the water is about 1-2 inches above the bones.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and skim off the scum and foam from the top.
- Add a sachet d’épices (you can do this in a tea ball if you don’t have cheesecloth handy).
- Add roughly chopped, peeled veggies, usually carrots, onion and celery. They won’t be seen or eaten, so it doesn’t have to be pretty, or even fresh, for that matter.
- Simmer for 4 to 6 hours.
- Using a spider or large slotted spoon, carefully lift out all the bones and veggies. These are usually discarded, as they’ve “given their all” to the stock.
- Ladle through a sieve (or chinois, or just a colander) lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter into a large vessel.
- Cool in an ice bath until the stock is down to 70 degrees, then cover and move to the fridge. (The link says 40 degrees, but I think that’s asking a lot. But do wait for the 70, or you risk funking up your broth as well as everything else in your fridge.)
Don’t worry too much about fat; it will rise to the top and solidify while cooling. This layer of fat, remarkably, helps keep the stock fresh longer, and you can just lift the fat layer off when you’re ready to use it.
And don’t worry about salt yet. Our chef instructor said to wait until you’re making the finished product.
It’s funny, we had four or five different pots of stock going, with the exact same procedure and ingredients, and they all tasted very different at the end. Chef said this was due to varying simmer temps, as well as differences in proportions of meat and veggies, etc. They were all delicious, but in different ways…one was very bright, another rich, another very vegetal.
Tune in next week when we start turning our stock into one of the five mother sauces! Woot!
Photos of our stock adventure: