Stocks are very important in cooking. Basically, a stock is the strained liquid that results from the cooking of meat or fish with vegetables and other seasonings. There are many methods of creating stocks. The general technique involves nothing more than filling a big pot with water and a variety of flavorful ingredients. The most important ingredient in stock is the bone, whether cooked or uncooked. If the bones have a lot of meat, all the better, but lean bones will do.
The cooking process extracts flavors and nutrients from the vegetables and meat. When cooking in a pinch, you can use ready-made, canned products. If you use bases or products that need to be diluted, simmer them in mirepoix to add flavor and nutrients.
Stock and Base Hints: You can buy just about any kind of ready-made stock or base in most supermarkets, if you need them in a pinch. However, preparing your own is usually less costly and it lends more to that homemade flavor.
Vegetable Mirepoix or Flavor Booster
Yields one plus cups.
Mirepoix is used to season sauces, soups, and stews. Mirepoix is the French name for a mishmash of onions, carrots, and celery.
1 teaspoons SALTED BUTTER
1 teaspoons COOKING OIL
¼ medium CARROT, chopped
¼ small ONION, chopped
1 teaspoon DRIED THYME LEAVES
¼ BAY LEAF, crushed
2 tablespoons SHERRY WINE
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over moderate heat. Add the oil, carrot, onion, and celery. Sauté until the vegetables are soft. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer the mixture for three minutes.
Homemade Beef Stock
Yields will vary.
Here is a straightforward, basic stock recipe that uses beef as a base. Make this rich-tasting stock and use it to flavor soups, sauces, and stews. You can substitute other varieties of meat or seafood to create a diverse stock. This stock freezes well so you can use it later on.
1 batch VEGETABLE MIREPOIX
2 pounds BEEF BONES
2 quarts WATER
⅛ cup FRESH PARSLEY STEMS
⅛ pound BEEF BASE, as needed
SALT and WHITE PEPPER, to taste
Using the vegetable mirepoix place the mirepoix in a large sauce pot. Over medium heat, sauté the vegetables until they start to brown. Next, add the bones, water, and parsley. Bring the mixture to a boil. (To add a rich, dark color to the stock, brown the bones in an oven before adding them to the stock.) Reduce the heat to low and simmer the stock for at least two hours. Skim the surface until it is clear. Add more water while simmering, if necessary. Remove the bones and grease from the stock. Strain the stock through a double-thick cheesecloth. Discard the vegetables. Use the stock to make soups, sauces, and gravies. Stocks will keep in the freezer for up to six months and will always be available at any time to add to soups, sauces, etc.
Homemade Chicken Stock
Yields will vary.
Use this stock whenever a recipe calls for chicken stock or broth and you will discover the delicious difference that homemade stock can make. If you plan to freeze it to use later, conserve freezer space by boiling the stock down to reduce it by half. Thin it with an equal amount of water when you use it.
2 pounds CHICKEN BONES, washed thoroughly
¼ pound CHICKEN BASE, as needed
Follow the recipe for beef stock, but substitute the beef bones and base with chicken bones and base. Cook the stock for only 1-½ hours.