By Chef Jeff Igel
Culinary Bits is a monthly spotlight featuring tips from our own FVTC Chef Instructors.
As the weather turns colder, we start thinking about comfort foods like soups and stews. For December, Chef Jeff Igel explains how to start with a good stock.
According to cookbook author Sarah Labensky, a stock is “a clear, unthickened liquid flavored by soluble substances extracted from meat, poultry or fish and their bones as well as from a mirepoix (carrots, onions and celery), other vegetables and seasonings.” In other words, a stock is a basically a meat broth. The primary difference between a stock and a broth is that broths tend to have slightly more fat content.
The proper way to make a stock is to start with cold water (which has more extracting power as the temperature gradually rises) and simmer the meat and/or bones (sometimes roasted first and other times just raw) with vegetables for as long as eight hours.
Stocks are then strained and the residual bones and vegetables are discarded. The liquid remaining is then cooled, and the fat that rises and solidifies on the top is skimmed off and discarded. The liquid that remains is well bodied, flavorful and virtually fat-free.
Stocks should never boil, but barely simmer to extract as much flavor as possible and to minimize evaporative losses.
Preparing stocks is a culinary fundamental, and using stocks in your cooking preparations is one of the keys to great soups, sauces and entrees.
Although stock recipes tend to vary, an approximate preparation ratio would be 5 pounds of bones and 2/3 pound of mirepoix per gallon of water.
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