Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Real Beef Stock: A Must!

I feel like it's been too long since I've updated... I was pretty much addicted from the first post.  Plus, I have several recipes that are waiting to make it on the page.  A mini-update: trying out some different formatting... we'll see what sticks!  Regarding the lighting issue, I switched out my standard CFLs for 'natural light' ones.  As you can see below... it's made a huge difference!  Not perfect or even ideal, but come-on... it's a working kitchen, not a studio!  (yet)



Moving forward... homemade beef stock!



This is the first time I've made it... oh what I've been missing!  If you've made stock before, you know how relatively easy it is... I don't know why I was afraid of/confused about doing it.  It's rich and beefy... everything you'd expect from homemade stock.  Look for my trial-run of French Onion Soup soon!

INGREDIENTS:

Beef Bones: 3 lbs.  I used neck and also shank that had nice meat and marrow on it.  Ask the butcher at your grocery store about purchasing beef/soup bones. 
Onion: 1 lb... about 2 med yellow or white onions, rough chop.
Carrot: 1 lb... about 4-6 carrots, rough chop.  Don't bother peeling... just wash them well.
Celery: 1 lb... about 8 ribs, rough chop.  Do you see the pattern?  I typically use the ratio 1:1:1 being 1 gal water,1 lb meat, 1 lb total of vegetables (carrot, celery, and onion trio).
Mushrooms: 1 lb of stems, rinsed well.  I had made a huge batch of stuffed mushrooms a week prior and had frozen the stems.  You can use less or more... or whole mushrooms if you don't have a handy bag of frozen stems!
Garlic: 1/2 bulb... more if you like.  Crush the cloves on a cutting board with the side of your knife to easily remove the skin.  (I'll have to put up a demo of this... super simple, but visuals don't hurt!)  I prefer whole crushed cloves in my stock, not chopped or minced. 
Rosemary: 1 med stem, FRESH!
Thyme: 1 med bunch... about 12-15 stems, FRESH!!
Sage: 6-7 leaves, FRESH!!!
Bay Leaf: 4-5 leaves (dried).
Water: 3 gallons-or-so... depends on the size of your pot, amount of ingredients, etc.  Not an exact science!
On-Hand: xvoo
**Note: I choose not to add salt or pepper to my stock since I always add those ingredients when I'm using the stock for a recipe.  I like that homemade stock is all about the vegetable, herb, and meat flavorings concentrated on their own... you can always enhance the stock later with salt and pepper.

PROCESS:

1) Place bones on a baking sheet and roast in a pre-heated oven @ 450 for about 7-8 minutes in the upper portion of the oven.  Flip the bones and roast another 7-8 minutes until a nice golden/caramel color starts to show.  You don't want smoking-hot bones... and don't char them.  That's my opinion, anyways.
2) Toss carrots, celery, and onions with just a bit of xvoo to lightly coat them and prevent burning.  Layer vegetables on a tray... 2 trays if it's getting crowded (you want to roast, not sweat these veggies) and roast them @ 450 for about 10-12 minutes.  A bit of charring on the edges is fine.  Also, roasting the veggies is optional if you don't want to take the time... you can just add them raw to the stock pot.
3) Add bones, roasted vegetables, and all other ingredients to the stock pot.  (I prefer an enameled stockpot because there is less chance of metallic-related flavor contamination.  I also recommend a MINIMUM of a 16-quart size.)  Fill the pot with water to about 1/2 inch from the rim.  Place lid on pot and set the burner on high... it'll take about 30 minutes to get a rolling simmer.
4) Reduce heat slightly to med-high and remove lid.  Stir pot.  Let simmer for 3-4 hours.  You can go longer or shorter depending on how light/dark/rich/mellow you want the stock.  I've read about 'muddying' stock by cooking it too long, but I'm not quite sure I believe that.  If it exists, my palate is not trained to detect it.
5) Turn heat off once stock is at your desired richness.  Use a large slotted spoon to remove the bones and veggies into a bowl; discard.  **Tip: place a paper grocery bag inside your garbage liner and dump discarded contents directly from the bowl.  The paper will help absorb the heat, liquid, and smell so that you don't end up with a sloppy bag of trash to haul outside.
6) After stock has cooled a bit, pour through a fine mesh strainer (ideally a conical/chinoise strainer... it's amazing!) into another pot or large bowl.  If you lack in large pots or bowls, do this in batches and container each stained batch of stock as you go.  Freeze conatiners of stock until you're ready for them.  EASY!


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