A couple of weeks back we decided to taste-test a new Indian place at lunchtime. It was nice enough for a lunch-place in the courthouse district, standard menu, friendly waiters, pushy customers, the usual lunch business. While the dishes we ordered weren’t too bad (although….dousing spinach in coconut milk doesn’t make it a curry, really…), there was something… off, out of place. It took me about two spoonfuls of my something-with-spinach to pinpoint what was bothering me.
A stock cube. Once I realized what it was I could barely taste anything else. The same thing was happening on the other side of the table, so it wasn’t just me being too judgemental. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing terribly wrong with popping a (quality) stock cube for a quick-fix once in a while. The dominant aroma in a restaurant dish making my teeth squeak with an overdose of MSG, however, makes my hackles rise. Conveniently enough I had just spent a couple of weekends locked away (quite comfortably so) in my kitchen, playing around with the „Soups“ section of the Tyrian Cookbook to fend off the fact that the ones in charge of the weather upstairs apparently hadn’t gotten the memo that bad April’s Fools Day pranks are supposed to be limited to that particular day. In Tyria, as well as on Earth, every good soup and sauce is based on a good stock. There really is a good reason for every chef around honking on and on about the importance of stocks. Since GW2 is providing the groundwork for me to honk along, I decided to join in after the episode at the Indian restaurant.
Here, I will share the basic versions of the stocks I regularely use. I stress the „basic“ because most of the time I adjust the ingredients and seasoning to work towards whatever I plan to do with it. Whenever I’m making large batches of stocks I stick to these recipes though, so I can reduce them down and freeze them, either in 300-500ml containers or in ice cube baggies, for later use. The results of these will keep in the fridge for 4-6 days, frozen they’re good for up to 3 months.
I’ve watched my grandma unceremoniously dump a pile of veggies and bones into the maw of her monstrous pressure cooker looming over the edge of her stove (I swear, it was staring at me…) countless times and although that thing scared me witless I knew it would spit out something delicious. A lot of „advanced“ guides to stockmaking these days are very adamant about using a pressure monster for top results. I personally don’t. It still creeps me out of my skull and for that reason I don’t own one. I use a really heavy pot with a lid just as heavy and I’m pretty pleased with my results. If you do have a pressure cooker and know how to safely handle it though, I suppose you should put it to work. Maybe I should go have a talk with a professional about my pressure cooker problem… aaaanyways… Stocks. Here we go.
I’m going to start with the type of stock I use the most. A good chicken stock not only serves as a base for one of the ultimate comfort foods during the cold seasons, it also adds some oomph to a vegetable soup (unless you’re going 100% vegetarian with it) and provides the perfect base for light wine sauces without dominating them.
Each base type of stock has two variants, a white and a brown one. While the ingredients for the white stock are, for the most part, simply covered with water and simmered for a while, the ones for the brown stock are…well, browned, before the watered-and-simmered bit to enhance their flavors. My „standard“ chicken stock is a brown one – I rarely make white wine sauces that would call for a white stock and I really like a simple, hearty chicken broth once I added some goodies to it. Just in case, here are recipes for both types of chicken stock.
First off, I’m aware my pictures don’t show the main ingredient of these, but a stack of raw meat and broken bones doesn’t really photograph well. Let’s face it though, if you’re squeamish about handling a chicken carcass, bones and other unsightly bits of what previously held an animal upright, these recipes might pose a challenge for you.
These are the Tyrian Versions…
…and these are mine~
White Chicken Stock
Makes about 2l of Stock
1,75kg Chicken Pieces
or a „Soup Hen“
or 2kg Chicken Bones,
150g White Onions, finely chopped
100g Button Mushrooms, finely chopped
1 small Parsnip, finely chopped
1 medium Leek, finely chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, bashed
1 Tsp Peppercorns
6 Sprigs of Thyme
5 Sprigs of Flatleaf Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
The term „Soup Hen“ describes a „retired“ egg-laying hen. The average hen slows her egg producion after about 10-12 months – both in the relative freedom of a barnyard as well as in industrial captivity. Since they live a lot longer than the chickens bred for consumption, their meat is incredibly aromatic, not at all fitting the stereotype of chicken basically just tasting like whatever it’s spiced with. The downside to the wonderful taste is that their meat is really tough. It needs to be cooked/stewed for a long time to be edible, hence the name. Ask your local butcher for a soup hen if you can’t find one elsewhere.
Another piece of advice I shold pass along: don’t skimp on the chicken. For a really good stock it’s absolutely worth it to cough up the extra buck for a free-range, organic chicken.
1) Give the chicken pieces a good scrub under running water and pat it dry with a paper towel.
2) Place the chicken/pieces in a pot large enough to hold all of your ingredients plus 2l of water.
3) Add 2l of cold tap water and slowly bring it up to a boil on medium-high heat.
4) As the temperature is going up, scum will start rising and frothing up to the top. Use a slotted spoon or a ladle to remove it from the surface.
5) Once the stock comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover it with a lid.
6) Simmer it for 30 mins, then reduce the heat further down to low. Leave it to slowly simmer for another 30 mins before taking it off the stove. Check every 15 mins if more scum has risen to the top and skim it off if necessary.
7) Keep the lid on and let the pot just sit there and cool off slightly for an hour.
8) Add your veggies and garlic to the chicken broth, put the lid back into place and bring it to a boil again on medium-high heat.
9) Reduce the heat to low again once it reaches its boiling point, add the herbs and peppercorns and keep it at a low simmer for 30 mins.
10) Now here’s a handy trick I remembered from my grandma’s kitchen. Whenever she was preparing meaty stocks, soups or sauces, she used to pop them in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight. I didn’t get the point of it as a kid, but after a while it dawned on me. What easier way to get rid of excess fat in a liquid than simply wait for it to do the job itsself? In the cold, the fat will rise to the surface of the stock, solidify and present ittself as some sort of icky droplid inside your pot, easily taken out with a slotted spoon.
11) So, chill the stock until the excess fat is floating on the surface, just asking to be taken out.
Line a fine sieve with a cheesecloth or a layer of muslin and strain the stock to remove any remaining impurities.
12) Store or freeze it in sterilized containers or use it right away.
Brown Chicken Stock
Makes about 2L
2,5kg Chicken Wings
150g White Onions, finely cubed
1 large Carrot, peeled and finely sliced
100g Button Mushrooms, finely sliced
1 Tomato Stalk
1 Bay Leaf
2 Sprigs of Thyme
2 Cloves of Garlic, bashed
Opt: 1 Tbsp of Tomato Puree
1) Rub the wings with some oil until they’re evenly coated.
2) Set a griddle on medium-high heat and roast them in batches. Turn them over regularely – while you’re aiming for a crisp, dark brown color, burning them would be taking it too far. Since BBQ season is drawing closer… Try popping them into a large tray and roast/smoke the wings on the coals. Maybe add some wood chips for extra flavor, mesquite or apple wood chips do a wonderful job. Maybe a bit much for.. well, a soup, but it’s really really good!
3) Place the roasted wings in a bowl until you’re through with all of them.
4) Tip out the excess oil in the griddle, then add a ladle of water and loosen all of the roasted bits still in it with a wooden spoon.
5) Add this roasted-chicken-essence to the bowl holding your wings.
6) Heat a thin layer of oil in your stockpot on medium heat and sautée the onion cubes for about 15 mins until they start to caramellize. Stir them regularely so they don’t stick to the pot and fry up instead.
7) Once the onions start caramellizing, add the carrots and keep going for another 10-15 mins until the carrots are soft.
8) Now add the garlic and mushrooms and cook them for yet another 10 mins. Stir in the tomato puree now, if you’re using it.
9) Finally it’s time for the return of the chicken wings – add them and their juices to the pot and cover them with 2l of cold tap water.
10) Set the heat to high and bring the stock up to a low boil. While the temperature is rising, skim off the scum frothing up to the top with a slotted spoon or ladle.
11) Once the stock reaches its boiling point, cover it with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low.
12) Let it simmer away for about 2-3 hours. Check on it every 15 mins and remove any scum that might still be rising up.
13) Chill the stock for easy degreasing. Remove the fat, then use or freeze it.
Hmm. Come to think of it, I’ve always been using oxtail and shin disks for my beef stocks because I remembered my grandma doing it, or to be more accurate, I remembered oxtails and shins disappearing into the pot. During my stocks & soups weeks I realized she never actually made beef stock for the stock itsself though. Every time the aromas of roasting oxtail started wafting out of my pot, I couldn’t help but think of her marrow dumplings, and I finally remembered why. She made the stock as a base for very intense oxtail broth with vermicelli and light and fluffy marrow dumplings. So maybe oxtail and marrow bones aren’t quite the classic ingredients for a stock, it works out wonderfully though.
The Tyrian Basics…
…brought to this side of the screen~
Makes about 2l
1kg Marrow Bones – ask your butcher for these, I haven’t been able to get my hands on those anywhere else.
1kg Shin Disks
500g Shallots, finely chopped
500g Carrots, finely sliced
1 Fennel Bulb, finely sliced
5 dried Porcini Mushroom
300ml dry Red Wine
2 Star Anise
1 Tomato Stalk
1 Bay Leaf
1 Tsp Black Peppercorns
Opt: 1 Tbsp Tomato Puree
1) Rub the bones and oxtail pieces with a little oil. Roast them on high heat in the pot you’re going to be using for your stock. You will probably need to do this in batches to avoid crowding the pan – the pieces should be browned evenly on all sides.
2) Repeat this with the shin disks.
3) These 2 steps are actually best done by popping everything in a large roasting tray in one layer, drizzling everything with a little bit of oil and roasting it at 220°C in the oven for 30 mins on each side.
4) In the meantime, heat a light layer of oil in a second pot, turn down the heat to medium and sautée the onions in company of the star anise.
5) Once they start softening, add the carrots and cook the both of them for about 15-20 mins until they’re soft and lightly caramellized. Stir occasionally to keep them from burning.
6) Deglaze them with the red wine, bring it to a boil and let it reduce down by about 1/3 or ½ into a slightly thickened sauce for about 20 mins.
7) Deglaze the stockpot with a ladle of water and loosen all of the roasted bits and juices from the bottom of it with a wooden spoon once you’re through with the meat and bones. This is where you could stir in the optional tbsp of tomato puree if you want to give the stock more body by adding a fruity note.
8) Add all of the herbs and spices and roasted pieces – this time it doesn’t matter if they’re all touching the bottom of the pot or not, just make sure everything fits – as well as the red wine reduction.
9) Cover the lot with 2l of cold tap water.
10) Bring the stock up to a boil on high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer with the lid on for about 4-5 hours – have a taste and decide if it needs more time.
11) Skim off the scum from time to time, I usually check every 10-15 mins in the first hour, every 20 mins after that.
12) Once you’re satisfied, leave it to slowly cook off, then chill it in the fridge over night.
13) Remove the layer of fat.
14) Once that’s taken care of, strain the stock through a cheesecloth/muslin lined sieve to remove any other impurities, then use or freeze the results of your work.
This one is going to play a bigger role in my kitchen come summer, what with all the Gazpachos and other cold-prepped goodies calling for a flavorful base. I always found it hard to really boost the veggies into a really, really veggie broth though, until I remembered something my grandma used to do – she took the bundles of „soup greens“ apart, gave the veggies a good scrub, peeled them and popped all of it, including the peels, tops and tails into the pot. I kinda-sorta follow her example – I wrap all of the peels and cuttings in a cheesecloth, tie it up tightly and pop it in with the water for half the cooking time. A sort of veggie teabag, if you will. I only keep it in for the first half of the cooking time because I’ve noticed some of the peels and tops, the carrots especially, can give off a bitter taste if they’re kept in the stock for too long.
I don’t know why, but these soup-greens bundles always make me smile when I encounter them on our weekly trip to the farmer’s market…
Makes about 2l
300g Leeks, white and light green parts finely sliced – use the dark green parts for the teabag if you’re going down that road
250g Carrots, peeled and finely sliced
200g Shallots, finely cubed
150g Button Mushrooms, finely sliced
3 dried Chanterelles
100g Fennel, finely sliced
100g Celery Root, peeled and finely cubed
50g Parsnip, peeled and finely cubed
1 Tomato Stalk
3 Sprigs of Thyme
3 Bay Leaves
2 Sprigs of Tarragon
½ Bunch of Flatleaf Parsley
200ml dry White Wine
2l cold tap Water
1) Melt the butter in your stockpot on medium heat and sweat all the veggies for around 5 mins. Keep stirring them to keep them from sticking to the bottom and taking on too much color.
2) Deglaze the pot with the white wine.
3) Add the herbs with the exception of the parsley and 2l of cold tap water.
4) Bring this proto-stock to a full boil on high heat, watch it bubble for a minute and then reduce to low.
5) Once it stops bubbling wildly, place the lid on the pot and simmer the stock for 20 mins.
6) Add the parsley sprigs and leave it to simmer for another 5 mins.
7) Take the pot off the heat and let cool down to room temperature with the lid still on.
8) Strain the stock through a cheesecloth or muslin lined sieve and use, chill or freeze it.
Of course there’s an almost endless variety of stocks just waiting to be made, but these, I think, are the foundation for everything else to come, so, for now, I’ll leave it at that.
On a side note: A while ago, at a pretty ritzy restaurant, I was served a very confusing (at first) amouse – a small glass holding a clear liquid, almost as clear as water with just a light pink hue, topped with a thin layer of something frothy. It turned out to be a clarified tomato consommé topped with a basil air. The intensity of the tomato consommé viciously clashed with what one might come to expect considering the clarity of the liquid, which was, of course, exactly what the chef was aiming for. I never managed to get a stock as clear as that, but the way to do it is quite simple. Assuming you froze a portion of the stock you can clarify the stock by lining a sieve with 2-3 layers of muslin, balancing it over a container large enough to hold the amount of stock you’re thawing and placing the frozen block or cubes in it. Pop this contraption in the fridge and let it thaw slowly. Voila, stock clarified without any loss of flavor – and the beginning of a classic consommé.
I hope you guys like my little stock-bootcamp! If I have been able to inspire you to put some elbow grease into starting a recipe involving a stock from scratch, make sure to drop by again next weekend… The GW2 inspired recipe I’ve got prepared for next week’s post is putting the white chicken stock to good use.