Monday, 24 January 2011

Taking Stock of Things..

There are many schools of thought when it comes to stock, there’s the reinvented Parco Pierre White who peddles salty, artificial crap on TV, there’s the traditional long/slow/skim-like-buggery typified by Michael Ruhlman’s book on the CIA and there’s Thomas Keller’s technical mastery detailed in The French Laundry Cookbook

But do any of these really work at home? Well, the concentrated chemical pots are horrible so if you’re considering that you may as well buy a jar of sauce from the Supermarket. 
The traditional and the technical – both great but they can take a lot of time and I for one only have a little time to spend on making stock. So what do I do? Here’s part 1 of Ross’s guide to stock:

Basic White Chicken Stock

The stock I use (and therefore make) most is a white chicken stock, not as deeply flavoured as a roasted (or brown) stock and no salt, garlic or other heavy aromats but great as a base for many stews, braises, sauces and as a building block for other stocks.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • About 500g Chicken Bones (see method)
  • 1 large onion (peeled & chopped)
  • 2 carrots (peeled & chopped)
  • Black peppercorns
  • 1 large pan
  • 1 colander
  • Muslin (useful)
  • Chinoise (useful)


Chop the chicken bones (I mainly use frozen trimmings or bought chicken wings) into 1 inch pieces and place them in the big pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. And I mean boil.

Almost everyone will tell you never to boil stock but what we’re doing here in blanching the bones, removing any fat, blood and other impurities.

Once the bones have boiled for a good 5 to 10 minutes (you’ll see scum floating on the top), tip them into the colander and rinse them clean. Really rinse them well. Return the bones to a clean pan and add the onion, carrot and some peppercorns; bring to a light simmer and then reduce to the lowest temperature and leave at the back of the range for hours (I do this overnight), it should be nice and clear.

Finally, strain the finished product (best through a Chinoise and Muslin) into another pan. Now you can reduce it to concentrate the flavour, freeze it in useable portions or keep it in the fridge; if you go for the fridge option make sure to bring it all to the boil every 3 to 4 days (and before use) to kill any nasties.

We’ll have a look at other stocks and sauces in other posts.

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