Stocks

Stocks

By
Justin North
Contains
8 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781740665377
Photographer
Steve Brown

The French word for stock is ‘fond’, foundation, which to me says everything about their importance in French cooking. Stocks are indeed the foundation upon which all kinds of dishes are built. Without good stocks there would be few soups, sauces, ragoûts or braises.

It’s probably true to say that without good stocks, French cuisine would not exist in the form that it does today.

The interesting thing about stocks is that they are never made simply as an end in their own right. They are always used as the basis to create some other dish or sauce. Perhaps this is one reason why making stocks at home has fallen out of fashion somewhat – this and the fact that, while not difficult to make, they are time consuming. Somehow, in this fast-paced world, it all seems just a bit too hard.

But to be honest, learning to make decent stocks is an absolutely essential part of learning to cook French dishes. In this chapter I hope to convince you that simple stock making is just that: simple. All that you really need is a few basic ingredients and patience.

The first thing to understand is that it’s just plain silly to start a recipe by making a stock. It makes much better sense to cook stocks in large batches and freeze them in convenient amounts – say 500 ml or 1 litre – so that they’re always on hand for immediate use. I also recommend having at least one white stock and one brown stock in your freezer.

So what’s the difference? French cuisine generally divides stocks into brown (fond brun) and white (fond blanc). Both are made in the same way, using raw bones, with vegetables and herbs added for additional flavour. For brown stocks, though, the bones and vegetables are thoroughly browned (usually by roasting in the oven) before adding water. Brown stocks are richer, fuller-flavoured and more concentrated than white stocks.

For all stocks, it’s important to use good-quality ingredients and the method is, essentially, the same. Once the water has been added to the bones (roasted or raw), vegetables and other flavourings, the stock is slowly brought to the boil over a low heat. When it boils, the stock is then skimmed and left to simmer gently, virtually unattended. The stock shouldn’t be allowed to boil, as it will turn cloudy and can develop an unpleasant taste. It’s a good idea to skim off any impurities from time to time, as they rise to the top – this also helps to ensure a clear and richly flavoured stock.

At the end of the cooking time all the flavour will have been extracted from the bones and vegetables. As well as gaining flavour and colour, a good stock also attains body from the bones’ marrow, and will set to a gorgeous jelly when chilled.

One final point: it is possible to buy good-quality stocks these days, and I strongly encourage you to choose the best you can afford. It’s generally preferable to buy the homemade variety from specialty food stores or delis – many local butchers make or sell good-quality stocks as well. If possible, avoid buying stock from supermarket chains. Their products tend to be price-driven, and the quality nearly always suffers as a result.

White stocks

White stocks are made from unroasted bones and are generally lighter in flavour than brown stocks. They can be made from chicken or game carcasses, veal bones, fish bones or vegetables. They are used with delicate white meats and seafood and for making pale sauces, and can also be used instead of water as a base for making brown stocks when a greater depth of flavour is required.

Brown stocks

Brown stocks can be made from chicken or game bird carcasses, veal or lamb bones. Roasting the bones and vegetables gives the stock a deeper colour and a more intense flavour. Once roasted, the pan is déglacé (deglazed), by adding water to the pan and stirring around the caramelised deposits to colour and flavour the liquid.

Recipes in this Chapter

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