Stocking Up: Beef

Alright, folks, this post has been a long time coming. After making my own chicken stock, I decided to give beef stock a whirl as well and it went really well, except when I burned my hand. The key to making beef stock is finding a place to buy beef bones, which I hear can be difficult, but I happened to be at my local Hannaford one day and they had big ones for sale. With those in hand, I busted out The Ultimate Soup Bible (page 32) and got to work.

I’m not sure how much of a difference it made, but the cow bones I got were not chopped up and I half-heartedly tried with my knife and failed, so I just put three of those big boys in a high-sided pan in the over at 450 degrees and got to chopping. Like most stocks, the recipe called for carrots, celery and onion, but also tomatoes. I got those and the herbs (parsley and thyme) as well as crushed black peppercorns and a bay leaf ready while the bones roasted for a half hour.

After the half hour mark, I added in the vegetables and roasted for another 25 minutes or so. At that point, I dumped the contents of the pan in the stock pot and boiled some water like the recipe suggested. While the water boiled I started doing something else–can’t remember what exactly–and accidentally reached for the handle of the pan…that was in the 450 degree oven…without a glove or a cover on the handle and burned the heck out of my hand.

I immediately got my hand under cold running water and soon transferred to a bowl of ice water (more on injury treatment in another post along with a few other dumb injuries I’ve sustained in the past month or so). While I kept a nasty burn and possibly blisters at bay on my right hand, I kept going with the stock-making. I poured the boiling water from the pan into the pot followed by about 18-inches of water and set it to boil along with the herbs and spices.

I simmered for six hours (I read in a Bourdain book that the longer, the better), then strained and let the stock cool. This time, I knew about how much liquid I would have, so after it cooled, I placed the stock in a big plastic bowl and popped it in the refrigerator. I left it there over night and when I went back to strain the fat, I was happy to find that it had solidified into a disk that I could easily remove, which is a heckuva lot easier than skimming, I’ll tell you that.

Instead of freezing ice cubes of stock this time around, I used my mother-in-law’s idea and instead measured out one and two cup amounts, poured that into marked bags and froze those bags in larger freezer bags. As I mentioned in the post about making Alton Brown’s recipe for Swedish Meatballs, I’ve already used the stock and it’s pretty great. The only problem with this method is that you wind up wasting the tiny bags when you tear them apart to get the stock out. The perfect solution would be ice cube trays with one and/or two cup sized holes. Do they make those? That’d be awesome.

Advertisements

Stocking Up: Chicken

One of the common things I’ve read in most of the cookbooks and books about food is that making your own stock is important. Not only do you know exactly what goes into it, but you’re also creating something very basic that you can use in many, many things. I’d been wanting to try my hand at stocks for along time now, but only actually got around to it in the past month. Why the delay? I was a little worried about the time commitment, plus I wasn’t quite needing stock yet. Now that it’s getting cold and I’m making more soup, I figured it would be a good time.

I started with a chicken stock recipe that I got out of The Ultimate Soup Bible (page 30) because it was an actual recipe. Anthony Bourdain had a much less specific one in  The Les Halles Cook Book, but I wanted to do it by the book and have my hand held for a bit before eying everything.

The recipe called for bone-in chicken pieces that included wings, back and necks, but I couldn’t find that at the grocery store and the butcher wasn’t around, so I went with a pair of bone-in breasts. Not sure how much difference that made, but otherwise, I followed the recipe.

I tossed the chicken, two unpeeled onions and some oil in a stock pot and started cooking until everything was brown. While that cooked, I chopped up two carrots and two celery stalks, grabbed some parsley and thyme stems, a bay leaf and ground about a dozen black peppercorns. I put all that in a container and waited until they were needed.

Once everything was browned, I filled the pot with 16 cups of water and waited for a boil. Once I got there, I dumped the container of veggies and herbs and simmered for three hours. After that, I strained out all the solids and let the stock sit. I tried scraping out fat and did my best, but came up with a much better method that I’ll talk about when I write about making beef stock.

Anyway, I had read in many places that making stock ice cubes is the way to go, so after everything cooled, I got to work on that. It was a multi-part project because we only had two extra ice cube trays and not a lot of space in our freezer anyway. I now have two bags filled with chicken stock cubes ready to go. I took about 10 or 12 back home for Thanksgiving intending to use them instead of turkey stock to make the gravy, but wound up making my own turkey stock. It didn’t go to waste though, because my mom used them in the stuffing.

I’m really glad I did this, not just because I feel like I’ve done something that not a lot of people do, but also because I finally just did it. Sometimes things seem like big hurdles, but once you finally do them, they turn out to be pretty easy. Sure, you’ve got to be home to keep an eye on the stock as it simmers, but aside from that it’s really easy and worth doing. I hope to make some killer winter soups now!