How to Make Restaurant Quality Stocks at Home
Could you imagine having to create a singular sauce with singular ingredients for every dish on the menu? This is why cooking stocks are so important to learn how to prepare.
Long ago, European chefs realized that it was a much more efficient way to run a kitchen to have sauce components on hand that could be altered or made into a sauce with a minimum of extra ingredients than to make each sauce with a stand-alone set of components.
The recipes that follow form the basis of almost every classic European sauce imaginable. And this is the secret that chefs might not want you to know: master the building blocks, learn some solid technique and understand how to pair a sauce with a dish, and you'll be able to whip up a restaurant quality sauce at home that will truly impress your family and friends.
Brown stock is a meat stock made with roasted veal bones, some well-chosen chopped vegetables and some herbs. Since veal has a lighter flavor than beef and won't mask flavors, a brown stock is the basis for classic sauces for a variety of meats.
Espagnole sauce is a very strong, thick sauce, and it is the basis of many sauces, including the well known Sauce Bourguignon and as a component of demi-glace.
Demi-glace is a very time intensive sauce that is basically a reduction of a brown stock and Espagnole sauce. Demi-glace is a chef's secret for enriching almost any sauce you can imagine.
Basic Cooking Stocks
Cooking stocks are made without salt, so they cannot stand alone. You wouldn't want to eat a bowl of chicken stock, for example, because it would not taste like much of anything.
As a general rule, a stock is named by whatever protein is dominant - fish stock is made with fish bones. The whole point of making a stock is to break down the collagen present in bones to gelatin while enhancing it with some aromatic vegetables, herbs and spices.
Some well-made cooking stocks can contain so much gelatin that they will actually become thick and almost set in the refrigerator, just like a fruity gelatin-based dessert.
It is the stock that imparts body to a soup or to a sauce, and while there are other ways to thicken sauces, I cannot think of any other way to get that same lip-smacking mouthfeel than using a well-made stock in sauce making.
White chicken stock is made using raw chicken bones and vegetables while roasted chicken stock is made after roasting the bones and the vegetables for the stock.
Roasted chicken stock has a richer flavor and a deeper color than white chicken stock, and each has a myriad of uses in restaurant kitchens, and your kitchen.
Beef stock is available in every grocery store now a days so you might ask why make your own. For one thing, you can control the quality and the amount of salt added to the stock.
I don't make beef stock as often as chicken stock but if I have a bunch of beef bones around from a beef dinner, I like to throw them in to a big pot of water and vegetables to make my own for future soups, stews and risottos.
I've even been know to save beef bones from several meals, freeze them and make a stock when I have enough.
As good as the commercial products are today for any of these stocks, there is nothing better than making your own homemade stocks in your own kitchen.
Veal, Lamb & Fish Cooking Stocks
Veal stock is lighter than beef or brown stock because veal has a lighter flavor. Because of the lighter flavor, it goes well with more dishes but because veal bones are harder to find than beef bones, it may be easier to use a commercial grade veal stock you can now find in gourmet stores.
And then there is lamb stock, easy to prepare if you roast a leg of lamb and wonder what to do with the leg bone after you are finished with it. Lamb stock is stronger than beef or chicken stock so you can freeze some in small containers and small amounts to enhance other lamb recipes including lamb stew, rice or lamb risotto.
Fish stock is made with fish bones, wine and water. The acid in the wine helps to make a more balanced stock which then can be used in making anything from vichyssoise to a velvety seafood sauce for salmon.
Vegetables do not contain gelatin, so technically, a vegetable stock is more of a broth. Vegetable stock is presented here to offer a lighter, vegetarian option for people as it can simply be substituted for any chicken or fish stock.
What if I don't want to make my own stocks and reductions?
If I had to choose from all the products on the market today that have improved my cooking ability and allowed me to make incredible gourmet sauces, it would be commercial stock, glaces and stock reductions now available.
I have been to many food shows over the years and seen lots of products but none have simplified my life more than these. If you have ever tried to make demi-glace or even veal stock, you will know how valuable this resource is.
This is not the powdered stuff you buy at the supermarket but the real thing. The same is true for their chicken stock and new seafood stock.
I use one of these products at least once a week but usually more. There was a time I made a big batch of chicken stock and stored it in the freezer for those times when a recipe called for a cup or two.
Problem was I had to really had to think ahead to be sure to defrost it and sometimes I only needed a cup and not a full quart. Besides, it took up so much room in my freezer, I didn't have room for all the other stuff I purchased at Costco.
Now I just reach into the fridge, pull out my commercial stock reduction and measure out what I need and reconstitute it with hot water. Takes up a lot less room and these products have a year shelf life.
And when it comes to making a Demi-Glace, I don't have two days to make it right. Now I have it in two minutes.