Monday, November 5, 2007

Mastering Beef Stock

It seems like it wasn't that long ago that I mastered the art of stock-making. After many failed attempts to produce delicious stocks, I finally made a chicken stock that was amazing. If you want to read about the day I conquered chicken stock, you need to back over two years to this day. Ever since then though, I make chicken stock and turkey stock like a pro. If I have chicken bones, I make stock. Shortly after that day, I also tackled a ham stock, which turned out equally wonderful. Then this past summer, armed with plenty of sweet corn cobs, I also discovered vegetable stock. I love going to the freezer and seeing all those stocks lined up, waiting to be turned into soup or stew or...whatever the fancy strikes. But I've never made beef stock.

Until this weekend. I had previously purchased several beef shanks from the local grocery store and tucked them into the freezer for another time. I think I've always been afraid of beef stock. In large part, because beef is kind of expensive, and so to buy all that beef, only to have it simmer and go to waste, well, I avoided it. But this week for Sunday Company Dinner, I wanted to make a beefy-vegetable soup and some homemade bread, and I decided it was time to try and conquer my fear of beef stock.

I turned to my trusty Joy of Cooking to beef stock, and first of all, I was surprised that there was a short way to make beef stock. Equally surprising was the addition of chicken parts to the stock process. Since I had plenty of chicken bits in the freezer for making stock, I added a handful of chicken wings to my beef shanks and vegetables, and first began by roasting them. It wasn't long before the house smelled fantastic, and I think Andy was disappointed that the smell was for stock. It worked very well, and it wasn't long before I was straining my stock to add my soup ingredients. And while I certainly could have used a beef soup base or beef bouillon, I think the homemade beef stock really contributed to the soup. There was a depth, a bit of umami that I'm certain came right from those bones and gristly bits. Not to mention, the silky texture that comes from the natural gelatin in those beef shanks. The soup turned out wonderful, and now I am no longer afraid of Brown Beef Stock.

Brown Beef Stock
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Lightly oil a roasting pan.

3 pounds meaty beef shanks, cut into 2-inch pieces or oxtails, split into chunks, or a combination
1 pound chicken parts, rinsed (backs, necks, wings, legs or thighs)
2 medium onions, quartered
2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces.

Place everything in the roasting pan and roast, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until the bones are well-browned, about 40-45 minutes. Transfer the meat and vegetables to a stockpot.

Place the roasting pan on the burner over medium heat and add about 2 cups of cold water to the roasting pan. Scrape up any browned bits on the roasting pan and then pour the water out of the roasting pan and into the stock pot. Add cold water to the stock pot to cover the meat and vegetables- around 14 cups of water.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, skim off any scum that forms as it cooks. Reduce the heat and simmer gently- uncovered. After about 30 minutes, add:
1 leek that has been split and thoroughly cleaned, and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 bouquet garni, including 1 clove

Simmer, uncovered, for 4 hours, skimming of any scum as it cooks. Also, add water if needed to continuously cover the meat and vegetables in the pot. Cook for 4 hours. Strain into a clean pot. Let cool, uncovered, then refrigerate. Remove the fat before using the stock.

Makes about 10 cups stock.


All Things Jennifer said...

I tried my fist chicken stock this weekend...and tis blah as well. After reading your post I realized how much more work I need to do! And to think the house smelled soooooo good while making it!

Erika W. said...

Jennifer, the best chicken stock I've made, I threw everything in the pot, brought it to a simmer, then put the cover on, turned the burner down as low as it goes, and I went to bed. In the morning, I woke to a beautiful stock. I think chicken stock needs time more than anything else.

CJ said...

The secret is definitely in the roasting and the bones.

To make everything even simpler, I put the carcasses or bones in a big roasting pan and roast @ 450deg. When well along, I toss the oiled carrots, celery, halved head of garlic (if I want that flavor) and quartered onion (ends trimmed but unpeeled) and continue roasting with an occasional stir until nicely done. When cooled slightly (you don't want to warp your roaster) I add enough water to cover (right in the roaster), add a dash or two of salt, herbs of choice and simmer for several more hours. When done, I strain the broth and viola'. It's done and used only one big pot to cook. (I am a lazy but earnest cook.)

I love your blog. Making soup tonight.

Erika W. said...

So what kind of soup...?