Stock (food)

From Academic Kids

Stock is the basis of soup. In the West, stock is traditionally prepared by simmering meat, vegetables (or mirepoix), herbs and spices in water.

Veal, beef and chicken, with bones, if possible, are most commonly used. Fish, venison and other kinds of poultry are also used for certain types of stock. Other types of meat, such as mutton, are generally considered less suitable because of their strong taste. The meat need not be of prime quality. In fact, gristle and skin and other parts that are not generally eaten may be used, since all meat and vegetables are removed when the stock is finished. In some countries, older chickens are sold as "boiling hens" or "stewing hens", and fish stock is often prepared from the heads of fish. Vegetable stock is made only of vegetables. It is common today, but is not a traditional type of stock.

The vegetables used for the preparation of stock differ from region to region, but onions, carrots and celery are commonly used, as are other kinds of root vegetable. Similarly, the herbs and spices depend on availability and local traditions. In classical cuisine, the use of herbs consisting of parsley, bay leaves, a sprig of thyme and possibly other herbs, is common. This is often wrapped in a cheesecloth "bag" and tied with string to make it easier to remove it once the stock is cooked.

Today, ready-made stock and stock cubes consisting of dried, compressed stock ingredients are readily available, although the quality is less than desirable.

Types

  • Fond Brun, or brown stock, is the most common type used. The brown color is achieved by roasting the bones and mirepoix. This also adds a rich, full flavor. Veal bones are the most common type used in a fond brun.
  • Fond Blanc, or white stock, is made by using raw bones and white mirepoix. Chicken bones are the most common for fond blanc.
  • Fish stock is made with fish bones and finely chopped mirepoix. Fish stock should be cooked for 30-45 minutes -- cooking any longer spoils the flavor. Concentrated fish stock is called "fish fumet". In Japanese cooking, a fish and kelp stock called dashi is made by briefly (3-5 minutes) cooking bonito flakes in nearly boiling water.
  • Chicken stock should be cooked for 4-5 hours. Veal stock should be cooked anywhere from 8 hours to overnight.
  • Jus is a rich, lightly reduced stock used as a sauce for roasted meats. Many of these are started by deglazing the roasting pan, then reduced to achieve the rich flavor desired.

Rules

A few basic rules should be followed when making stock:

  • Always start with cold water. This promotes the extraction of protein.
  • Never boil a stock. Allow it to simmer gently, with bubbles just breaking the surface. If a stock is boiled, it will be cloudy.
  • Never add salt to a stock. Since most stocks are reduced to make soups and sauces, it will cause it to become too salty to use properly.
  • When adding meat to a stock such as chicken or veal, cook the meat first before adding the vegetables, etc., and be careful to skim off the "scum" that rises to the surface from the meat.


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