Stock Options

Stock Options

Pick a Bone

the concept should be fairly obvious: Cook fresh ingredients in bubbling water long enough and they will flavor the water.

Now that real butchers and fishmongers are making a comeback, it’s a little easier to get your hands on bones, which add both flavor and viscosity to many stocks. Lucky you if you can find them for free, but be prepared to pay. As you become more experienced and start to cut up your own fish and meat, store bones and trimmings in a zipper bag in the freezer and use them for stock.

  • Meat stock is best made with raw, meaty beef, veal, lamb, or pork bones, which you can augment with inexpensive cuts of meat like neck and shin.
  • Fish stock is best made with scraps: heads and bones from white fish. The fastest —and some of the best—seafood stock comes from shrimp shells (or lobster shells if you have access to them). Avoid using fish gills and innards; they’ll turn the stock bitter.
  • With poultry you have a couple options. The only surefire way to get the most flavorful poultry stock is to start with whole raw chicken (or chicken or turkey parts). You can also use the leftovers from a carved roasted chicken to make a small amount of stock (say about 1 quart); a turkey carcass (which is larger and more flavorful) will yield at least 2 quarts. But whenever you can, enhance stock made from carcasses with raw bones or trimmings, like wing tips and backbones or a couple of (relatively inexpensive) legs.
  • Whatever bones you choose, figure about three times the volume of water to bones: If you have 2 cups shrimp shells, put them in a pot with 6 cups water. Then start adding other ingredients. For every 4 cups water, add at least 1 onion, halved, 2 large celery stalks, and 2 large carrots to the pot, along with a few bay leaves or sprigs of thyme or parsley if you have them. Any of these will add some fresh-tasting flavors and balance the richness of the bones (or shells).

Making stock should be inspirational, not intimidating.

Stock from Roasted Ingredients

INTENSIFY ANY STOCK Heat the oven to 400°F. Put the meat, fish, or poultry scraps and bones—with or without any vegetables—in a roasting pan. Figure about 6 pounds of ingredients total for 12 cups of stock. Drizzle with ¼ cup olive oil and toss everything to coat; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

ROAST Stir or turn the ingredients every 20 minutes or so, until the pieces are deeply browned on all sides, for 40 to 60 minutes. Don’t worry about cooking everything perfectly, since eventually everything’s going to be submerged in water anyway; but be careful not to burn anything.

Roasting intensifies the color of the stock, too.

DEGLAZE THE PAN After transferring the roasted ingredients to the stockpot, set the pan over one or two burners and turn the heat to medium-high. Add 2 cups water and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan as the water starts to bubble away; pour the water into the stockpot along with whatever herbs or spices you want to use.

Change the Seasonings

Infusions Spices and other intensely flavored foods will infuse the water with flavor during cooking. Try adding a few tablespoons of tomato paste or several dried mushrooms, for example. A cup or so of red or white wine is an always elegant choice, as are other herbs besides parsley, like thyme, rosemary, or sage. Love garlic? A whole unpeeled bulb of it will not be too much. Want a smoky flavor? Throw in a ham hock or a couple slices of raw bacon along with the other ingredients.

Asian Flavorings If you’ll be using the stock in Asian dishes (like noodle soups or stir-fries), consider adding a sliced (unpeeled) 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, a bunch of trimmed scallions, a tablespoon of sesame oil, or whole spices like a cinnamon stick, several cloves, or 1 or 2 star anise. For a Thai twist, throw in 1 whole stalk of lemongrass and use cilantro sprigs instead of parsley. For Indian-style stock— wonderful in curries and spiced soups—add sliced unpeeled ginger and 1 tablespoon of curry powder and substitute cilantro for the parsley.

Salt It’s crucial too, but wait to add it until you actually cook with the stock or you may wind up oversalting it.

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