In our last class session, we considered the importance of stock, discussed the fundamentals of stock making, and studied white stock in particular. In today's class, we will still be discussing stock, but will shift our focus slightly, concentrating on brown stock.
Like white stock, brown stock has an extremely important role in cooking. It is indispensable and always on hand in all fine professional kitchens. Visualize the pungent brown sauce that accompanied a sautéed or grilled piece of red meat the last time you ate in your favorite upscale restaurant. Think of a delectably tender piece of braised beef or lamb. Brown stock is responsible for the incomparable aroma, flavorful backbone and deep color of such dishes.
In the last class, we laid the groundwork for good stock making. Almost everything we learned about white stocks applies to brown stocks. Both start by placing bones/meat in cold water and gently bringing them to a boil. Once the stock boils, it is essential to skim it thoroughly and keep it cooking at a bare simmer. Both stocks employ mirepoix and a sachet or bouquet garni to round out and add complexity to the stock's flavor. Once both stocks are done cooking, they are identically strained and then cooled in an ice water bath. (see last class)
Classically, brown stock is made using a mixture of veal meat and bones. The meat adds flavor while the bones contribute flavor and gelatin, which will give the finished stock consistency. Incidentally, one of the reasons for using veal bones for brown stock is that they produce a more gelatinous stock. Brown stock can also be made very successfully from a number of different bones such as: any game bird or animal, chicken, beef, pork, or duck. In our next class we will look at one very important use of stock--soup.
BASIC BROWN STOCK
Yield: 1 1/4 Gallons.
10 lb. veal, beef, or chicken bones
1/2 lb. diced onion
1/4 lb. each diced celery and carrot
2 T. tomato paste
2 fresh thyme branches or
1 t. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 t. black peppercorns
Place bones in a roasting pan and place in a 350 degree oven. Cook until the bones are nicely browned and not at all burned. (It is important to stir the bones often.) Sauté the onions, celery, and carrots (mirepoix) in a small amount of oil until lightly browned. Add tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste turns from a bright red to a brick red color. Be careful not to let the tomato paste burn on the bottom of the pan. Place bones in a stock pot and cover with cold water (fill with enough water to cover bones by 2 inches). Bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Skim scum and reduce heat to a simmer. Add onions, carrots, celery, and tomato paste. Add the herbs and peppercorns in the form of a bouquet garni or sachet (see link). Simmer 3 hours for chicken stock, and 6-8 hours for veal stock. Strain the stock through a chinois and chill in ice water.
MAKING BROWN STOCK
So far, so much the same. So where's the difference? It's in the color and the taste. White stocks are clear to light yellow while brown stocks are brown. In terms of flavor, high quality brown stocks have a completely different flavor profile. They boast complex roasted flavors that are absent in the more "simply" flavored white stocks. Perhaps the best way of understanding the difference in flavor between the 2 stocks is to compare the flavor differences between a boiled chicken (that being white stock) and a roasted chicken (that being the brown stock).
Therein lies the principle difference--roasting. Browned meat/bones and mirepoix are used to make a brown stock. Thus the first step in making a brown stock is to cook the ingredients until they attain a light caramelized color. To brown the bones, cut them (or have your butcher do this) into 3 inch or smaller pieces. This will add to the surface area of each bone and thus give more color and flavor to the finished stock. Place the bones, only 1 layer thick, in a heavy roasting pan.
Utmost care should be given to make sure that the bones are evenly and perfectly browned. Too little browning and the stock will not be colored or flavored sufficiently. A small amount of burning--even a little bit--will cause the stock to taste bitter.
Place the roasting pan on the stove, add about 1 inch of water, and bring to a boil. Scrape the bottom of the roasting pan with a wooden spoon as the water boils. This will loosen any bits of browned juices that were previously stuck to the pan. These little browned bits are packed with flavor as well as color. (Incidentally, this is called deglazing and is one of the many tricks chefs use to increase the flavor in a stock or sauce.) Once the bottom of the pan is "cleaned" of these little browned bits, taste the water. If it is slightly bitter, do not use it as it will turn the finished stock very bitter. If it is not bitter, simply add it to the bones. (The deglazing step also makes clean-up easier.)
As with white stock, bring the brown stock to a boil, skim, and turn down to a simmer. Meanwhile, sauté mirepoix in a small amount of oil until it is lightly browned. Reduce heat and add a small amount of tomato paste. Cook the tomato paste, stirring constantly, until it turns a brick red color. Cooking the tomato paste removes its sharp acidity and will deepen the color of the finished stock. Add to the stock and continue cooking for the recommended length of time (which depends on the size of the bones) . When done, strain the stock and chill in ice water.