By Chef Charles Knight
I encourage those who are just beginning to cook or are aspiring to be a great home cook to begin the learning process with stocks, sauces, and then, soups and stews. It will not only give you a firm foundation in the basic techniques of food preparation and the chemistry of it all, but you will thoroughly enjoy the results.
In this section of our website we will focus on the very foundation or all cuisines: Stocks and Sauces. All experienced cooks and chefs rely on freshly made stocks and sauces to add delightful flavors to appetizers, vegetables, entrees, soups, and sauces. Thus began an endless quest to improve the taste of our daily meals. No matter how skillfully cooked, the natural juices of meats, poultry, game, fish and vegetables are not enough to develop the tempting flavors we expect in our meals. That is where Stocks and Sauces take over. Excellent cooks learned that adding stocks during the cooking process enhances the flavors of many dishes, and Sauces compliment the dishes cooked.
It’s important to note that the preparation of stocks and sauces requires the use of some water. It is one of the few exceptions we will mention on our website on waterless, greaseless cooking. Nevertheless, the even heat conductivity of Health Craft waterless, greaseless, induction cookware moves the heat across the bottom and up the sides of the pans, providing perfect heat control for the preparation of great stocks and sauces.
At first glance, stock and sauce preparation may appear to be a deeply held secret of professional chefs. This is far from true. Anyone can unlock the flavor-enhancing magic of stocks and sauces with easy-to-use preparation techniques and readily available ingredients. And the good news is that stocks and sauces are relatively inexpensive to prepare, produced with less expensive cuts of meat and their trimmings. The tall 6 or 7-quart covered stockpot and a strainer/steamer basket that fits down inside the stockpot are the basic tools needed to create the foundation for great stocks and sauces.
Stocks are classified into two main categories. Each has specific roles to play in cooking, and will often be mentioned in the recipes contained on this website.
We will begin our understanding with the preparation of white stocks. These are generally light in color and are used by cooks seeking to add delicate flavors to vegetables, poultry and fish. White stocks are made with a mix of raw poultry, fish, veal or pork, almost any kind of bones, aromatic vegetables and herbs, peppercorns and water. A rule to follow is that the higher the percentage of solid ingredients to water, the more flavorful the final stock.
Proper control of heat during cooking is essential when making stocks. Use the following heat control sequence when preparing white stock. Put the 6-quart Pasta/Colander basket inside of the 6½-quart “tall” Stockpot and place the meat in the basket. Fill the Pasta/Colander Basket with water to about an inch below the large perforated holes and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat (Induction cooking 225°F/110°C). Then quickly reduce the heat setting to medium-low heat or simmer (Induction cooking 200°F/93°C). That is the vital first step. The next step is to skim off the froth (fat and scum) that rises to the surface. This waste must be skimmed off to create a clear stock. It is very important not to accidentally allow the stock to return to a boil once the heat has been reduced. Re-boiling will produce a cloudy stock with reduced flavor and may even burn the stock, turning it brackish in color. Once skimmed off, aromatic vegetables and herbs are added to the brew. Perhaps the most important pivotal step to making effective stock is the simmering long enough to extract the maximum flavors from the ingredients. General cooking times are:
Brown stocks are made using essentially the same cooking methods except the bones; meat and aromatic vegetables are browned (induction cooking 300°F/150°C) and roasted in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat (induction cooking 225°F/110°C). After browning, the meat, bones and vegetables are transferred to the 6-quart Pasta/Colander, and placed inside of the 6 ½-quart tall Stockpot along with water, aromatic herbs and peppercorns. Again, the percentage of water to solid ingredients should be as low as possible. After the mixture is brought to a boil (induction cooking 225°F/110°C), the heat is immediately reduced to a simmer (induction cooking 200°F/93°C). Next, the froth is removed and skimmed off periodically as it rises to the top, and the stock is simmered for about 4 hours. Brown stocks are rich in color and essential in enhancing the flavors of soups, stews, game, red meats and brown sauces.
In the final process, and with both white and brown stocks, the Pasta/Colander is raised and the natural delicious juices are allowed to strain back into the stockpot. The basket contents can be reserved and frozen as a starter for your next batch of stock. This is an excellent way to save money. The stock is then placed in the refrigerator and cooled sufficiently for the fat to coagulate on the surface. Once the fat is removed, you can either use the stock immediately of freeze quantities of 1 to 2 cups, ready to use as needed.
Following the above simple practices will provide a welcome supply of magical stocks to create exciting new tastes in your culinary travels. Your family and friends will applaud your efforts as never before. You can freeze stock up to 3 months to be used when needed. Some cooks place their stock in ice cube trays and make handy, frozen cubes of stock. The results are stored in sealed plastic bags to prevent freezer burn.
Nothing compares to the flavor enhancements of healthy, low-sodium, stock prepared in your own home kitchen. Creating exciting sauces from stocks will give you a feeling of achievement, and your family and friends will be grateful with every exciting morsel prepared with homemade stocks.
NOTE: The recipes in this chapter have been created using the natural sodium provided by fresh vegetables and cooking methods that promote vitamin and mineral retention. They should not be confused with commercially manufacture stocks, broths, or consommés, which most often contain preservatives, gums and a considerable amount or processed sodium (salt), none of which promote good health. When using commercially prepared products, be sure to read the label for Nutritional Facts.