Monday, January 28, 2008
the basics of brown sauces
Readers, don't be intimidated. It's only homemade stock, yes the good stuff, from roasted bones and overnight simmers. You'll pat yourself on the back at the end of it all, having accomplished something that your grandmothers probably did on a weekly basis, and now, only a handful of good restaurants. Stock is made from the bones, whereas broth is a less flavorful version made from just the meat. I know, I know, none of us really have the time to be standing in front of our stoves stirring around bones and chicken carcasses all the time, when buying a carton or can of the ready-made stuff from the supermarket is just so easy. But if you really want those deep, lustrous flavors that you get at that special Michelin-starred restaurant, you really must toss out the inferior canned broths. So tie on those apron strings and get out that wooden spoon. It's time to get back to the root of things.
Veal stock serves as the base of many sauces in basic French cuisine, with the most important of all being demi-glace. More on that later. Homemade veal stock starts with veal bones. Try to avoid using joint bones, as they have lower amounts of marrow. Pick out long bones (from the legs) that have been broken down by the butcher. I had a hell of a time finding good veal bones. After calling the meat departments at Wegman's, Whole Foods, Eddie's, Cierello's, Graul's, and H-Mart, I was ready to give up the search (though I hear that Graul's will rarely carry them), when I stumbled upon some loose packages (half to one pound each) at Giant! My advice would be to call ahead with your butcher and get a schedule of when they get veal shipments. Locating the bones is half the battle, the rest is really quite simple.
from The Balthazar Cookbook
makes 1 to 1 1/2 quarts
5 lbs. veal bones
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, including leaves
1 head of garlic, halved horiontally
1. Preheat oven to 450F. Heat a dry roasting pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Add the bones to the pan and roast until well browned, about 90 minutes. Turn the bones frequently during roasting.
2. When the bones are browned, add the tomato paste and vegetables. Toss to combine and continue roasting for another 30 minutes.
3. Transfer the contents of the pan into a large stockpot and fill with water (about 8 quarts). Bring to a boil and skim off any residue from the top. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer for 6 hours. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve.
4. Cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
What now, what next? Veal stock can be used in place of beef stock in many recipes, and serves as a rich base for stews and soups. I've used it in boeuf bourguignon and braised beef short ribs with great success. Many commercial grade demi-glaces nowadays are made the easy way, by taking the shortcut and simply reducing the hell out of large quantities of veal stock. Traditionally, demi-glace is equal parts veal stock and Espagnole sauce, reduced down. Espagnole sauce is another one of those quintessential French brown sauces that's so crucial to the cuisine it's considered a "mother sauce." Made with a dark roux, stock, and tomato paste, this is another long pain-staking process, but well worth it.
from The Escoffier Cook Book
makes 2 quarts
4 oz. (8 Tbsp) clarified butter
4 1/2 oz. all purpose flour
3 quarts veal or beef stock
1 lb. fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1. For the Brown Roux: Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix the flour and butter in a thick saucepan and place it in the hot oven, stirring occasionally. The roux will be done when it acquires a fine, light brown color and when it exudes an odor resembling that of toasted hazelnuts.
2. In a large stockpot, mix together 8 oz. brown roux with the 3 quarts stock. Let come to a boil and turn down the heat to simmer. Skim the residue off the top every 20-30 minutes over the course of 3 hours. (Add more stock if it reduces down too quickly.) You will have at this point, a much lighter colored stock than with what you started.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Simmer for another 2 hours. Skimming is not necessary during this time. After 2 hours, strain 3-4 times through a fine mesh sieve into a large tureen to keep and cool. To prevent a skin from forming, set a piece of wax or parchment paper over the sauce.
Espagnole sauce is made perfect through making a high-quality roux, a clear stock, and constant skimming. A good sauce will be clear and brilliantly lustrous. We can take it one step further here to make demi-glace, which means half glaze.
from Escoffier Cook Book
1 quart veal stock
1 quart Espagnole sauce
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 Tbsp butter
1. In a large pot, mix together the stock and Espagnole. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to simmer. Reduce down to 9/10 of a quart. Strain into a bowl, mix in the sherry and butter, and let cool to room temperature.
You can store the demi-glace in sealed containers, or as many chefs prefer, to pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze for individual size portions. Frozen demi-glace also keeps longer.
See, that wasn't so bad, was it? Well, at least you can't say I never taught you nothin'.