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~ Mel interrupts Christmas to bring you: Beef Stock ~

IMG_8811A funny thing happened to me at the market today.  I ran into some beautiful beef shanks.  I bought every one they had.  Yes, in between cookie baking and planning a festive prime rib dinner, I am making beef stock.  It's a perfect Sunday afternoon to do it too:  the wind is howling, the rain is pelting the kitchen windows, and, Thema & Louise (one of my favorite movies) is on the kitchen TV.  It's a nice way to create a "calm before the holiday storm", plus, I think French onion soup, using some of this stock, will be a yummy starter course to Chrismas Dinner!

PICT3608Meet my 24-quart stockpot.  This is the biggest stockpot I own and I have no idea what I would do without it when it comes to making big batches of stock.  Of course, I have others, ranging in size from 8-, 12- 16- to 18-quart, but this big-bad-boy brings a smile to my face everytime I put it on the stove.

To date, I've posted several of my basic stock recipes here on KE: chicken, Thai chicken, shrimp, veal and vegetable.  You can find them all in Categories 15 & 22 (and these five are all pictured below)!

A bit about stockpots:  A stockpot is a large, deep, straight-sided pot used for preparing stocks and simmering large quantities of liquid on the stovetop.  It has a wide, flat bottom, two handles on the sides and a lid with a handle on the top.  Stockpots are made from aluminum, stainless steel, copper and/or enamel, and have bottoms made of layers of different metals to enhance heat conductivity.  This one is restaurant-quality and is made of aluminum, which is a fantastic conductor of heat.  That being said, before  purchasing an aluminum stockpot, know that while aluminum pots and pans are a top-notch heat conductor, it is not recommended that food be stored in them for long periods of time.  Aluminum will react with and discolor some foods containing eggs, wine or other acidic ingredients, like tomatoes.  While this discoloration is not harmful, it is unattractive.  Every cook needs a stockpot and I recommend choosing the biggest, bestest one(s) you can afford.  While this one is my biggest, it is also one of the least expensive!

PICT3582A bit about stock:  By definition, a stock is a moderately seasoned, strained, clear liquid resulting from the simmering of water, bones and/or vegetables.  Stock is the basis for almost all soups and stews, and, when reduced, is the basis for many sauces and gravies. In order of versatility, beef, chicken and veal are the classic stocks, with seafood and vegetable coming in a close second and third.  

The same basic guidelines apply to the preparation of all stocks:  minimal boiling, maximum simmering and moderate seasoning.  The single goal of all stock is the the same:  clarity!

PICT2120 IMG_5510 PICT2693 Vegetable Stock #3 (Water in Pot)Historically, the first recorded stocks were exclusively by-products of poached meat, poultry, fish and/or vegetables, and, a stock made with a large proportion of meat in it will have magnificent flavor.  Debate over the inclusion of meat (on bones) instead of just raw bones or roasted bones (in the case of brown stocks) exists.  The challenge for the restaurant chef, who requires large quantities of stock, is to get maximum flavor with minimum expense, so, their stocks are made using primarliy bones, which is quite practical because they have a lot of bones at their disposal. The challenge for the home cook, who uses lesser quantities of stock, is also to achieve maximum flavor with minimum expense, BUT, is problematic because we don't always have large quantities of bones at our disposal or available to us when we want or have a need to make stock (and, it can take months for them to accumulate in the freezer).  I justify the expense of using bone-in cuts of meat to make some of my stocks, because I put the meat to good use. The meat from these shanks is going to make wonderful beef barley soup and ravioli filling:

IMG_880810  pounds beef shanks, preferably large and meaty ones

10  quarts water

1 1/2  pounds peeled yellow or sweet onion

12  ounces peeled carrots

12  ounces celery

8-10  large, peeled garlic cloves

2  ounces fresh parsley sprigs

8-10  large bay leaves

4  tablespoons sea salt

2  tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

IMG_8824~ Step 1.  Place all ingredients in a 20- 24-quart stockpot, except for the black pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and, using a skimmer, remove all of the white and brown foam as it collects on top.  This process will take about 10 minutes. Note:  If you had added the pepper, it would have collected in the foam and you'd be discarding it too!

IMG_8839 IMG_8829~ Step 2. After you've removed the foam, remove the parsley.  It will be limp and losing its bright green color.  This herb has done its job.  The result will be a stock that is lightly and pleasantly flavored with it.  Note:  Fresh herbs all loose their "flavor power" after about 10 minutes of simmering.  

IMG_8847 IMG_8853~ Step 3. Now it's time to add the pepper. Reduce heat to simmer gently, partially covered, for 3 hours. Remove from heat, cover and allow to steep for 3 hours.  Steeping is important to stock making.  It allows all of the flavors to develop.

Note:  Stock will be reduced by about one-quarter and meat will be falling off the shank bones.

A Wintertime stock making tip from Mel:  

IMG_8893One of the advantages to making any kind of stock in the Winter in Pennsylvania is I have the biggest refrigerator in the world:  the great outdoors.  I am simply going to put this pot out on my porch overnight. What's the purpose of this?  The cold temperature is going to solidify the fat on the top of the stock.

Note:  If I were making stock in a smaller stockpot, I could put it in the refrigerator, but this pot just won't fit!

IMG_8894Instead of ladling the stock through a fat/lean separator (to remove the fat), all I have to do is slide a spatula underneath the fat layer and lift it off to reveal the crystal clear stock below.

IMG_8899In less than one minute I removed & discarded all of the fat from this stock.  How easy was that!

IMG_8861~ Step 4.  Over medium heat, warm the stock, until it has lost it's gelatinous consistency and has returned to a liquid.  There is no need to simmer it. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer beef shank meat, attached to or removed from the bones, to 1-2 plates or a platter. Remove and discard the large vegetables, with the exception of the carrots... I eat them with just a bit of salt and pepper.  I'm won't lie, I savor a few bits of the beef too!

IMG_8907 IMG_8909~ Step 5. Using your fingertips, pull fat from the meat, remove meat from the bones, and return it to the plates or platter as you work.  

Note:  To reserve the marrow, using a small spoon, scoop it from the center of each shank bone.

IMG_8917~ Step 6.  Ladle stock through a mesh strainer, into desired-sized food storage containers, leaving about 1/2" of headspace at the top of each (to allow for expansion if you're freezing the stock).  Repeat this process until all stock has been strained. Refrigerate overnight and/or freeze.  Use stock and beef as directed in specific recipes. 

IMG_8921Mel interrupts Chrismas to bring you:  Beef Stock:  Recipe yields 8 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 20- 24-quart stockpot w/lid;  skimmer; mesh strainer; slotted spoon; soup ladle; fat/lean separator; desired-sized food storage containers, preferably glass

PICT2693Cook's Note: Because beef and veal come from the same animal, many people think they can be used interchangeably.  Culinarily they are not the same:  they don't smell the same, they don't taste the same, and, they should be used accordingly.  Beef stock has a sharp, bold flaver, and, veal stock has a subtle, neutral flavor.  My recipe for ~ Veal Stock = Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary ~ can be found in Categories 15 or 22!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


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