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Taking Stock

Gravy boat snapshot
by John Raven, Ph. B.

Often we find recipes calling for stock. In this case, stock means the broth of meat, poultry or fish, and is used in making sauces or gravies.

You can get stock in a can or process it from the little bouillon cubes or granules. In either case you get too much salt and little flavor.

It's easy enough to make homemade stock. All it takes is a big pot and some time. Really a good thing to do on cool fall days.

Beef Stock

Beef stock is first on our list. You will need four or five pounds of beef bones with a little meat on them. If you de-bone beef at home, you can save the bones in the freezer until you have enough for making stock. Otherwise you can get them from your butcher in the form of soup bones. Tell your butcher what you want, and he'll fix you up at small cost.

The bones go in a large roasting pan, and then into a 350-degree oven where they will bake until they are crispy brown. You may need to rearrange them once or twice to get an even browning. When you decide the bones are ready, put them in a large stock pot and cover with cool water. Scrape the roasting pan real good and add all the scrapings to the pot. To the pot add one large onion, chopped, one or two stalks of celery. chopped, and two or three carrots, chopped. Also, two or three dozen black peppercorns and a couple of cloves of garlic, chopped.

Bring all this to a boil and then cut the heat back to get a very gentle boil. Nothing less than one hour will do. Three or four hours or longer is preferred. If the pot starts going dry, add some boiling water.

When you decide your stock has boiled long enough, remove it from the heat and let it cool to working temperature. Strain it through a rather fine sieve into another clean pot. Put the strained stock back on the stove and slow cook it until it is reduced by about one-half. This concentrates the flavors. Cool again. Put the stock in a suitable container and refrigerate it overnight. Next morning you will find the fat congealed on top. You can then remove all or as much of the fat as you like without much effort.

This stock is used in soups, stews or sauces for your beef dishes. It can be frozen and will keep in the freezer for quite some time (a month or longer).

Poultry Stock

Making poultry stock is a little different from making beef stock. You can use the trimmings from chicken or turkey, i.e. wing tips, neck, giblets and any skin or fat you trim off. You can also use bones from the cooked poultry. You don't bake the poultry bones. They just go in the pot for boiling. For seasoning use, chopped onion and chopped celery in equal portions, and several chopped carrots. Black peppercorns and a little thyme or sage give a real poultry flavor. No garlic in poultry stock.

Stocks that always holds their value no matter what Wall Street says. As with the beef stock, strain and reduce the poultry stock. Cool and refrigerate it so the fat can be removed. This stock goes with any of your poultry recipes calling for stock. Also, with a little salt added, and the stock warmed, it makes a great pick me up on cold evenings. This is also the basis for the chicken soup that cures the common cold.

Fish Stock

Fish or seafood stock is not a staple in Texas. We all believe that God intended fish to be fried. Anyway, if you are a seafood lover you will have the ingredients for fish stock on hand at some time.

Use the head and bones from your fish, the shells and heads from the shrimp or crayfish or crabs. They all go in the stock pot along with onion, celery and carrot. Boil, strain and reduce as for the other stocks. I don't think you will have to remove much, if any, fat from this stock. You now have a good, flavorful stock for your seafood gumbo or whatever other recipe that calls for fish stock.

Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock is a tasty addition to any recipe calling for stock. As the name implies, it's made from vegetables. There is no specific recipe; you will just have to find what combination suits your tastes.

Start off with onions, celery and carrots. You don't need new, whole vegetables here. You can use the onion peelings you have on hand and celery tops and stalks that are too tough to chew. Don't put in any carrot tops or potato peelings. Any other vegetables you have on hand can go in the pot. Some tomatoes would be good.

Season the vegetable stock with black peppercorns and garlic. If you have herbs such as basil or rosemary, put some of them in.

Boil as for the other stocks and strain. There won't be any fat on this stock. A glass of cold vegetable stock would make a good summer refresher. V8 style.

None of the above recipes calls for any salt. You add the salt to your taste when you use the stock. Otherwise you will end up with a dish that is too salty.

For a good sauce for roast beef, measure out one and one-half cups of beef stock into a saucepan. In a small mixing bowl, measure one-half cup of stock and add a heaping tablespoon of corn starch and mix well. Bring the saucepan up to a boil and quickly stir in the stock/corn starch mixture, stirring all the while. This will thicken the sauce. Add about a teaspoon of catsup or tomato paste and salt to your taste. Serve hot over the roast beef and mashed potatoes.

Texas Brown Gravy

Texas brown gravy is made by first making a roux of equal parts shortening and flour in large, heavy skillet. Start with about two heaping tablespoons of each. Stir and mix it until it turns a dark brown, but is not scorched. Add beef stock, and stir. If it is too thick, just add more stock. For best results, make the brown gravy in the same skillet you just country fried your steak in using the leftover shortening and leaving the "crispies" in the skillet. Season with salt and black pepper.

Butter Bean Soup

My favorite recipe using poultry stock is Butter Bean Soup. (John also talks about this soup in his article about how to cook beans.) Remove any stones and debris from one pound of large dried butter beans. Cover them with cool water and let them soak overnight. When you are ready to cook them, drain off the water and cover them with poultry stock. Bring them to a boil, and then reduce the heat to get a slow simmer. When the beans begin to get tender, after an hour or so, add two cups of diced potatoes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, fresh ground. Cook until potatoes are tender.

So there we have it, stocks that always holds their value no matter what Wall Street says.

Making Good Stocks & Gravy

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