Monday, January 12, 2009

Ye Olde Butcher

Following the holidays, my usually well-stocked freezer was looking a bit depleted, so this past weekend I vowed to embark on a mission of mass stock production. If all went according to plan, chicken stock and veal stock would soon fill the shelves, resting in deep freeze until their tasty services were required.

Now stock is one of the easiest things in the world to make...outranked only, I think, by toast. I mean, really, it's basically meat tea. The only vaguely difficult aspect is collecting the necessary meat scraps, which can be a little challenging if you don't have a good butcher. Thankfully, I do.

I have been a serious devotee of Florence Meat Market since my early days in New York. Although I wish I could call it my neighborhood butcher (partially because I would love to be able to pop in anytime, partially because I would love to live in the West Village), I do have to travel a couple of subway stops in order to get there. But I am never disappointed that I have made the trip.

I can't say for sure that it is a family-owned establishment (given the plethora of family snapshots and communion photos on the walls I assume it was at one point), but regardless, it has a distinctly familial feeling about it. I always see the same people in there, performing the same functions (Maria answers the phone and works at the counter, her merry band of butchers prepare various cuts behind her), and everyone, customers included, always seem to know each other.

The quality is unfailingly high (do not miss their fantastic homemade sausages), the butchering is nearly perfect (it seems to be done with an almost surgical precision) and I cannot recall ever asking for something that they did not have or could not get for me in fairly short order (with the exception of chicken feet, which I occasionally like to throw in my chicken stock, but they are an addition that I can certainly live without).

I would recommend calling ahead to place your order, even if it is something you plan to pick up the same day. Occasionally, they run out of certain items towards the end of the day, so it's not a bad idea to put a claim on your cut of choice, and because they custom cut everything, you may have to wait for a bit for them to prepare your order if you are just walking in. But waiting is not the worst thing in the world. There is quite an entertaining cat to play with (just to give you fair warning, the cat is a bit will love some pets until it decides that it hates them and then turns around and bites you) and the crowd is always convivial.

Well, all did go according to my plan, and I now have ten quarts of stock in the freezer.

My chicken stock, in the early stages:

My veal stock, about halfway through cooking:

By the way, why is it that everyone (I guess by everyone I am referring to certain Food Network personalities) always makes such a fuss about how hard beef and veal stock is to make? Aside from roasting the bones, it is exactly the same process as making chicken stock!

If homemade stock is of interest to you, my recipes, if they could even be called that, follow:

Chicken Stock

4 lbs chicken parts (backs, necks, wing tips, feet)
2 carrots (I peel them, but I doubt it is necessary)
1 onion (red or white, halved, I peel them but again, probably not necessary)
3-4 celery ribs
2 leeks (wash them very well, but only use them if you have some knocking around, the stock is fine without)
few sprigs of parsley
1 bay leaf (fresh if possible)
few sprigs of thyme
2 garlic cloves (once again, I peel them, but do as you please)
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns (do not crack them, it will make the stock too spicy)

If you have a pot for cooking pasta (one with a strainer insert, like this), fill the strainer (while in the larger pot) with all of the ingredients. Otherwise, use a large pot, and put all ingredients in the pot. Then fill with cold water to cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off the foam at this point (unless you have particularly scummy bones, I find it much easier and less wasteful to skim all at once rather than bit by bit along the way), and turn the heat down to low and let the stock simmer for 2 hours, skimming occasionally if necessary.

Remove from heat, either lift strainer out of pot or pour stock through colander, catching liquid in a large vessel, depending on what kind of gear you are using. Then decant into storage containers. If you will be using the stock within three days, you may refrigerate it, otherwise, freeze it. However, prior to freezing, let stock chill in refrigerator until fat on top has turned solid. Skim fat off, then freeze for up to six months.

I do not salt the stock at this point. I find it easier just to salt whatever dishes I use the stock in when I am cooking them.

Veal Stock

3 pounds veal soup bones (ask your butcher to crack them)
excluding chicken bones, same ingredients as above

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roast veal bones for 45 minutes. When finished roasting, pour a bit of water into the roasting pan to loosen any bits that have dripped down. Place roasted bones and water from roasting pan (along with any bits you've been able to loosen) in large pot (again, preferably one with a built-in colander). Add rest of ingredients, cover with water, bring to a boil over high heat. Skim, then turn heat down and simmer stock for two hours.

Remove from heat, strain stock, and follow storage instructions for chicken stock.


Walter Jeffries said...

Rather than freezing we can all of our soup stock. That saves freezer space which is at a premium. Rather I should say at a premium some of the year. Right now it's winter so our freezer is infinitely big. :)

Laura said...

Huh, I have never even thought about trying that! Thanks for the tip, my freezer is so small that it typically is about 80% filled with stock.

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