Cooking Academy: Stocks and Broths

Cooking Academy: Stocks and Broths

Welcome to the Captain’s Table Cooking Academy. While it would be exceptionally easy to run a food blog where I just put up recipes, I know that not everyone who sees my recipes will fully get the process despite their interest and that kind of bums me out. So, with the Cooking Academy, I delve into how to use the skills I use in my cooking so that way you can make the recipes like I do.

And for the recipe, I wanted to start with something that I make frequently and use just as often, so this first lesson is all about how to make a broth or stock. And while the two are similar they definitely aren’t the same.

A Broth is made from simmering meats and vegetables in water for roughly thirty minutes. They are easily made from whatever scraps you have lying around after cutting up your vegetables such as the celery, onion, and carrot scraps you have left over (three ingredients that form the French aromatic known as a mirepoix). For that reason a broth is a great way to make use of those scraps if you don’t intend to regrow a new plant from them.

A Stock is made from bones, aromatic vegetables and and seasoning like black peppers and fresh herbs. However, because we are using bones, it takes longer to make since the point of a stock is to extract the collagen found in the connective tissues and cartilage of the bones and break it down into gelatin. In fact, you’ll know you’ve done it right when you stock starts to jell when you let it cool. Still, when I say it takes longer to make, I mean that it may take a few hours of simmering your stock before it fully breaks down.

Together broths and stocks are a common ingredient in many a dish because even the weakest broth or stock will be better than cooking with plain water. And while we can simply leave it there and you can go out and buy broths and stocks and know the difference between the two, it’s not the same as knowing how to make it yourself. And when there are so many kinds, I thought I would give you a solid guide to my top three.

Chicken Stock

  • Leftover Chicken Bones and Skin (like from a Rotisserie Chicken carcass)
  • 1 large Yellow Onion
  • 2 Carrots, chopped
  • 2 Celery Stalks, chopped
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, smashed
  • 8 cups Water
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Fresh Parsley
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Paste

Making a chicken stock is really easy, but also comes with a variety of options. If you want a white stock, you can blanche your bones before using them. If you prefer a brown stock, you should roast them in the oven. For this though, we’re just going to use the bones as they are.

What you want to do is combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil before reducing the temperature to a simmer and allowing it to cook for 4 hours. Yeah, stocks take time to mature in this context too. But once it’s done, you can strain the stock through a fine strainer into a heat-proof container and for storage or immediate use.

Seafood Stock

  • 4 cups Shellfish shells (Shrimp, Lobster and/or Crab)
  • 1 large Yellow Onion
  • 2 Carrots, chopped
  • 2 Celery Stalks, chopped
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, smashed
  • 8 cups Water
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Fresh Parsley
  • 1/5 cup White Wine

First you are going to take the seafood shells and place them in a Ziploc bag and crushing them with a mallet or rolling pin. From there you can either cook them in the oven for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees, or you can move onto the next step. When the shells are ready, you are going to want to place them and the rest of your ingredients in a large pot and bring it to a boil. Next you’ll want to reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 1 hour. After that you are going to want to strain the stock through a fine strainer into a heat-proof container and for storage or immediate use.

Pro Tip: For a seafood stock, it’s common to use a white wine in order to help break down the collagen, but 2 tbsp tomato paste or any other acid will work just as well.

Vegetable Broth

  • 2 Onions
  • 4 Celery stalks
  • 4 Carrots
  • 6 Garlic Cloves
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 Bay Leaves,
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Fresh Parsley

For a good vegetable broth, you are going to take all your ingredients and cook them over a low heat for roughly thirty minutes. When finished cooking, pour the broth through a fine strainer into a large heat-proof bowl or pot before discarding the solids. If you intend to eat this, you can salt and pepper it to taste, but if you intend to cook with it, I would suggest omitting both seasonings since a broth is there to add flavor and you will probably salt and pepper you dish when you are done with it.

Storing Stocks

Honestly once you have a stock, the best thing to do would be either use it immediately or simply freeze it for future use by letting it cool before placing it in a zip-lock bag, a wide mount container that you can freeze it in, or an ice cube tray if you simply need a small amount of broth for your recipe.

In either case, you’ve now come to know how to make some very basic broths and stocks. Hope this has been useful to you and I can’t wait for you to put your new skills to use.

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