filling the empty nest with food

Skimming Scum with Escoffier

IMG_2061So, I started at the beginning, which in haute cuisine, starts with stocks. For Escoffier, sauces and stocks are the fundamental elements of cooking. He wrote that they are “the elements of first necessity without which nothing serious can be undertaken.”

Wow, so if you don’t get your stocks right, nothing else will be worth doing. It’s that simple–and that weighty! I don’t imagine he ever was in such a hurry that he sent his kid out to the grocery store to buy a quart of Swanson’s.

I made Fonds Blanc Ordinaire, or, in other words, ordinary white stock. It feels so much more elegant to spend hours skimming beef bone scum when you call it a fonds blanc, even if it is ordinaire. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as white stock.

So, if you want to learn along with me–I’ve now been instructed that there is brown stock (made with beef and veal); white stock, made with beef, veal (although veal bones are hard to find so I left them out), and a chicken carcass. After that there are veal, game, chicken, and two kinds of fish stock (made with red or white wine). Whew! Each one will form the base of sauces, essences, and glaces later on, those being the other fundamental elements we’re going to take very seriously.

I followed Escoffier’s notes and made sure to skim the scum that rises to the top of the pot as the liquid comes to its first boil. (It’s kind of a gross task, so I’ll spare you the photos.) I boiled the bones, meat, and vegetables gently (also key) for about 5 hours, let it cool overnight, and scraped off the fat that accumulated on top. One last important job before I could taste my homemade stock:  strain the stock through cheesecloth. Check.

I was hoping for a broth that  knocked my socks off with its delicious meaty flavor. It didn’t really do that, but then I wasn’t sure what to compare it to. I’ve eaten so much soup made from terrible salty cubes of “bouillon” and containers of Swanson’s broth that I don’t even know what homemade stock should taste like. It did taste flavorful and real and turned out mostly clear after I strained it. Clarity is prized highly and indicates that you’ve carried out your skimming properly.

I have other stocks to test out, but I’m looking forward to using my fonds blanc ordinaire in a future dish.  Stay tuned!


3 comments on “Skimming Scum with Escoffier

  1. Mary
    February 1, 2015

    I love reading this. I too am used to the salty base broth which is probably over flavored. This sounds like it might allow other flavors to come out in a soup. Interesting!

  2. Sarah Stevenson
    February 15, 2015

    Are there tricks to skimming? I never seem to be able to get it all. Do you just use a big spoon?

    • Catherine
      February 15, 2015

      I actually use a metal spoon, a soup-spoon size. What you need is a spoon with a sharp edge to be able to skim right along the top of the stock.

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This entry was posted on November 29, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .

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