filling the empty nest with food
This week I transitioned from white stock to brown stock: fonds brun or estouffade–Escoffier’s term for simple (really?!!) brown stock. And I’m realizing it’s not so straightforward to replicate recipes written nearly 100 years ago. (The first Escoffier cookbook was published in 1902 and the fourth edition in 1921.) Simple brown stock, which is used as the base for many sauces, for flavoring soups and vegetables, deglazing roasting pans, and reduced to make demi-glace, calls for a couple of key ingredients you can’t find in your basic city butcher shop or grocery store.
You can read the original recipe at http://escoffierathome.com/2012/07/1-estouffade-brown-stock/ from the website Escoffier at Home, written by another brave (crazy?) soul cooking his way through Escoffier.
Mainly is the issue of veal bones. From what I’ve read veal bones add a delicacy and body to your stock that can’t be achieved with only beef bones. My butcher says you can’t buy them in the city (at least not in my city), so I’ll have to search them out, maybe going straight to someone who raises veal. Then there is the innocent baby calf factor, and the growing aversion to eating veal because of the unethical way the calves are raised. I’ll have to do some serious thinking about this before I search out veal bones. Any help will be appreciated. . .
Not being able to find ingredients easily helped me decide I won’t be tearing my hair out trying to make “authentic” Escoffier recipes. I won’t be aiming for a perfect replication of Escoffier’s stock, but rather a stock that follows his principles.
I think he would approve. He wrote that what he set out to do was to create “an instrument rather than a book, . . . leaving to each her freedom to establish her way of performing according to her personal views. His job, as he saw it was to determine “the traditional foundations of the work.”
Some recipes call for exacting attention to detail. Stock isn’t one of them. There are a few foundational things, however, that you want to make sure you do: use a tall, narrow pot; roast the bones before putting them in water; start with cold water; simmer–do not let the stock boil, as boiling makes the stock cloudy; don’t add salt to your stock; skim the scum and at the end degrease; strain your stock through cheesecloth.
Whew! Got all that?
My brown stock turned out pretty well for a first try. It became gelatinous once it cooled which is a good sign, and acceptably clear. As a bonus it provided a lovely rich base for winter vegetable soup.