12 January, 2009

How to Make Awesome Beef Stock

Good, flavorful stock is the foundation for so many wonderful things in the kitchen - gravies, soups, sauces - and can add rich, marvelous flavor to other things, like vegetables, as well. Although it can take some time to make, it's easy. If you're going to be home on a Sunday afternoon in January anyway, you might as well use the time to make a batch of beef stock. Then you'll not only be ready to make delicious French onion soup, but the kitchen will smell heavenly, too.

Start with a large, shallow roasting pan. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil onto the bottom of the pan. Add a couple of pounds of beef bones. Chop up some carrots, a few celery ribs, and a couple of onions and add them to the pan, too. Optionally, you can add a few quartered tomatoes and one or two sweet red peppers. Toss the ingredients around to coat them a bit in the oil, and then put them in the oven at 350 F to roast.

It'll take a couple of hours, but don't be in too much of a hurry. The secret to the flavor of a good stock is in the deep brown caramelization of the meat and veggies in the pan. Let heat and time work their magic, and don't try to rush things. Every half hour or so, pull the pan out and stir things around, turning them and flipping them so they brown evenly. Eventually, you'll see that everything is done.

Remove the nicely-browned bones and vegetables to a Dutch oven or stock pot. Add water to the pan and deglaze it thoroughly, then pour it off into the stock pot with enough additional water to cover the bones and veggies. Bring the pot to a simmer, and add a few peppercorns (whole or crushed as you desire,) a bay leaf or two, some parsley, and a bit of thyme. Cover the pot and let it cook.

In about an hour, you should start to smell the wonderful aroma of simmering stock. Check on the liquid level in the pot and add water now and again as needed.

In about four hours or so, any meat tidbits will be falling off the bone and the stock will be ready. Strain out the veggies, bones, and meat bits, and season to taste with salt, Vegeta, Maggi seasoning, or whatever secret ingredient your grandmother used to tell you about. You can skim the fat off the top of the stock now, but it will be easier if you chill it overnight - then you can just lift the solidified fat effortlessly from the top of the stock. (Leave a little bit of fat behind, though, for best flavor.)

There you have it - awesome homemade beef stock. An afternoon well-spent.

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