Courtesy of Chef John McGannon, wildeats.com
The true test of any good cook is the quality of their sauce. And a good sauce owes all the credit to the often-overlooked stock. The only way to obtain a good stock is to extract flavor from bones, whereas broths are made from meat.
There are two basic kinds of stock: light and dark. Light (or white) stocks are used to create white or clear sauces and soups. Dark stocks are best for sauces and reductions like demi glace. Demi glace is the reduction of stock that’s been fortified with vegetables, herbs and wine and reduced to a very rich consistency. For one quart of demi glace you would need about 5 quarts of dark stock. This sauce is slowly simmered for hours. A reduction greatly intensifies the flavor. The final demi glace adds a touch of decadence to meat dishes and is much easier to make than you might think. It just takes time.
8 -10 lbs. leg bones (beef, veal, game or a combination) cut into small chunks.
Use fresh or previously frozen bones. Dry, aged bones that have been exposed to evaporated blood won’t work.
5 - 6 qts. cold water
1 lb. onions
½ lb. celery
½ lb. carrots
6 oz. diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 bunch parsley stems
1 tbsp. crushed black peppercorns
1 tbsp. dried thyme or ½ bunch fresh thyme
1 bulb fresh garlic chopped rough
Cut the leg bones as small as you can with a saw and wash them with cold water to remove any blood. Season them with salt and pepper, place in a roasting pan and roast at 400 degrees until golden brown, approximately one hour. Remove the bones and place them in a large stock pot. Pour the fat from the roasting pan and add a little water (or wine) to remove the residue from the bottom of the pan. Scrape this into your pot with the bones. This essence has a great flavor and will add good color to your stock. Cover the bones with the water and bring to a boil. Periodically skim the scum that forms on the top, trying to keep the stock as clean as possible throughout the cooking process. Turn the heat to a slow simmer, about 180 degrees F. and add a little ice or very cold water to the stock. This will allow the stock to clear itself once more. Clarity is key. The clearer the stock, the purer and finer the flavor. After the stock has simmered for about 1 hour, add the vegetables, spices and tomatoes.
Continue to simmer for an additional 2-4 hours. Strain through the finest strainer you have and cool as fast as possible. This will ensure a long shelf life (or freezer life).
I pack my stocks in 1-quart freezer bags and keep them in my freezer for whenever I want to whip up some healthy soups, sauces, or my favorite stews or pot roasts.
In the next installment of Carnivore’s Kitchen, we’ll put this stock to use in a Cabernet demi glace.
John McGannon is chef/founder of Wildeats Enterprises, a life member of the Elk Foundation, host of popular wild game cooking seminars at the foundation’s Elk Camp and a passionate hunter.