Sunday, September 26, 2010

veal stock

I don't mean to keep harping on about Gordon Blue, as BB calls it, but the longer I'm back from Paris the more I realise how much I learnt there. I am no longer intimidated by pastry, I can deftly fillet any fish you care to slap me in the belly with, bone fowl, turn vegetables and make pretentious swirls of ketchup round a crisp sandwich.

One thing I had yet to tackle was veal stock.

In the past I'd been put off by words like "simmer for 12 hours", assuming that if it took that long to cook then it must be time-consuming for the cook. But at Gordon Blue we were taught how to make a decent brown veal stock in under four hours -  so it seemed rude not to try.

I ordered 3 kilos of veal bones from my butcher, wildly guessing that they would cost me no more than €10, but when I went to collect them four days later, he said: That will be one hundred euros please Madame.

One. Hundred. Euros.

There was a split second (after I regained consciousness) where one half of my brain said: What the ....? while the other half was reaching for my wallet - the half that appreciates the value of veal stock, no matter what the price. But then he gave me a wink, pushed his pencil stub behind his ear with the two remaining stubby fingers on his right hand and said: Just kidding. For you,  gratuit.

Well, I left that butcher's with a melon-slice smile splitting my face, feeling - absurdly - doubly lucky (if you can work that one out). If there's one price we like in these parts it's gratuit, and factoring in veg from my garden, it was looking like a very good price indeed for some delicious velvety home-made veal stock.

Back at home, I tipped all the bones into two lightly oiled baking trays, mixed through some tomato paste and left them to roast in the oven until browned. While the bones were roasting I peeled and roughly chopped 2 carrots, 2 onions and a celery stalk and roasted these in another oiled baking tray until evenly browned and caramelized. Then I threw everything into my biggest stock pot, covered with 5 litres of cold water, added some sprigs of thyme, a couple of bay leaves and a few whole black peppercorns and left to simmer for three and a half hours, skimming from time to time.

So far, so on course for my 4-hour cheap veal stock.

But I hadn't reckoned on that most extreme of kitchen sports - straining.

The recipe instructed me to do this as many times as I could stand (up?) and I was disappointed, given my diligent skimming, to see thick legs of grease running down the sides of the empty pot after my first straining manoeuvre. I washed the pot (using industrial quantities of washing-up liquid to dissolve the fat) and repeated the process eight times, cursing the still lardy pot - which by this time was nearly running out the door - and the diminishing returns of my precious liquid. At this point I gave up and decided just to bag the damn stuff and be damned, divided what was left (precious little!) into poly bags and went to put them in the freezer...

... when, whoosh, the bottom of one of the bags split open and the contents splattered all over the floor and down the kitchen units.

So, to summarize. The cost (in terms of money and time) of 4 eggcupfuls of home-made veal stock:

Cost (euros)
€0.00 - veal bones
€0.00 - veg
€0.20 - tomato paste
€2.30 - washing-up liquid
€0.50 - 1 roll kitchen paper (mopping-up purposes)
€150.00 - emergency plumber (to unblock the sink because BB was away in Italy sourcing floor tiles)

Total: €153.00

Cost (time)
30 mins - roasting bones and veg
3 hrs 30 - cooking time and skimming
2 hrs - straining and washing up
30 mins - washing kitchen floor
2 hrs - attempting to unblock kitchen sink
4 hrs - waiting for emergency plumber

Total: 12 hrs 30

Veal stock. Don't try this at home!


Kathie said...

Decades ago, back when I was still an omnivore, I'd just pour cooked stock through a strainer into a large bowl, then refrigerate. By the next day all the fat had floated to the surface and congealed, at which point I could de-fat my stock by just lift the off the top.

BTW, are you headed back to the Azores this fall? Do you plan to visit any other islands besides the sublime Flores of my paternal ancestry? If so, let us know so we can offer recommendations, OK?

Kathie said...

Oops, should've typed, "by just lifting the off the top."

A Taste of Savoie said...

Hi Kathie, I haven't heard from you for a while! I can't make it to the Azores this year because I'm off to Scotland tomorrow to see family - and can't manage both. But I will definitely be back next year to see C & N.

Kathie said...

Boa viagem, as we say in the Portuguese biz! This should be a lovely time of year in Scotland, right? Will you have the opportunity whilst there to awe family and pals with some of your newly-acquired chef's skills?

Hils said...

Very funny blog Sarah! Made me laugh! I too, put stock in fridge ans scrape the fat off next day!

Anonymous said...

amateur !

Janet said...

Veal stock is the one stock I haven't tried at home. Thanks for the heads up. ;-)
Chef at school makes veal stock and he then reduces it down to a glace, approx 18 hours from start to finish.
Enjoy Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Who? Me or Sarah!

Hils said...

Hurry up!