The first thing I want to do is to explain why I’m on a soup roll. It began with the chili cookoff at Don & Mark’s in October, and has continued till now. Whether I’m attempting French Onion Soup, Chili, Menudo, Chicken, or whatever, I believe (and have always believed) that a good bowl of soup makes everything okay. I’m a pretty good cook (pardon my faux self-effacing manner here) and soups always come out great. The weather has turned cold, and in my mind, that screams soup.
There’s a book that I discovered several years ago entitled Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon which discusses indigenous diets and how very healthy they are. One of the universal foods that she talks about is stock. Stock, in just about every civilization, is the backbone of cuisine. Whether it’s a stock made up of fish parts, chicken scraps, or the bones of herbivores; whether it’s made in a couple of hours or if there’s a pot always simmering on the back burner – in some places, the same pot will simmer for years – without good, nourishing stock, soup would be little more than flavored water. By the way, the book is a combination of a textbook and a regular cookbook. Prepare to spend time in the kitchen. This is not a book for sissies.
I’ve had a lot of fun making soups through the years, and while I’ve made broth (essentially, “stock lite”), I’ve only recently tackled making “real” stock. I made a hearty beef stock for my French Onion Soup, which made it as classic a dish as any chef could turn out. Time and labor intensive, it was certainly worth the effort, and now that I’ve treated myself to a 16 qt stock pot, you can be sure that this will be a regular occurrence for me.
This last weekend I tackled the Mount Everest of stock – Demi Glace. Translated as “half glaze,” it is the backbone stock for many a classic French dish. It is considered one of the mother sauces of French cuisine.
It’s often erroneously called “Demi Glaze” by Americans. With ten pounds of veal bones, a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, simple vegetables, and an entire weekend, I’ve been rewarded with brown gold. I found several recipes to use, but the best one for my use was located at Angela’s Food Love, a fun blog that has terrific recipes for regular folk. Her recipe for Demi-Glace attracted me because it didn’t require the making of Espagnole Sauce, which adds flour to thicken it. I wanted it to be thick without adding flour, and Angela’s recipe caught my eye. The only thing I did differently was to simmer a little longer (due to busyness rather than by design) and I used wine to deglaze the roasting pan and to add to the pot, and about an hour before it finished, I added about a half cup of dry sherry.
When it was finished, I poured it through a strainer lined with a cheesecloth and ended up with two sauces: one, a clear, classic Demi Glace that I let strain naturally into a bowl. The other was what was left when I squeezed the cheesecloth over another bowl. Opaque, but equally rich in flavor, it is a
mystery to me, but I don’t care. When chilled, both are solid with the thinnest layer of fat on the top.
Next will be finding recipes in which to use this wonderful stuff. I want to make something good while it’s still very fresh, and I’ll freeze the rest for later.
I have lots of chicken parts in the freezer and a butternut squash on the counter. Hmm. Butternut Squash soup? Chicken soup? Or some other great recipe from still yet another beautiful stock? I don’t know. But I do know that these stocks are a great way to create a beautiful tradition of healthy, delicious comfort foods. To say nothing of a great way to use leftover wine!