Intro from our very own jodycakes: Hello there…we all have the blogs that we read EVERY.SINGLE.DAY and our guest blogger today is one of my absolute faves, as well as being mon petite hero;-) Why do I say this? Well, I have a few love affairs going on…yes, Mr. G. knows about it…one is with baking (obviously) and the other is with France. So you put two of my fave things together and Voilà, you have the perfect combination! A blogger that is a baker IN PARIS! Croque Camille, affectionately named after the sandwich Croque Monsieur, is smart as a whip and has a sharp, witty sense of humor . Her posts about livng in France, have me cheering her on from afar, when she talks of her trials and tribulations of an American in Paris. However, most of the time she has me literally DROOLING on my keyboard with her recipes and tips, along with awesome posts from around France, as she and her hubby eat & drink their way through. Yum. Without further adieu, let me present to you Croque Camille:
Bonjour WMDA readers! Camille here, from Croque-Camille: Food Adventures in Paris, and I’m thrilled to be here. As an American woman working as a pâtissière in France, I’ve had the opportunity to see the inner workings of a Parisian pastry shop, as well as experience the frustration of being a foreigner and not being taken seriously despite my experience, knowledge, and passion for the art of pastry. But I didn’t come here to bitch. Instead, I’m going to share one of the most bizarre, surprising things I’ve learned about cooking at home in France, and how I’ve turned a hurdle into an asset.
One of the things that confounded me the most upon moving to France was the discovery that boxed or canned stock/broth is not sold in grocery stores. Or anywhere for that matter. They sell bouillon cubes, which apparently people here use. And these people are supposed to be food lovers! As far as I’m concerned, bouillon cube = salt. Not the same as stock. What is equally puzzling is that asking butchers for chicken or veal bones with which to make stock almost always returns a questioning look and a “sorry, we don’t have that.” But that’s another post.
This one is about making that stock the right way, be it chicken, rabbit, duck, veal, fish, or vegetable. (Yes, there is a way to make good vegetable stock!) “Stock,” you say, “isn’t that kind of boring?” To which I reply, “Absolutely not.”
There has been some hubbub on the internet lately about some remarks made by Michael Ruhlman and Mark Bittman (at least in food blog circles, there has) regarding the use of canned or boxed stock. They are both pretty firmly against it. I understand why – it’s not the same as homemade, like, at all. Homemade stock allows the cook to control the salt levels completely, as well as giving that incomparable, rich mouthfeel so lacking in prepackaged stocks. Both Ruhlman and Bittman also suggest using water in place of stock if your only option is the canned stuff. I say, if you’re doing something like braising chicken or making some other long-simmered dish, go for it. (Or better, use a little wine or beer for your liquid component.) If you’re making a brothy soup or risotto, however, you need the flavor of a stock. Obviously, it will be better if you use homemade, but I’ve eaten plenty of soups made with boxed chicken stock, and you know what? They tasted fine to me.
Still, it’s pretty easy to make a big batch of stock and freeze it for later use. This is what I’ve been doing since I moved to France. I was never in the habit before, since it was so easy and cheap to buy crates of Pacific Organic chicken stock at Costco. Now, I almost always have real, homemade stock in the house, and I’m sure my food tastes better because of it.
Now, making meat and bone-based stock certainly takes time. We’re talking at least 4 hours of simmering to get all the flavor and collagen out of those scraps. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be nearly as fussy as some books or culinary school teachers would have you think. They’ll teach you that in order to make perfect stock, you need to NEVER let it boil, skim constantly, and then strain it through increasingly fine-meshed sieves until you have a beautiful, clear, fat free, liquid. That’s nice and all, but if you’re not planning on making consommé or aspic with your stock (as I imagine you’re probably not) you don’t have to worry about that stuff nearly as much. If it boils a little, so what? Yes, it will come out a little cloudy, but if it’s just going into a creamy soup or pot pie filling , that is nothing to worry about. It will still taste good, I promise.
Vegetable stock poses some problems, though. How do you get that luscious texture without collagen from bones? Here’s an idea: pectin. The last time I made vegetable stock, I added a couple apples and an orange to the rest of the cut vegetables to see if I could give the stock body. And it worked! Of course, it’s not as thick as the rabbit stock I made earlier in the week (incidentally, simmering rabbit smells a lot more like turkey than chicken), but it’s better than the vegetable tea that I usually end up with.
So here, in a nutshell, is how to make stock: Cover your ingredients with cold water in a large, tall pot. Bring to a simmer, skim as necessary during the first 30 minutes or so, then leave it until it tastes good. If the water level in the pot starts getting very low, add some more cold water, but it’s ok to let the stock cook down a bit to concentrate the flavors. Pour the finished stock through a colander to remove the solids, then divide into Tupperware containers or plastic bags and freeze. Easy, right?
What are the ingredients, though? Here goes:
For vegetable stock
2 onions, 2 leeks, 4 stalks of celery (with leaves if possible), 2 cloves garlic, 3 carrots, 2 apples, 1 orange, 1 bay leaf, 5 whole peppercorns, 1 sprig thyme, 5 stems of parsley, ½ cup white wine, water to cover.
Cut all the vegetables and fruits into about 2 inch pieces. This amount filled my 5-liter stockpot almost to the top, but the resulting stock was some of the most flavorful vegetable stock I’ve ever had. Follow the nutshell directions above – there won’t be too much skimming involved – simmering for about an hour and a half.
For meat/bone based stock
From the recipe above, omit the apples, oranges, and wine. The leeks are optional. Start the nutshell directions with the bones only. There will be quite a bit of skimming. After 3-4 hours of simmering, add the vegetables and herbs and simmer another 1-2 hours. (Veal stock is best after at least six hours, but chicken can do with four.)
So let’s hear it for France, for forcing me to hone my stock-making (not to mention chicken butchering) skills! And for the lovely ladies of Where’s My Damn Answer, for inviting me to join in the party!