I promised a long time ago that I'd do a post on veal stock, and I apologize that it's taken me this long to get to it. See, here's the deal: I have a small kitchen with a small sink. I like to make veal stock in large quantities, which requires large stock pots... which means the weather has to be nice because I have to take those pots outside and wash them using a garden hose because they don't fit in the sink. And, because I enjoy a clean and relatively sanitary space in which to clean these pots, it means I have to clean up the area where my garden hose is, oh and by the way, it has to be above 32 degrees Fahrenheit because the hose can't be hooked up when it's too cold, and I hate being outside in the cold anyway to wash those pots, so there you have it. Also? I had a freezer full of veal stock from the last time I made it, so I needed to use that before I made more.
And so I did.
And here we are.
Many of the dishes I've done as part of French Laundry at Home used veal stock -- whether in a braise, a reduction, a sauce, or some other form.
And now, today, at this very moment, you get to see how it's done.
Aren't you lucky?
But before we do that, let me blather on a little more about veal stock.
When Michael Ruhlman published The Elements of Cooking, he spent a lot of time in interviews talking about veal stock (he actually wrote an essay about veal stock for the book, and called it "the home cook's most valuable ingredient"). It's something I paid attention to, because prior to cracking open The French Laundry Cookbook, I don't think I really thought about a) whether or not veal stock existed, and b) that it really is a thing of beauty.
There are those who believe veal stock is unnecessary. Those people are idiots. In fact, there was a great debate on eGullet not long ago, in which some folks claimed that veal stock was difficult to do, or hard to find ingredients for, or just too much work and that beef stock was sufficient. They are sadly misguided. And also probably have bad breath. I'm just sayin'.
Now, I'm not one to delve down into the nitty-gritty of arguments like that because I obviously don't have the culinary training or expertise that some folks have, but damnit -- I have a palate that can tell the difference between dishes made with veal stock versus beef stock, and it DOES make a difference, because veal stock has a certain, distinct neutrality to it. And, if I may get all science-y on you for a minute, because the bones are from a young animal they contain more collagen, which when it breaks down into gellatin gives the veal stock an unparalleled body you just can't get from older bones.
But let me explain it in more Carol-like terms:
Beef stock tastes like Chef-Boy-R-Dee ravioli.
Veal stock is more velvety than actual velvet.
Beef stock is a sweaty, hairy truck driver on the final leg of a cross-country haul, in which he stopped only to sleep, not shower.
Veal stock is like standing naked under a gentle waterfall in the sunlight.
Beef stock makes your house smell like farts.
Veal stock makes your house smell like home.
Beef stock is not veal stock. And don't even get me started on the canned stocks -- they should be outlawed. But that's a rant for another day, and another blog.
Back to the task at hand: Let's talk about how to make veal stock from The French Laundry Cookbook.
One of the biggest complaints I hear about veal stock is this: "But I don't know wheeerrre to buyyy veeeeeaaallll boooonnnnnnneeeess."
To which my reply is: "Get the hell off the computer and TALK TO PEOPLE."
I had no trouble at all finding veal bones because I know how to have a conversation. I know... how very 1991 of me. I simply picked up the phone and (using the yellow pages - I'm old, sue me) called grocery stores, butchers, and other meat-related businesses to see who had veal bones. I found at least 10 places in the DC metro region that carried them regularly, and another 10 who could order them for me 48 hours in advance. And, trust me, it's not just city centers that carry veal bones. I've done my research. You can find them almost anywhere -- you just have to ask.
I also asked the vendors at my local farmers' market if they knew anyone locally who sold veal bones, and it turns out one of them carries veal bones quite regularly.... and if he hadn't had them, I could have ordered them for the following week. So, it's almost like the veal bones found me... not the other way around.
So, it's easy. Again, you just have to ask. And when you do, you get 10 pounds of bones like these:
I rinsed them in cold water and put them in one of my gigundo 24-quart stock pots to begin the first step of making The French Laundry Cookbook's veal stock: "the blanching of bones for clarification."
I filled the pot with enough cold water so that there was twice as much water as bones.
I turned on the burner to medium heat and brought it to a simmer. While it was coming to a simmer, I moved the bones around a tiny bit (but not too much), and I skimmed all the gunk that began to rise to the surface. Bringing the pot of water and bones to a simmer took just about an hour and 15 minutes.
As soon as the pot began to simmer, I turned off the heat and drained the bones in a colander.
I rinsed the bones to remove all the gunk that was clinging to them, and had to take this pot outside later to clean it to get rid of all the gunk that was sticking to the bottom.
Thankfully, pot #2 was ready and waiting, so I could keep going.
I put the rinsed bones into a clean stock pot, added 12 quarts of water, and began what The French Laundry Cookbook calls "Veal #1 -- The initial extraction of flavor from bones and aromatics to obtain a first liquid."
I turned on the heat to medium and slowly brought it to a simmer -- again, it took about an hour and 15 minutes. I skimmed every 10-15 minutes so get rid of all the impurities that were rising to the top.
Once the liquid was simmering, I added tomato paste, which I stirred in to help it break up a bit in the water. Then, I added carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, parsley, thyme, bay leaves and fresh tomatoes.
I brought this to a simmer and let it simmer for just over four hours. I skimmed every 20 minutes or so.
When it was ready, I strained it and saved the bones and aromatics for the next step. I strained this part of the stock into a smaller pot, put it in a sink full of ice and stirred it to cool it before putting it in the refrigerator.
Next, it was time to make "Veal #2 -- or, remouillage (remoistening) -- the second extraction of flavor to obtain a second liquid." To do that I put the bones and aromatics from what I'd just strained into a clean stock pot and added 12 quarts of water.
I slowly brought this to a simmer, and allowed it to simmer for four hours, skimming every half hour or so.
I strained this liquid and cooled it, just as I did the first batch.
I let both batches of vealy goodness really cool off in the refrigerator overnight and began the final step the next morning.
I poured both pots of veal liquid into a large stockpot and slowly brought it to a simmer. This time, I let it simmer for 7 hours, and it reduced and reduced and reduced, and I skimmed and skimmed and skimmed, and MAN did my house smell amazing.
I poured it through two different strainers into a smaller pot and cooled it off in another sink full of ice.
Finally, I ladled it, 2 cups at a time, into plastic containers that later went into the freezer for safekeeping.
Make it this way once. Humor me. You won't be sorry. You can even halve the recipe, if that makes it easier. However, if you need a quicker go-to way for making veal stock, Ruhlman has it down, so follow his lead. The man knows his stuff.
Up Next: A French Laundry at Home Extra: Trussing and roasting chicken
Veal bones from Smith Meadows Farm
Cento tomato paste
Aromatics and produce from Whole Foods
Music to Cook By: It's a little bit of a roundabout story, but I listened to a pretty steady rotation of The Fixx and Re-Flex. See, I've been thinking about Ruhlman's The Elements of Cooking a lot this week, and whenever I read that title, my brain sees/reads "The Elements of Cooking" to the tune of "The Politics of Dancing" by Re-Flex, and then I have that frakkin' song in my head all day. So, of course, I had to listen to Re-Flex while I cooked, and then thought, hey -- maybe I should also listen to The Fixx (with their obvious music video production budget of $50). Why? Because they are also from the 80s and have an "x" in their name. I know. How the MacArthur Foundation hasn't awarded me one of their genius grants by now astounds me, too.
Read my previous post: Saddle of Rabbit in Applewood-Smoked Bacon with Caramelized Fennel and Fennel Oil
And, a special thanks to Spooneroonie, who sent me this lovely, lovely bacon wallet to replace the one that got stolen. How much do I love her?!?!