Making Veal Stock

Having veal stock in the freezer is the culinary equivalent of money in the bank. One can pull out a cup or two, add it to a pan sauce and voila, an unctuous sauce that does not need thickening and has no chemical tastes or ingredients.

I use the basic proportions from the CIA’s Professional Chef–10 lbs bones, 1 lb aromatics, 6 oz of tomato paste and a sachet of thyme, fresh bay leaf, parsley and peppercorns. Six quarts of water turns into 16-20 cups of stock. Do this twice and you (I) have enough stock for the winter.

I get my veal bones from Chase Hill Farms. They come from organic, torture-free veal. Jeanette lets me know when the bones are ready and I usually get about 20 lbs worth, about a third of her total supply. They stay frozen until I get around to stock making or my wife complains about not having any room in the downstairs freezer.

First step is to roast the bones. This year, since it was 90° outside, I roasted the bones on my gas grill. I set up two bricks, rested the pan on them and adjusted the heat to 450°. Heat the pan first to save some time. I didn’t think to take a photo, but I’m sure you can visualize it. Took about 45 minutes.

Next is to simmer the bones. I have a large, heavy duty stockpot that holds one recipe’s worth of stock. One nice technique is to bring it all to a boil, skim the hell out of it, then put it, uncovered, in a 300° oven overnight. Trouble-free and you come downstairs to ready-made stock, although, veal stock is not the smell I crave in the morning. This time, I set it up around 3 in the afternoon so I did it in my kitchen. Regulate the heat to keep the stock around 200° F (small bubbles popping on the surface; not a full boil). Every time I passed the pot, I skimmed.

After about four hours, I added the aromatics: onions, carrots, celery and leeks, rough chopped and sauteed until they had deep brown edges. Add the tomato paste, stir it in and cook until the tomato smells nice and has darkened slightly, less than five minutes.

After about seven hours, the sauce had a velvet feel to the tongue, meaning there was a lot of gelatin in it. It is never strong enough on its own for my tastes, so I tend to reduce two cups to one while I am cooking whatever needs it. Strain through a chinois (essential) and cool quickly. Leave it in the fridge overnight.

Cooling the stock quickly is key to avoid spoilage and bacteria. I used to follow the recommended putting the pot in a sink full of ice and water, Takes too long and uses too much ice. In winter, I take the pot and nestle it in the snow outside and hope some small animal doesn’t discover it while it is cooling. Lately, I’ve taken to freezing three or four deli containers worth of water while the sauce is simmering. When it comes time to cool, I slide the giant ice cubes into a plastic bag (I use the bags that my newspaper comes in), tie it, and slide that bag into a ziplock. I float the ziplocks in the strained stock and swirl them around until the temp goes below 90° F, fairly quickly actually.

The next morning, I spoon one cup of the jellied stock into a sandwich sized ziplock and lay it flat on a tray. When I am done, I freeze the tray-full. The flat bags stack wonderfully in a larger plastic bag and it is easy to take out the amount I need. I am a home cook, so I tend to need a cup or two of stock per dinner, not a couple of quarts for consumme .

As I said, the stock is rich and well flavored, but not as strong as I’d like so when I am using it, I tend to simmer two cups of stock down to one along with whatever vegetable ends or browned bones/trimmings I have from the dish. No need for a roux thickener–the sauce clings to the food and pools agreeably on the plate.

When I have a freezer full of stock and plum tomatoes, I feel fully stocked for the winter. Well, almost…

Day Seven – Sunset on Louisianne

So after I got home on Wednesday, I unpacked the jars of Cajun seasoning, put the Camellia beans away, and lit a fire in the woodstove in the kitchen (it was 63 in the kitchen). I did a quick draft of the last day in New Orleans, which I finally had time to finish.

OystersDuring the day, we drove to Casamento’s on Magazine Street for some raw and broiled oysters and a soft shell crab po’ boy. The oysters are different from Wellfleet’s—warmer water, marsh and not sea grown, I think, but who can pass oysters by? Oysters or clams on the half-shell always remind me of my father. We used to have dinner in Manhattan at some Italian white tablecloth restaurant or other in mid-town, sharing a dozen raw clams before the veal parmesan. After dinner, we’d see the new James Bond movie. Continue reading

Day Seven – No Rest for the Weary

Back from NOLA yesterday. Sarah and her sister Anne were due to spend a week in Costa Rica. Anne’s wife Barb had another seizure Tuesday night. Rachel got in touch with them and they got off the plane in Costa Rica, got back on and flew back to Atlanta where Anne got to say good-bye. Barbara died early this morning. She was a kind, generous, and loving person, younger than me, and we will all miss her terribly. I am so glad that Sarah is there for Anne.

Day Seven NOLA post will be a little delayed.

Day Six – In Which the Titanic Approaches the Iceberg

Gumbo

Gumbo

So originally we were supposed to eat at Antoine’s, an old school New Orleans restaurant. A chance to taste the classics as they’ve been done for 170 years. However, after checking a lot of the on-line reviews, the major comment by most posters was that the ambiance was fantastic, the food ranged from good to great, the servers from friendly to rude, but the price never approached less expensive. So we shifted to Donald Link’s oldest restaurant, Herbsaint, on St. Charles at the edge of the Central Business District.

Wow. To quote several grandchildren out of context, “that was a good decision.” We had what we all agreed was the best dinner we’ve had this week. When we got there, Donald himself was having a glass of wine with someone at one of the outside tables. Later on, we saw him duck into the kitchen. Now, we’re not thinking he personally cooked our meal, but just the fact that he was around was comforting. Continue reading

Day Five-Pigeon Town Steppers and Gumbo Z’Herbes

So here we are at the Maple Leaf bar, waiting for the Pigeon Town Steppers second line to come through. It’s twenty to five and their permit runs until five and there are several other stops still to go, so the question is will they make it or will they just turn off and head for the Blue Flame Lounge where they disband? We’ve run into friends of Bill and Cindy’s and been invited over for some gumbo z’herbes, had some grilled oysters from one of the BBQ grills on pickup truck beds that seem ubiquitous at every outdoor event, and followed the rumors back and forth.

At the Maple Leaf

At the Maple Leaf

“They extended the permit until seven,” comes the latest word and suddenly, NOPD is blocking off the side streets, the crowd has grown and the brass band gets louder and louder. We were there at the start of the second line, at Silky’s Lounge on Magnolia Street, which was a milling crowd of the well dressed and the casual, BBQ trucks and Flexible Flier wagons with “Cold Cold” beer and “Ice Cold” soda, a full bar on the cab roof of a pickup truck, the competing smells of hickory smoke, sizzling fat and weed, and, off to the side, some floats. It started as a semi-chaotic affair, with maybe a hundred or so following the floats and the music. We joined for a while and then peeled off.

Pigeon Town, a neighborhood near Bill and Cindy, was originally called Pension Town because of all the black WW II vets who settled there. Like all things, time has wrought it’s changes. This, their 19th Easter, the theme of the Pigeon Town Steppers second line is change:  “20 Years in Da Game, Time Brings Change.” Continue reading

Day Four – In Which Our Hero Collides with the Local Flavors

OK, so I’ve been told I am somewhat demanding when it comes to food. I was looking forward to Vincent’s, an old school Italian place and especially the bracialoni , a roll of veal around stuffing and touted by Gumbo Tales as the New Orleans Italian dish to have. So, of course, we had some.
IMG_0810Vincent’s is old school. Green, red and white, Jerry Vale on the sound system, second generation run. All I wanted and more. The breadsticks and softened garlic-scallion butter on the table to start was a superb touch. The Rose of Sicily (a breaded deep fried artichoke heart draped with shaved parmesan in a garlic olive oil was quite tasty and the parmesan was good quality. The crabmeat stuffed mirlton (chayote) in a white sauce was also quite good and I got a sense of mirlton’s taste (subtle) and texture (like the pepper in a chile relleno). The duck carbonara was loaded with bacon and duck in a homemade wide pasta. Even the blue cheese vinegrette on the salad was good, a touch sweet from balsamic, and Gorgonzola blue cheese. Continue reading

Day Three – Lower Ninth, High-Class Dinner

Some friends of Bill and Cindy’s came by so we got off to a late start after trading lies and telling stories. Lil Dizzy’s for lunch. So far, the best meals we’ve had have been neighborhood lunch places. I’ve come to love the restaurants tucked into residential street, not all corner stores, like Lil Dizzy’s, but in the middle of the street, we’ll pass by a place that Bill or Cindy will immediately identify as a great place to eat.

Lil dizzys Fried ChickenLil Dizzy’s buffet—fried chicken, little crawfish pies in tiny throwaway pie tins, macaroni and cheese, sautéed vegetables, shrimp Creole, crab and crawfish gumbo, and bread pudding—again accompanied by giant iced teas, sweetened this time—was all that and more. Don’t know why the giant sodas in movie theaters, etc. piss me off so and the giant teas seem quite fitting here, especially on the second refill.

People who seem to think “to die for” is a good expression for food always annoy me. “Freedom is to die for; good fried chicken is not,” but I’d commit a little mayhem to get back to Lil Dizzy’s fried chicken. Nice crust, juicy, not greasy at all, I’d’ve had more if the crawfish pie and lil dizzys gumbogumbo weren’t so good. I never understood why the gumbo recipes have you cook the crab pieces for the entire hour of simmer time and then add the shrimp at the last minute, but I finally got it. The meat fell out of the crab bodies and the flavor was crab, dark roux and fish broth. Cindy thought she spotted Errol Laborde and his wife Carol, publisher of several New Orleans magazines and moderator of Lost Restaurants of New Orleans respectively at the next table so it wasn’t just this easily impressed Yankee. Continue reading