So, I had a funny flashback in the locker room before tonight's class: as I was putting on my chef's whites, I had a vivid memory of 30+ years ago when I was an altar boy (!), when I'd be in the sacristy putting on my cassock and surplice to get ready for serving mass. Just something about the ritual of dressing in a uniform for work ...
Ok, so tonight's class. Stocks are the foundation of French cooking - so many French dishes require a sauce based on a stock, or there'll be a soup or stew with a stock base. The base of almost all stocks are animal bones, which give the stock flavor and body. Various aromatics, including herbs and vegetables, are added to provide even more layers of flavor. For our third class made stock - several as a four-person team in smallish quantities, and a couple which we done by one of our chef instructors, with some input by the class.
I'd made stocks at home a few times, usually chicken stock (I usually start with a full chicken at home, instead of bones, and then use the meat for sandwiches). I'd also helped by mum when I was a kid - she'd taken a series of Cordon Bleu classes and one of the first things she started doing at home was making stocks: I remember trays of bones going into the oven to be browned, and then we'd spend a couple of hours skimming the stock as it simmered. But it is one of those things that is best done in a large quantity, because of the time commitment, and a professional kitchen is well-equipped for that.
Two of the stocks tonight were made in a production quantity: fond de veau brun (brown veal stock), and marmite* (white beef stock with an onion brulee in it). For the veal stock we roasted 50 pounds of veal bones in a convection oven, and browned the onions, carrots, and celery in a large russe. The ingredients were combined in a large commercial stock pot - one with a steam jacket that is has a thermostat, so it can always maintain the perfect simmer temperature. We all helped out on the large stocks - I scraped up the sucs, the tasty roasted meat juice on the bottom of the roasting pan so we're getting all the flavor we can out of our ingredients. Hot work indeed leaning over a large pan that is over two burner. For the marmite the beef bones are blanched to degorge them of blood before the aromatics and fresh water are added. Bruleed onions provide color and flavor (the onion is cut in half and the cut side is charred).
As four-person team we made a fish stock (fumet), a white chicken stock, and a vegetable stock. The thing to remember about stock is to make sure it is only gently simmering, not boiling, after it reaches its initial boil - so just a small amount of motion on the surface, an occasional bubble. You're not trying to reduce this stock (that can come later), rather you're trying to extract as much flavor as you can from the bones and aromatics. Keep skimming scum and fat to ensure a clear stock. We cooled our stocks down to below 70 degrees in an ice bath so we could refrigerate them for our next class, when we'd make sauces.
Mise en place for the vegetable stock
Our chicken stock simmers
Cooling the fish fumet
The marmite and fond de veau brun continued to simmer over night, and would be collected and cooled by the day students the next morning, and saved for us to use on sauce night.
*A marmite is also a cooking vessel, used to make stocks and marmite. Separately, of course, Marmite is a brand of yeast extract that I love, which feature an old-style French marmite on the labe.