There are several variations of ingredients and proportions used in a brown stock recipe. I made mine based on what I could actually find in the supermarket on a Sunday, when the butchers are closed and combining the ingredients and techniques set out in recipes from Georges Auguste Escoffier, Albert & Michel Roux and Julia Child, and the result was still quite amazing.
The best bones to use are veal bones (huesos de ternera blanca, 6-7 meses de edad) and calves’ feet (pezuñas de ternera), as they have a higher gelatine content, although I used all beef bones and the end result was still very gelatinous. Escoffier uses a mixture of 50% shin of beef-flesh and bone (jarrete de res-hueso y carne) and 50% shin of veal-flesh and bone (jarrete de ternera-hueso y carne), besides the addition of 63g raw ham (magro de cerdo, de la pierna) and another 63g pork rind (corteza de cerdo) for every 1kg bones, which are only added to the stock which has already been simmering gently for 12 hours, and previously browned quickly in a little stock fat.
Some recipes call for the ‘mirepoix‘ being made up of 50% onions to 25% each of carrots and celery, whereas others use equal amounts of each. The Roux brothers also incorporate mushrooms.
Some de-glaze the roasting tin with red or white wine, whilst others just use water.
Some add skinned and de-seeded tomatoes to the mirepoix but others use tomato puree (concentrado de tomate), either adding it directly to the pot or using it to coat the bones prior to roasting. I would recommend coating the bones with it before roasting them myself. Escoffier didn’t use tomatoes in any form, and was considered the “King of Chefs and Chef of Kings“, and his recipes, techniques and approaches to kitchen management remain highly influential today, and have been adopted by chefs and restaurants not only in France, but also throughout the world.
All the recipes call for a bouquet garni, made up of fresh parsley, thyme and bay leaves and most of them call for a clove or two of garlic.
Here’s what I used:
900g beef bones (huesos de añojo = animales de entre 12 y 24 meses pasará a denominarse «añojo» y sólo podrá etiquetarse como ternera la de animales de entre 8 y 14 meses)
2 onions, chopped
3 sticks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, left whole (peeled, or unpeeled and squashed a bit)
1 bay leaf
Butter (or stock fat if you already have some made)
Piece of steak or stewing beef
Red wine for de-glazing
NO SALT (your stock can be used to reduce into a “semi-glace” or in other sauces which can be seasoned afterwards)
Spread the bones all over with tomato puree (a couple of tablespoons should be sufficient) and place in roasting tin. Roast in a pre-heated oven (180ºC) for 45 minutes, turning half way through. In the meantime, melt some butter in a large casserole and gently sauté your mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots, garlic), without letting it brown. Add the boquet garni and bay leaf, followed by the roasted meat bones – leaving the fat in the roasting tin. Now just add a good splash of red wine into the roasting tin and simmer gently on the hob, scraping the base continuously until all the bits have unstuck from the base. Now add the entire contents of the tin to the casserole along with the mirepoix and bones.
In the same roasting tin, melt some stock fat or butter and quickly seal the meat (steak, stewing beef, or whatever you choose to use). Remove from the tin and add to the casserole, this time without the cooking fat. Now, simply fill up the casserole with water and place the lid on, without covering the casserole completely as this would make your stock cloudy. Bring to the boil and immediately reduce the heat down to minimum – and let the stock cook for 8-12 hours (or overnight). You should just be able to see a few tiny bubbles appearing on the surface, nothing more.
Once the cooking time is finished, strain the contents of the casserole through a large, fine conical sieve. Don’t be tempted to squash over the ingredients in order to extract more liquid, as this will also result in a cloudy stock. You can simply leave it to drip slowly for hours – then discard these leftovers (don’t forget, you can save any bone marrow which hasn’t melted in a dish for frying steaks!). It’s important now to cool the stock off as quickly as possible before placing it in the fridge. The best way to do this is to submerge the bowl containing the stock in a sink full of ice and cold water. Once completely cold, place in the fridge uncovered overnight.
The following day, you can then easily remove the layer of fat that will have formed over the surface (and save that too for frying!). I divided my stock for freezing between 7 flan tins. Once frozen, remove from the tins (maybe with the help of a little warm water run over the outside), wrap each portion nice and tightly in cling-film, place them all in a freezer bag – – and voilà!
Reducing the strained stock by ½ its original quantity will give you a “demi-glace“.
Reducing the strained stock by ¾ its original quantity will give you a “glace” (meat glaze).
You can prepare either of these reductions before freezing, which will occupy less space in your freezer. A teaspoon of meat glaze stirred into a sauce or soup will often give it just that particular boost of flavour which it lacks. Meat glaze dissolved in hot water may always be used in place of stock.