Behind every great sauce there is a stock. Stocks, unlike broths, are made from bones, meat scraps, aromatics (carrots, celery and onions), water and spices. They simmer for some time in order to dissolve the collagen (glue-like substance found in muscles, bones and connective tissue) and extract all of their flavors and nutrients. The final strained liquid is gelatinous, flavorful and worthy to be called the first pillar of gastronomy.

Behind every great sauce there is a stock.

Stocks, unlike broths, are made from bones, meat scraps, aromatics (carrots, celery and onions), water and spices. They simmer for some time in order to dissolve the collagen (glue-like substance found in muscles, bones and connective tissue) and extract all of their flavors and nutrients. The final strained liquid is gelatinous, flavorful and worthy to be called the first pillar of gastronomy.

The French chefs call them “fonds” or foundations upon which their entire cuisine stands. Stock reductions, or simmering down of the liquid, helps to intensify the stock flavors even more. These reductions give birth to sauces such as demi-glace. A velouté sauce is nothing less than an exquisite stock that has been thickened with roux (cooked equal parts of all-purpose flour and butter) until it reaches a silky and velvety texture.

Stocks are also the backbone of soups and stews. If you merely replace the liquid in your soup with a homemade stock, you would be savoring a five-star first course.

The difference between broths and stocks is that broths lack the intensity that stocks deliver due to the fact that broths are simmered for a much shorter period of time and that they use meats and meat scraps instead of bones and meat scraps. 

If you are committed to providing healthy and delicious food to your loved ones, then homemade stocks are an easy and inexpensive way to provide this to them. Just gather the ingredients, assemble them in the pot and let the simmering do its magic while you go about your business. When the stock is done, cool it down and refrigerate it overnight. This process will allow the fat that will naturally rise to the surface to congeal into a solid sheet, which will make it very easy to remove. What you will be left with is a healthy delicious stock. 

If you are not going to use the stock within the next three to four days, you can portion it into ice cube trays to use when you are making quick pan sauces or any other dish or sauce that requires an added boost of flavor. You could also use zip lock bags to store the stock in your freezer for up to 90 days.

Let’s explore the different types of stocks that you can easily make at home. My favorite and the most common type of stock to make is chicken stock. I make it once a week for my family’s weekly cooking needs. I purchase the whole birds and separate the meat from the carcasses. For about $8, I get two breasts, two tenderloins, two thighs, two drumsticks, two wings and about one gallon of fabulous stock! Your total work time will be about 5 to 10 minutes depending on your knife skills.

Vegetable stock is my second favorite stock to make. This one is the fastest to assemble and is ready in approximately one hour. The most commonly used vegetables are onions, leeks, carrots, parsnips, celery root, fennel and tomatoes. What I would not recommend using are any vegetables that release unpleasant smells, such as broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage.

If you wish to intensify your vegetable stock, all you have to do is roast the vegetables beforehand for approximately 45 minutes in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit preheated oven until they acquire a deep amber color.

Finally, veal and fish stocks are mostly available in hotels and restaurants, as the bones are harder to find unless of course you know your local butcher and fishmonger. Of all the stocks, the veal takes the longest to make (12 to 18 hours), and this alone makes it an inconvenience to the home cook.

Once you familiarize yourself with these stock-making techniques you will never settle for anything less than your own homemade gelatinous deliciousness. It is easy to make, inexpensive and adds incredible flavor to your dishes, not to mention it is very healthy. 

The following are the simmering times for various stocks. Vegetable stock: 45 minutes to 1 hour; fish stock: 45 minutes to 1 hour; clear chicken stock: 3 hours; brown chicken stock: 4 hours; veal stock 12 to 18 hours.

Chef Fehmi Khalifa runs a personal chef service in the southeastern Massachusetts and Providence, R.I., areas. For more information on Chef Fehmi, log on to www.ChefFehmi.com, e-mail ChefFehmi@live.com or call 508-951-4901.

Chicken Stock

The bones from 2 whole chickens
2 stalks of celery washed and cut into 2” pieces
2 medium-size Spanish onions, peeled and cut in half and studded or inserted with 2 whole cloves
2 medium size carrots peeled and cut into 2” chunks
2 gallons of cold tap water
2 bay leaves
6 black pepper corns
8 stems of flat leaf parsley or fresh thyme

For a clear stock intended to flavor cream sauces, follow these directions:

1. In a large stockpot add bones, vegetables and water and bring to a boil.

2. The boiling water will create a foamy surface where all the impurities or scum collects. Using a ladle, remove this unwanted layer. (If you skip this step, your stock will be cloudy but still delicious. This is just for visual appeal.)

3. Add the remaining ingredients and turn the stove down to a simmer until you see only a few bubbles rising to the surface.

4. Partially cover with a lid allowing about a half inch or so of the pot to be uncovered to allow the steam to escape. Simmer for three hours.

5. After your stock has simmered, strain the liquid into a large bowl and cool it down in an ice bath.

6. Refrigerate the cooled stock overnight.

7. Before using, be sure to remove the hardened layer of fat that formed on the surface. Enjoy in soups, sauces, stews or use as a poaching liquid.

For a brown stock intended to flavor brown sauces, glazes or stews, follow these directions:

1. Start by brushing the bones with 3 tablespoons of tomato paste.

2. Roast the bones along with the vegetables in a 350°F preheated oven for about 45 minutes. This step will give your stock a deep brown color that is sought after when making stews and dark sauces.

3. To finish this stock, follow the assembly steps from the above clear stock recipe.

The end result will rival the long-simmered veal stock not only in color but in depth of flavor as well.

Vegetable Stock

3 celery stalks washed and cut into 2” pieces
3 carrots peeled and cut in 2” chunks
3 Spanish onions peeled, halved and studded or inserted with 2 whole cloves each
1 gallon of water
3 parsnips peeled and cut into 3” chunks
Green tops from 1 bunch of leeks washed, optional
2 bay leaves
6 black pepper corns
8 stems of flat leaf parsley or fresh thyme
4 cloves of garlic smashed in their peel

1. In a large stockpot, assemble all ingredients and bring to a boil.

2. After the liquid has boiled, turn the stove down to a simmer until you see only a few bubbles rising to the surface.

3. Partially cover with a lid allowing about a half inch or so of the pot to be uncovered to allow the steam to escape and simmer for 45 minutes to one hour.

4. Strain the liquid into a bowl and cool down over an ice bath.

5. When the stock is cooled it can be used in soups, stews and sauces.

Herald-News (Fall River, Mass.)