Brown veal stock is the foundation of this port sauce

Last week I prattled on about consomme and how to make consomme from stock to finish but a few people wrote me asking just how to get from start to stock. Stock (les fonds), also known as boullion or broth, my friends, are nothing less than the foundation of French cooking!

Les fonds sont pour la cuisine, ce que les foundations sont pout la maison.” Stocks are to cooking what a foundation is to a house. -Auguste Escoffier

So there you have it. Straight from the horse, er, father of French cuisine himself. It is so important that on Day 3 of cooking school, we learned how to make stock and every morning for the following 6 months, we made stock and just about every kind of stock. Brown veal stock, white veal stock, game stock, white chicken stock, brown chicken stock, fish stock (fumet: foo-may), and marmite. There is nothing like the smell of browning veal bones at 8 in the morning to get your stomach turning. I’d hightail it straight to the bread kitchen across the hall most mornings snacking on fresh croissants, baguettes, brioche, etc! Trust me, it shows…..

My partners in culinary crime – Beverly, Michael and Michele – at our station the first week of school

So what are stocks? Technically they are flavorful, aromatic liquids made by cooking bones and vegetables to extract their flavors. The importance in making them right is that these stocks become the basis for sauces, soups and stews as well as adding a depth of flavor and viscosity. They are actually quite simple to make once you break it up into steps and flowchart it as it requires little attention once the water is added.

As a guideline for making stock, the amount of vegetables is usually approximately 10 percent of the weight of the bones. If you add more, it will become simply vegetable soup. My first chef instructor, Chef Pascal, used to say “What you put into your pot, you get out of your pot.” We naively took that literally. He was referring to life as we later learned but this of course applies to the quality of food you use to cook with. If you use old vegetables or a chicken carcass that sat in the fridge a day or two too long, your stock will show it.

I thought I’d spare you images of browning veal bones and let you savor the results of such so…white chicken stock was the basis for this pumpkin soup garnished with fried sage leaves and julienned leeks

Here is the step by step for making white chicken stock or fond de volaille blanc. I know most of you are screaming for a recipe as I did before cooking school but if you learn the technique, you can make any kind of stock in any amount.

1. Clean and degorge (day-gorzh; to clean by holding under running cold water) the chicken bones (take a carcass from chicken soup you made the day before and cut it up)

2. Blanch (quickly drop into boiling water for a few minutes) the bones and drain.

3. Put the bones in a stock pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch.

4. Add mirepoix (meer-pwa; roughly chopped onions, leek whites, celery, no carrots since this is white stock, and remember approx 10% of the weight of the bones) and bouquet garni (boo-kay gar-nee; a sachet of mixed herbs usually fresh thyme, a dry bay leaf, parsley stems, and a few peppercorns) to pot

5. bring to a simmer (never boil as it will cloud the stock, much like consomme) and cook for approximately 2 hours until the liquid is flavorful. Skim off the foam and fat every once in a while.

6. Strain it through a chinoise (a conical shaped strainer – or use a regular strainer lined with cheesecloth if you have it).

7. Chill.

And voila, you have a delicious chicken stock and basis for fabulous sauces or steamy, bone-warming soup.

Some stock tips and tricks:

– always start with cold water.

– skim the stock every so often but once you chill it the fat will rise to the top and solidify and you can simply spoon it off the top.

– if you made a lot you can freeze in zip lock bags to save room in your freezer. Some chefs even freeze it in ice trays and add a cube or two as needed for a sauce.

– don’t let the stock boil and don’t stir it up from the bottom or it will cloud (same in the consomme with the raft) and a chef would rather eat his whisk than have a cloudy consomme.

– cool the stock quickly in an ice bath. fill up 1/2 your sink with ice cubes and cold water and place the strained stock in a pot in the sink and stir with a wooden spoon to cool down.

Or, if you are really lazy like me, you can go to Safeway and buy a can of Swanson’s low sodium fat free chicken broth and save yourself a few hours….. but it’s just not the same…..

Bon appetit! 🙂

Les fonds sont pour la cuisine… 4 February,2006Cucina Testa Rossa


Cucina Testa Rossa

After a decade in Silicon Valley, Laura traded her keyboard for a cutting board and moved to New York City to immerse herself in food and wine studies and restaurant operations. She graduated from the French Culinary Institute where she studied under Master Chefs Jacques PĂ©pin, AndrĂ© Soltner, Alain Sailhac, and Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. While in New York, Laura cooked with some of the world’s most highly acclaimed chefs including Mario Lohninger (Danube), Morimoto, Mark Franz & Emily Luchetti (Farallon), Michael Romano (Union Square CafĂ©), Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan, Jonathan Cartwright (White Barn Inn), Martin Heierling (Bellagio), Dave Pasternack (Esca), Richard Reddington (Redd, Auberge du Soleil), and the legendary Alice Waters (Chez Panisse).

After working as the Back Kitchen Chef of Jacques PĂ©pin’s PBS cooking show, “Fast Food, My Way”, Laura moved to France to cook her way around the country. She cooked at the Cannes Film Festival, then to the northwest corner of France, to Britanny, to cook on a lobster boat, then east to Paris to the world famous Pierre HermĂ© Patisserie where she made thousands of his macarons every day! Laura cooked for the fabulous Olivia de Havilland and interned at 3 Michelin Star Le Cinq under Chef Philippe Legendre and Pastry Chef Fabrice Lecleir. Laura was the executive chef and cooking instructor at the DaVinci Code chateau outside of Paris where she was on set during the filming of the movie.

In Fall 2007, Laura worked on Jacques Pepin’s most recent PBS television series as prop and food stylist. “More Fast Food, My Way” should air in the Spring of 2008. “My Keyboard for a Cutting Board ~ Adventures in a French kitchen v1.0”, Laura’s first book highlights her first three months cooking in France, was published in Summer 2006. ConvivialitĂ© is her second book and will hopefully be published in the fall.

Laura now splits her time between Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area doing private chefing, teaching cooking classes and leading market tours when in Paris. Bon Appetit!

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