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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Super Easy Recipe For Fantastic Homemade Beef Stock/Broth

I won't dare get into the ongoing debate about stock vs. broth.  This recipe uses wonderful beef bones as well as flavorful meat, so I guess it could be either a stock or a broth.  It's based on a recipe that Alton Brown prepared on his Good Eats program.  He used a pressure cooker to speed up the cooking process.  We don't currently own a pressure cooker and we're not really concerned about making speedy recipes, so we used the oven to brown the meaty bones and the slow cooker (Crock Pot) to simmer the broth.  There aren't any exact measurements for this recipe, just use whatever amounts your slow cooker can hold.  You don't have to do a lot of cleaning/prepping of the veggies because you're going to strain everything later.

Beef shank, oxtail, and/or beef bones
Carrots, rinsed and rough chopped
Celery, rinsed and rough chopped
Onions, rinsed and cut in quarters
Garlic heads, cut in half horizontally
Homemade veggie broth if you have it
Any leftover herbs you have lying around

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the beef/beef bones on a baking rack, roasting pan, or grill pan, anything that will allow the heat to circulate well and allow some of the fat to drain off as it cooks.  Roast for an hour to an hour and a half, checking regularly.  You want the meat and bones to become very well caramelized to develop the flavor (the Maillard reaction), but you obviously don't want them to burn.

Remove beef and bones from oven.  Start heating your slow cooker at high heat.  Add the beef and bones, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, homemade veggie broth if you have it, several big pinches of salt, and lots of freshly ground pepper.  Cover with water within an inch or so of the top of the slow cooker.

Cook on high heat at least 12 hours.  The longer the better.  Stir the mixture from time to time.  If you notice any foam gathering on the surface skim it off.  If you notice marrow in any of the bones, scrape it out with a spoon into the pot; it's a very flavorful addition to the stock.  After 12 hours or so add any leftover herbs you have and continue cooking.

When the broth is cooked to your liking, turn off the slow cooker and let the mixture cool.  When cool enough to handle, place a collander over a large stewpot.  Drain the broth into the stewpot, removing the solids.  Cook the broth on the stovetop over medium heat until slightly reduced.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.  Add a healthy splash of sherry, also to taste.  Sherry vinegar will also work if you don't want the alcohol.  When reduced to your liking, place a mesh strainer over a large glass measuring cup or a mixing bowl, cover the strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth, and pour the broth through to strain it well.  Refrigerate the strained broth.  The next day, remove the fat layer that will have congealed on top of the broth.

The broth can be used immediately or can be frozen for later use.  A really easy way to freeze broth is to pour it into a silicone muffin pan, freeze, then pop out the broth "icecubes" into a labeled zip-lock bag for future use.

This broth will be very flavorful and meaty-tasting.  Although it's not quite demi-glace it has a lot of collagen in it.  As it's beginning to freeze you'll see that it has the consistency of Jell-O.  It's a great base for soups and sauces.  It is amazing when heated, reduced slightly, and served over creamed potatoes.  Yeah, just speaking from experience and daydreaming for a moment there :)

This stuff is beautiful.  It takes a lot of of time to cook, but not a lot of hands-on time and it isn't a difficult recipe to execute.  I hope you'll try it.  It will give a professional touch to your soups and sauces.

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