How To Make Beef Stock

PANSY PEPPERCORNSIt’s come to my attention that you’ve not been taught to make beef stock. I suppose if someone hadn’t been so busy finding innovative ways to tag blog posts with “doody” and googling images of women in sports bras, you’d not have this egregious hole in your education, but alas. No website can be perfect-although, now it is.

If you want to know how to make traditional, French Culinary Institute-style beef stock here are a few recipes to check out. But honestly? None of you are really gonna make FCI-style beef stock, are you? Me neither. Which is swell for all of us because I’ve got a totally-unorthodox-but-great-for-people-who-have-lives method to share! (I mean you have lives. This is the highlight of my week. Regarding making traditional beef stock: I’m just lazy.)

To start, you’ll need some bones. Bones! The bones can come from anywhere, really. OH MY GOD NO! THEY CANNOT COME FROM YOUR NEIGHBOR’S DOG, NO! Cow bones! We’re talking about cattle bones here. So, let’s say that you maybe made a fucking steak for yourself after a particularly hard Tuesday at the race track? (When are we going to talk about your gambling problem? The kids don’t have shoes.) Save the t-bone and make stock of it!

But also if you ever go for a nice steak dinner I don’t think there’s any shame in asking for the bones to go. Look, you don’t know that waiter, don’t even worry about what he thinks of you for it. He’s already judged you for your wine order, let’s be honest here. After a birthday dinner at Peter Luger’s once, I asked the waiter to doggy bag the bones for me. While wearing a fanciful paper crown on my head. Have no shame.

If your bones are on the small side you can stash them in the freezer until you’ve built up enough of a reserve-maybe 2 or 3 small bones?-to actually get some flavor out of the deal. Or heck, just make a teeny tiny batch! You can probably get 4ish cups of stock out of a weenie t-bone. (I want you to know it is taking all my strength not to make an erection joke here.)

Okay! We’ve got bones! Let’s put them in a large-ish pot. One that has room for 12-ish cups of water. (Yes, ish: just breathe into it.) Along with the bones, you’ll want to add a few aromatics, which is a fusty, cooking-person term for things that smell. Seriously, cooking people? Are so totally full of it. And the ones who aren’t wear Hawaiian shirts, so basically you shouldn’t listen to any of them at all.

Aromatics, in this case, refer first to vegetables. One of the cool things about stock-making is that it’s sort of like the compost pile of the cooking world: You can basically throw in whatever veggies you have lying around the house, even the ends of things that you would normally toss in the garbage. Well wait, not “whatever”-I mean, let’s not be using broccoli to make our stock. I mean the flavorful root-type items: Carrots, celery, onion. You know, rootie things. Oh and old garlic! I almost always have a sprouting halfbulb of garlic lounging indolently in my crisper drawer, and nothing makes me happier than making that little fucker work for it during the last hours of his life. There’ll be no tranquil trashheap for you!

Now then, if you don’t have any of this stuff in the house don’t fret. I don’t want you fretting!

While you’re concentrating on not fretting and breathing into your ish-es, scamper out to the closest market and grab one big onion. You have my permission to skip the carrot and celery, as long as you promise to use an onion. And the sprouting garlic, but you’re going to do that anyway because now you’re imagining hurling your own set of insults at it. Quarter the onion and put it in the pot. Drop in a few whole-peeled, please!-garlic cloves. I dunno, three? Five? If you’re using carrots and celery (one, two, three-ish each?) give them a rough chop and toss them in. They should be fairly large sized pieces since you’re gonna boil the tar out of them and you’re not looking to make carrot and celery soup. 1-3 inches should do it. (Heh.)

There’s one last (solid) thing that needs to go into the pot: peppercorns. Whole peppercorns. Of any variety, but may I ask that you lie to me and tell me you’ve used what’s popularly known as a “peppermill blend”? Because peppermill blends have pink & green peppercorns, and pink & green peppercorns thrill my little soul.

Over this whole mess, and my God will it ever look like a mess, you’re going to pour your water. Somewhere between 8 and 12 cups will be good. Turn the burner on high and bring the whole rank collection of castoff foodstuffs to a boil. This will take quite a while! Like, a half hour-ish (mm hmm). Once it’s boiled, reduce the heat to low, let the boil reduce for a minute or two and then cover the pot. Set your kitchen timer or cell phone alarm or ask the crow who sits on your sundial to caw at you in one hour.

When the hour is up, assess your day: Do you have another half hour to lie about your house reading the Internet? Super! Leave it on the heat for 30 more minutes. Do you have important drinking to do? WELL WHY HAVEN’T YOU INVITED ME? Turn off the heat and go on about your day. But not for too long, okay, because after two or so hours you’ll want to get that pot into the refrigerator.

And this is where my trick comes in: The actual cook time on this stock is 2 hours, max. And since the prep time is virtually nil, you can toss this together and let it go about it’s business during Sunday coffee-in-bed-while-moaning time and still be gussied and out of the house for brunch. The important thing is to put the entire thing-the bones and those pretentious aromatics and the sloth-like garlic and my beloved preppy peppercorns-in the fridge overnight.

Basically you’re steeping the stock and I swear if you ever tell anyone with an ounce of cooking cred I told you to do this I will hunt you down and filet you with my pink chef’s knife.

When you’re ready to transfer your stock (your homemade stock! Take a moment to beam with pride!) to smaller containers for freezing, pull out the pot and prepare yourself for some major fun, because now is the time on Sprockets when we skim! You’re gonna be psyched about this part because it provides almost the same thrill as picking at a scab without any of the pick-your-nose-and-eat-it connotations. Skimming refers to the removal of the layer of congealed fat, which you should immediately hurl it into the rubbish bin, because, eww. A slotted metal spoon works best for this, but beef fat is hardy enough that you’ll be able to lift it using the side of a knife if that’s all you’ve got. Pro tip: The top layer of fat will crack into large glaciers if you sort of tap on it.

Underneath that fat you’re going to find the saddest looking collection of bones and cloves and stalks. You need to strain that stuff out. I like to place a splatter guard over the top of the pot and pour the liquid out into a large bowl, but you can use a traditional colander placed over a bowl.

Whatever works for you, my friend. I mean, who am I to question a person who makes their own stock?!

And welcome to our secret special club.


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