Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Real: Fond blanc de Veau

It was not that long ago that I would have shrugged my shoulders and said something like "Whatever, I should be so lucky" if someone told me that I'd be slaughtering a calf on one day and making veal stock from it's bones the next. But I don't dare say that now.

Last Friday we slaughtered a lovely Ayrshire bull calf. The next day, I was making stock with his bones. Talk about getting in touch with the source of your food.

Anyway, this is a shout out to all of you cooks who have ever tried to make white veal stock: look at this stock Holmes! You know you cannot get veal stock to gel like this unless you are lucky enough to get extremely fresh bones. Also check out the color of the congealed fat on the surface. In over three decades of cooking, I've never seen veal fat that color -not until last week that is.

Usually, veal fat is white. But the bull calf I used to make this stock was bottle-fed milk and raised on grass which is loaded with fat soluble yellowish carotenoid pigments, thus the fat is yellowish.

And look at that gelatin. This is amazing, especially considering the stock was not reduced more than 5%. All of that gelatin is the natural byproduct of young bones that are full of collagen protein.

The traditional way of making fond blanc de veau calls for cutting the bones into pieces with a bone saw or band saw. Next, to prevent the final product from becoming cloudy, you must blanch the bones to remove insoluble proteins. This is achieved by by putting the bones in a pot, covering them with cold water and heating it all up until the water comes to a simmer and throws up a a gray, proteinaceous foam. Then you dump the foamy water, rinse the bones and cover them with water a second time and cook the new mixture a really long time with mirepoix (celery-carrots-onion) and, in the final 25% of the total cooking time, a sachet d' epices (herbs and spices bundlen ib cheesecloth or anything that can be use to make an infusion) -usually wrapped bundles of herbs (usually thyme, bay leaf, clove, cracked black peppercorn).

Well, Ahem, I work on a farm. And since I am usually the only cook in the kitchen and cannot justify the expenditure of time on a project like haute cuisine white veal stock, I take short cut at this stage and after crack open the joints with my trusty cleaver, then cover the bones with very warm tap water...

I have to pause here to point out that by using warm water I am admitting to committing a heresy. Every cook who pursues a career in La Grande Cuisine is at some point taught that stock is ALWAYS started with COLD water. This is the way my grandfather and my uncles did it. This is how I was taught by Rene Chardin (my first chef) and it is in the curriculum of the CIA. The rationale for starting the stock in cold water is that it is supposed to be the best way to extract the maximum of flavor from the bones.

For years I knew that this was not right, and had stopped doing it unless someone who could hurt me insisted that it be done. In Molecular Gastronomy, by Herve This, indicates that the practice makes no sense (Introduction; p. 11). The only possible advantage afforded by the use of cold water to begin stock is if you want the stock to take a really long time for it to come up to a simmer. Now why would you want that? Perhaps to allow more time to skim the proteins and other particles that are released during the early stages of heating and that would muddy the stock. But really, I don't know.

Frankly, I think the practice is a holdover from the days when one did not have warm running water in the kitchen and so it would have been wildly impractical to start a stock with it. I'll bet I'm right.

Whatever, I use warm water for all my stocks now. They take less time to come up, and since the water in the water heater is usually already warm, it saves energy.

Okay, this post is getting too long. And I have to go to work. Here is the skinny on this stock

There were 40 pounds of bones in 10 gallons (80 pounds) of water. I don't remember exactly how much mirepoix I used. I brought the stock up to a simmer, did the essential depouillage (skimmed the scum off the surface) and let the stock cook for about 14 hours. No blanching, no cold water; and you tell me if you have ever seen better looking veal stock.



Jason said...

One of the more important reasons to not use warm/hot water is that while sitting, heated, in your hot water tank and/or the pipes in your location, it's already making a not-so-tasty mineral/metal/plastic broth. This can certainly cause health or taste issues. Cold water can be trusted to have less nasty stuff in it.

redman said...

beautiful stock. What body. My first instinct was to say that hot water affects clarity, and since you have no pictures of the stock while hot, it's impossible to assess your stock's clarity with the hot water. That being said, I love that you dispel this myth and I would like to try it myself. As for in school, I will still have to start with cold water!

Skawt said...


Rachel and I recently made a whole bunch of chicken and beef stock. We had been saving short rib bones and chicken bones (mostly wingtips). Roasted everything, including mirepoix, in the oven, and ended up with some really amazing, gelatinous stocks.

When we make stock, if it's not that consistency we know something is wrong.

"There's always room for (chicken) Jell-O!"

Jennie/Tikka said...

Can't wait to hear what you use the stock for!! Any ideas yet??

blondee47 said...

i know this post is about stock and the gel; but allow me to digress as this past rosh hashonah a friend of my mother-in-law treated us all to her dish of 'petchah' which is not made with calf bones.

i truly cannot imagine anyone but a polish grandmother teaching the students at the CIA how to make such a dish; this is a dying delecacy since I don't know anyone my age or younger who can make a successfully tasting product.

Petchah, in my ignorant opinion, has got to be the hardest dish to make successfully

Kevin said...

I'm so jealous of your 40 pounds of fresh veal bones.{g}

And I'm with you on the hot water. I've been using it for years. As for Jason's thought, if you ever looked in a hot water heater you'll have noticed that if anything the contaminants precipitate out. Pour a glass of hot water ad a glass of cold water, let the temperatures equalize and taste them - the cold water will have more flavor.

blondee47 said...

actually i am going to take back the comment on what meat she probably is veal but i don't know....however i would love see a showdown challenge of this of course

Chris said...

Well it seems I really timed my veal questions perfectly. ;)

Scotty said...

I have to say that I am on Jason's side on the warm cold water debate. God knows what's in our water heater - and I've been known to take days running quarts of water through the Brita before making veal stock.

On the other hand, I am jealous about the fresh bones . . . .

Kate in the NW said...

Damn it Del Grosso, I am basically anti-tech (I still think there should be Amish Fantasy Camp) but I found that cursedly addictive Ruhlman blog through Bourdain, and now you through Ruhlman.

Now I will never get ANYTHING done...except making really good homemade stock, which I did tonight. From "garbage".

So...thanks. I guess.

Mike Pardus said...

Bob - I would love to see the stock hot, as Redman suggests. I'm not doubting you for a second, but - where DOES all of that gray stuff go if you don't blanch first? are you really saving time? Seems to me that you'd spend more time skimming.

Amazing gel content - what was the final yield starting with 10 gallons?

Bob del Grosso said...

The yield was about 7 gallons.

And yeah, you do spend more time skimming but you only have to bring the thing up once so the energy cost is much lower.

In all honesty I have never done a side by side comparison of clarity among white stock made from blanched bones and white stock made from bones that had not been blanched. There may be meaningful differences. I really cannot say.

However, if you all look at the original post, I was not dissing the practice of blanching the bones. Rather I was questioning the tradition of starting stocks in cold water. Blanching veal bones may produce stock that is cleaner than stock made from bones that have not been blanched, I don't know. But I cannot think of reason why stock begun in cold water would be superior to stock begun in warm or even very warm water.

Mike Pardus said...

OK, looks like it's time for another "side-by-side". I have to make about 3 gallons of white beef stock for Pho later in the week. I can split it into two batches. Let's define our terms.

"Cold" water is whatever temp it happens to be coming out of the cold water tap from you kitchen sink. But I'll take a temp anyway just for the sake of consistency.

"Hot water" is water which is uncomfortable to the touch but not boiling - let's say 165F

We'll blanch one batch of bones in cold water, drain, rinse, and start aain with cold water. The other batch, we'll just dro the bones directly into 165F water, bring to a simmre, and let it go. We'll use 2 gallons of water per each 10# of bones and we will use identical All-Clad Professional stainless stock pots. Simmer time will be 6 hours each, with mire poix and sachet added during the last hour.

Stocks will be strained through identical mesh chinoise lined with cheese cloth and chilled in a deep ice bath.

I'll photo the results both hot and chilled and we'll post them late next week.

I'm not trying to prove you wrong - just trying to find "clarity".

Bob del Grosso said...

If you are going to do this the only thing you can vary is the temp. So if you are going to blanch one batch, you have to blanch them all.

Remember, I did not say that I believed that "blanching" did not make a difference relative to flavor and clarity (I believe it does promote clarity as it diminishes flavor). Rather I said or implied that -all other things being the same or equal (cooking time, time at depouillage; how long the stock cools; how it is strained etc) the the starting temp of the water should not matter. Water that is 60 degrees at the start should yield stock that is indistinguishable from water that is 165 at the start.

Finally, if you do only one run of the test. I will not be able to accept the outcome even if it confirms what I suspect is true. But one run is a good start and I look forward to reading what you discover.

Mike Pardus said...

Got it, I can do this at least once every week, so we can do a few runs to see what happens.

I'm still in awe of the gel on that stock of yours.I would question 14 hours of simmer time, but if it tastes as good as it looks, I don't need to question, I just want to replicate.

Bob del Grosso said...

If the bones had been sawn I would have cut the cooking time in half.

ntsc said...

I'm with Jason and Scott, hot water will disolve more 'stuff' out of pipes and other things it is in contact with.

One of the things it will disolve more of is lead, and until fairly recently all houses with copper water pipe used lead solder.

Draining several gallons of water from the hot water heater, using the drain at the bottom, will remove most 'debris' at the bottom of the heater. Maybe monthly.

I can't think of a reason for not using hot water other than more disolved minerals.

redman said...

seems to be parallel debates here. Stuff in hot water is bad for you or stock, and hot water is bad for stock. What if hot water starts out cold and is then heated on stove? Or distilled or bottled water that is heated on stove? hmmm. Seems wrong to get water hot and then add bones, flies in the face of CW, but would be interesting to compare two stocks side by side.