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Simple, yet effective way of making a difference.

Escoffier once wrote and often preached that the greatest dishes are very simple. It is this maxim that guides modern cuisine well after a century of this tenet’s existence. This is not to say that everything is easy, just simple. Let me explain.

If you take a small grouping of fresh and lovely ingredients, your dish should be fresh and lovely. If you take aforementioned ingredients and slather with pomegranate molasses and beet juice, with a smidge of bonito flakes and wakame, the original freshness and vitality are gone and you are left with an amalgamation of strange and unique flavors.

For years in my early career, I was like many chefs, convoluting dishes in the guise of sophistication, only to realize later that I was doing nothing more than masking the true flavors of any given dish. This is a message that I try to get through to my junior culinarians on a daily basis.

Does it sink in? Well, as the saying goes, I can teach all day, but the student’s learning is somewhat up to them. I know this firsthand, since I was not a model student myself in youth. I did not take home my lessons as I should have. As such, I am late to the game and again try to convey that message to my young wards as well. 

So when we get around to actually cooking some grub, I focus on the basics. As I wrote earlier this year, a good yankee pot roast could be served in a fine dining restaurant if it is done correctly. It is all in the technique. The sauce, the glaze, the texture and mouth feel of the meat, the proper cooking of the root vegetables, the seasoning and the presentation all play their part in creating a succulent dish worthy of any table.

But, Paul, I thought you said it would be simple. Well, dear reader, it is simple once you master the little steps along the way. Armed with this information, you will become a formidable gladiator in the cooking coliseum and the subtle nuances of every step of production can be tasted and felt in the finished dish. Simple and effective.

And that is where we start today: basic stock, always worth a refresher course.

One of the easiest ways to make the jump from ‘cook’ to ‘flippin’-good cook’ is by learning how to make stock and I mean by practicing until you have it down pat. Just like making bread and playing guitar, if you quit after a handful of tries because it is frustrating, you will never progress. If you stick with it, however, you will learn and grow and perfect little tricks and techniques that always lend themselves to the end. They are the means by which you will become a great cook.

Combined into what then becomes your repertoire, you will find yourself no longer needing to reference book after book in order to create your gobs of food. 

Two things to consider are as follows: firstly, many chefs believe that you should peel the onions and carrots as it leads to a more aesthetic stock. I am one of these chefs. Others, and some with star-rated restaurants, believe that the skins should be left on to give a more robust and natural flavor. This decision is entirely up to you.

Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and Per Se also scrubs his veal bones meticulously. Most other chefs do not, so again, it’s up to you.

Secondly and I have written about this before, I start with a remouillage (rehm-wee-yazh) or ‘remi’ which I will briefly explain. I make stock, drain the stock and then fill the pot with water again. I reheat and make a weak stock which is the remi, or ‘rewetting’ of the bones. This is strained and stored until I make the next stock. Then, I start with remi instead of water. Each successive batch is stronger than the last. Simple, isn’t it? I’m beginning to see a pattern.

Don’t give up. Try and try again to make stock. Use remi instead of water. Strain time and time again. It all adds up and soon you will see how simple a great dish can be.

Basic Chicken Stock

5# chicken bones 

1 large onion, peeled

1 medium carrot, peeled

2 ea. Celery ribs

4 dried bay leaves

8 ea. Black peppercorns

Small handful of parsley with stems and thyme

2 peeled garlic cloves, whole

1 whole shallot, peeled

For white chicken stock, use parsnip instead of carrot

For Roasted Chicken Stock, coat the bones with a very thin coating of vegetable oil and roast with a small touch of tomato product paste

Let the bones cool and then continue with step 4

Place the chicken in a stock pot and cover with water until it comes 2-inches over the top of the bones

Bring the water to a simmer and cook for about two to three hours

Add remaining ingredients and cook for two hours. this may go against the tenets of some cook books as far as how long to cook, but empirical evidence has shown me that the extra time makes a big difference