Thursday, 1 May 2008

TALKING STOCK


Its exactly 8 years since we closed the restaurant, and tonight we embark on the first round of prep to get up and ready to open again. Stock has always been at the base of all our cooking and I wrote the piece below for The Australian in 2000 with a deep melancholy that only now has begun to thaw, so what better way to begin a new era than starting the first foundation stock?
The picture is of a plate by Pallisy the meaning of which is revealed in the story. It looks better than the soup, which tonight will be made with duck bones and giblets as well as the ingredients mentioned below. As to the other bits and pieces needed to open again I am relying on ancestral memory, and a good bit of chaos-theory.

Talking Stock from 2000 in The Australian

I’m getting withdrawal symptoms.
The beguiling scent of stock no longer permeates the kitchen.
For the first time in about twenty years I am not spending most of my waking hours in a restaurant. But where does this curious word restaurant come from?
The original meaning of restaurant was of a medicinal stock or soup used to restore health and vigour.
One of the earliest accounts of it occurs in a volume published in Lyons in 1557 by Bernard Palissy, the renowned French Renaissance potter. He is best known for his whimsical platters, decorated with three-dimensional crustacea and other creepy crawlies executed in an almost super realist style.

His book ‘Declaration des Abus des Medecins’ however is a curious attack on the ignorance and blunders of physicians, which questioned the recipe for this already established medicine.
In those days doctors would recommend an old hen or capon as the basis of the ‘soup’. Most cookbooks still recommend older meats for stocks. Palissy argued that a younger bird is “much fuller in nourishment and flavour”.
In fact the argument although valid now, was in fact absurd at the time because the original recipe for restaurant involved the distillation of the stock with minced meat, barley, cinnamon, roses, coriander and currants. The resulting dew was in fact nothing but distilled water.
Sometimes jewels, gold and other precious metals were added to the brew. A practice not lost on some modern restaurant developers in Las Vegas.
Over the next two hundred years restaurant was transformed into a rich soup and eventually gave a name to the public houses that provided this hospitality.
The story usually starts in Paris with M. Boulanger and his famous sheep’s foot ragout.
All cooks have their own ways of making stock and often define the way we approach all our cooking.

This simple stock contains lots of vegetables and meat, not just bones.
You will find it reduces well without becoming gluey if you wish to use it as a glaze. The clarity comes from the roasting of the bones to stabilise any blood or other impurities that may dissolve and make your stock cloudy.

The garnish is Parmesan, egg, and parsley in the modern Roman style. It could easily be dill, egg and lemon if you are feeling Greek.

They say the best cure for my kind of withdrawal symptom is a restorative. Until then this restaurant will do.



Stracciatella Romana

Serves 8 or 24

1 Whole beef shin cut like osso buco
1 Veal shank cut the same
1kg Chicken wings 1 small pigs trotter
1kg Carrots, 1 kg Onions peeled and cut into medium pieces
1 stick of celery, 1 leek cut into medium pieces
2 bay leaves 10 pepper corns 5 juniper berries
1 Whole head of garlic cut along the equator

For the garnish
150g finely grated Parmigiano
3 eggs
30g chopped parsley, salt and pepper

Roast the meats and bones in a hot oven till just browned.
Add all the ingredients into a large stockpot.
Add about 15 l of cold water. [A big pot is a sound investment]
Bring to the boil and let it boil hard for 1 minute Skim
Set to a low simmer for about 6 hours [open a few windows]
Dont keep skimming it while its cooking as all the impurities will form a natural raft on the top catching any new ones as the come to the surface
Skim again when finished.
Strain and cool overnight in the fridge.
Remove the layer of fat on the top.

Reduce by half it you should be left with about 6 l
Stash 4l in the freezer in take away containers for later.

Heat the remaining 2l, when simmering add the parsley the Parmesan while stirring and slowly drizzle in the eggs. Taste, season and serve immediately.

5 comments:

Stephanie said...

Dear George...my thoughts are with you as you embark on this brilliantly exciting new phase in your life!
SW

stickyfingers said...

Good luck with your opening George.

The Chinese have been drinking clear soups as herbal cures for many maladies and to me there is something invigorating and restorative about drinking a good bowl of Vietnamese Pho. My Hungarian Jewish Foster mother used to make a bloody good bowl of Penecillin too, before she converted to Telma Stock cubes.

In eating out recently we have stumbled on a number of restaurants where the food looks and sounds great, but is lacking a depth of flavour. After being given some stock from a friend at McCormicks, I realised on trying it, that the restaurants have probably been using commercial stock and it is definitely wanting when it comes to complex and robust flavour.

My master stock is only 2 years old but it makes my home cooking more flavoursome than some we have paid $30+ a main for. I suppose that inevitably my using organic and heritage ingredients helps that along too.

Good stock is plainly good for the soul.

grocer said...

a thoroughly interesting post.
good luck with you restaurant (re) opening.

ozmouse said...

wishing best of luck with the new venture. wot be able to get there in the first couple weeks, but we will get there.

one of the defining moments of dining at sunnybrae was the arrival of the consomme served at the table from the copper pot. i remember it well, and have spoken of it often!

all the best on the new venture!

cheers
ozmouse

t h e - g o b b l e r said...

Good Luck George, break a leg!