Sunday, 19 November 2017

Kitchen Gold

I have discovered kitchen gold and it isn't what you think. It's not saffron, the stamen worth more per gram than gold. It's not truffles, the tuber coveted the world over. It's not Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, the true Balsamic Vinegar poorly copied to excess. It's not glamorous and it's not expensive. Actually it is a by-product that if you are unawares of it's potency could easily be tipped down the drain.
Actually now that I come to think of it, I don't even know what to call it. Basically it's what is left when you slowly braise meat in a broth or water so in essence I guess it is a stock but in most cases more ingredients pass through it than a regular stock and is generally much more rich and condensed.
I don't think I have conveyed this well so I will give you an example, one that will show you how you can use and reuse this by-product to give your future cooking an extra pow by benefiting from your past cooking.
So on the weekend I made a slow cooked pork knuckle. It is a Rick Stein recipe from his book From Venice To Istanbul. The pork knuckle was braised for four and a half hours in a liquid of red wine, honey, water, bay leaf, peppercorns, olive oil, garlic, cinnamon and coriander seeds. At the end of the process in addition to the actual meal I was left with around 250ml of cooking liquid which I strained the solids out of and stored in the fridge. Overnight this liquid set into a jelly, a sign that it is full of those good meaty things like collagen which then converts into gelatin. The mixture was a highly concentrated stock essentially.
The next night I decided to slow braised some beef shin and turn it into a Ken Hom Szechuan dish from his book Exploring China, A Culinary Adventure. Into the clay pot I put all of the recipe ingredients (need to add list of ingredients here) plus I added the concentrated gelatin jelly from the night before.
This dish then simmered away for 3 hours, the meat started to break down, the marrow melted from the shin bones and at the end of the cooking process again I was left with a concentrated stock. Some of this was incorporated into the sauce that was then poured over the final dish and the rest I strained and put back in the fridge which set again into another gelatin form but this time with the very strong flavours of the Sczechuan dish, lots of ginger and soy.
For it's final incarnation the next night I used it as the base sauce for a stir fry. So I fried off some baby corn, leftover beef shin, shiitake mushrooms and choi sum with a little home made chilli oil. I then added the stock concentrate and some cornflour and I had a rich chinese sauce to go with my stir-fry. By this time it was extremely rich and I did accidentally put too much of it into the stir-fry, it is worth noting the concentration of your concoction to apply accordingly.
I have used this method a number of times. I once made the most unctuous Balinese style braised lamb by using the leftover cooking liquid from a pork stew and a packet of Balinese spices. On it's own the packet mix of spices is pretty much a kitchen sin but mixed with the slow cooked magic that is a rich boney stock it was divine.
You never quite know what you are going to get with this method. It's something I started doing a year or so ago. I also now make my own stocks from scratch and when recipes call for water I swap it out for a home made stock. It is one of those small changes that can transform your cooking. I am convinced many recipes use water as an easy step for the home cook when a stock would be much better suited. It makes sense, imagine if every recipe had a sub-step of making a 4 hour long stock using multiple chicken carcasses. It would send most people running for the hills. But if you have the stocks ready made and in the freezer then it is just there waiting for you.
In a similar vain a few years ago I started up a master stock, this is still in my freezer. Each time I cook with it I top it up a little water water to keep the quantity, I strain the lumps and I re-freeze it, it's like instant meat-braising magic all ready to go in the freezer. Toss a piece of pork belly in, cook for a few hours, chop up and lightly fry in a little flour you have the most tender, flavorsome pork.
All hail the meat water!

Originally posted on Sunday, 19 November 2017 by


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