Classic Brown Veal Stock

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes about

    2 quarts

Appears in

From Scratch: 10 Meals, 175 Recipes, and Dozens of Techniques You Will Use Over and Over

From Scratch

By Michael Ruhlman

Published 2019

  • About

The most powerful stock in the kitchen is brown veal stock. It’s the one thing you can make that will give you restaurant-caliber food at home. Include it in braises and stews, reduce it in sauces, and you will be amazed.

In the past, the finest restaurants all used brown veal stock, but that’s not the case today. I know that Jean-Georges Vongerichten doesn’t use it, even in his four-star eponymous restaurant. But he’s Jean-Georges and has other tricks up his sleeve. Joe or Jane Cook, at home in the suburban heartland, well, if they sauté mushrooms, then toss in two or three frozen veal stock cubes, they will have a four-star sauce worthy of Jean-Georges in the time it takes to bring the liquid to a simmer. It’s a marvel.

I’ve been told that my chili (pork shoulder, chuck roast, no beans) is “the best.” In fact, the secret is not my concoction of seasonings, it’s the veal stock. Try braising anything, even something as basic as beef stew—and it will be ten times better if you include veal stock than without it. If you like to cook and love great food, you must make brown veal stock at least once. And it’s just as simple as Easy Overnight Chicken Stock; the single difference is that instead of roasting a chicken, you roast veal. The hardest part of making veal stock is usually finding the veal itself.

The best cut to use for this is a 5-pound/2.25-kilogram bone-in veal breast. Call around to your various meat departments and see who can get you one. Ask the butcher to cut it into 3-inch/8-centimeter chunks if you don’t want to do it yourself (the bones and abundant cartilage, the rich source of gelation, are so soft you can cut through them with a cleaver). If you want to make a smaller batch, do that. Fill up a pot with whatever meat bones, carrots, and onions you have, cover with water, and that’s really all you need.

You can skip the thyme if it’s too expensive where you are. I love leeks in my stock (especially the green parts—I usually cut off the white ends and save them for another use; they’re delicious sautéed in butter), but you can skip the leeks and double the onion.

Ingredients

  • 1 (5-pound/2.25-kilogram) bone-in veal breast (or a mix of jointy, meaty veal bones), cut into 3-inch/8-centimeter chunks (bones and all)
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 leeks, halved lengthwise and cleaned, then cut crosswise into 1-inch/2.5-centimeters pieces (save the tender ends for another use if you like)
  • 1 pound/450 grams carrots, cut into 1-inch/2.5-centimeter pieces
  • 1 pound/450 grams onion, cut into large dice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 to 10 thyme sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 quarts/4 liters water, or as needed

Method

Preheat your oven to 425°F/218°C.

Spread out the veal chunks on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until they’re dark golden brown and smell good enough to eat, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 200°F/93°C.

Meanwhile, put the peppercorns in a large skillet (cast iron is best) over high heat. Swirl them around to heat them. When you can smell them, after about a minute, transfer them to a mortar and grind them with the pestle until they’re coarse. (Or put them on a cutting board, crack them with a heavy sauté pan, and chop them with a knife until they’re coarse.)

Combine the roasted veal, leeks, carrots, onion, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, and toasted cracked pepper in a large pot. Pour in the water; add more if it’s not enough to cover everything—better to err on the side of a little too much water as it can always be reduced. Bring the water to a simmer, then put the pot, uncovered, in the oven and cook for 8 to 10 hours.

Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Consider reserving the bones for use a second time (see the sidebar on Remouillage). You may want to reduce your stock by a quarter or a third to make it more flavorful and easier to store. Store it in plastic containers or ice cube trays in the freezer for up to 3 months. Frozen cubes of veal stock are incredibly convenient to have on hand for adding to sauces and braises.