One thing I love about eating out at great restaurants (outside of not having to clean up afterwards) is the “how did they do that?” factor. And I don’t mean blown up brie or other molecular gastronomy tricks. I’m talking ordinary things elevated to extraordinary heights, like a crispy braised brisket at Sitka & Spruce, or an impossibly flavorful carrot risotto at Tilth. Granted, these are just some very talented chefs, but one has to suspect that they have some other tricks up their sleeves. Michael Ruhlman claims in his wonderful book The Elements of Cooking:
If there were one ingredient that the home cook could have that would transform absolutely his or her cooking, one that would put it close to the level of the professional chef, it’s veal stock.
Pretty big claim right? You’re saying I can just start using veal stock and my cooking is close to the level of the professional chef? I was skeptical, but not about to miss the boat if it was true. So after a few failed searches, we found a guy who sells veal bones at the Ballard farmers market (it’s the booth that sells goat as well) and followed the directions for brown veal stock in Ruhlman’s book, also available here.
I must say, it has made a difference in certain dishes. A “Professional Chef” difference? I think I’m going to need a bit more help than that… but a simple mushroom soup took on a wonderfully velvety mouthfeel and simple stock reduction sauces do have a bit of that decadent taste and body that you find in restaurant sauces. There certainly was a noticeable difference from homemade chicken stock, with the gelatin from the veal bones and connective tissue giving structure that chicken bones just can’t match, but a finesse and versatility that beef stock lacks. So give it a shot if you can find some veal bones. Use it in place of chicken stock or beef stock and see what happens to your dish.