The great French Chef Master, Auguste Escoffier wrote:
“Indeed, stock is everything in cooking, at least in French cooking. Without it, nothing can be done. If one’s stock is good, what remains of the work is easy; if, on the other hand, it is bad or merely mediocre, it is quite hopeless to expect anything approaching a satisfactory result.”
Escoffier and other French chefs revolutionized early French cooking by inventing a lighter and reduced sauce, a variation of traditionally heavy cream sauces, known as stock.
Since the 16th century, stocks have been used in soup and sauce preparation. Stocks are the extraction of flavor from ingredients with a liquid base. The ingredients often include include bones, vegetables, herbs and spices simmered in water.
There are a few French stocks and sauces that are used traditionally. ‘Glaces’ are stock that have been reduced, while a ‘demi-glace’ is reduced even further to form a thick brown sauce. They are used for numerous dishes to intensify the flavor, texture and color. A ‘jus’ is the natural liquid rendered from the drippings of a roast. An ‘au jus’ is usually prepared using stock and meat trimmings. An ‘essence’ is the vegetable equivalent of a meat stock added for a touch more flavor in the sauce.
Why are stocks so rich in flavor? Simmering ingredients allows extraction of flavor in addition to reduction in volume – it’s this reduction that concentrates the flavor of the stock even more.
As a result, stocks and sauces are key to delicious cooking – as well as for other reasons besides taste. As our economy is still recovering, we know families everywhere are working long hours. Cooking nutritious and satisfying meals can fall by the wayside in daily tasks, but keeping a full pantry of good stocks and sauces give you the option of preparing quick dinners on the fly.