Don’t throw away your turkey carcass!
“Here, ladies and gentlemen, is an eminently practical book. And an eminently wise book.
I highly recommend his book; even if you buy it for yourself and never lend it out, if taken to heart it will be a gift to others.
I recommend it because it is full of joy and gratitude. It is difficult to find a book that talks about what food is for, and what people are for, that doesn’t become either pedantic or shrill. Joy and gratitude are the solution to that. There is such a thing as good food, what food ought to be. And thinking on that can help you be what you ought to be.”
– Joffre Swait on Food for Thought by Francis Foucachon
A turkey carcass is “chef’s gold” waiting to happen!
Below is an excerpt of Food for Thought, by French pastor and chef Francis Foucachon. The book is composed of two parts. The first part is a theology of food and culture from a pastoral point of view, and the second part is recipes from Chef Foucachon’s past restaurant, West of Paris.
Stocks are at the center of French meat sauces, and stock-based sauces are the foundation of French cooking.
Following, you will find a description of how to make a stock. These stocks really are at the heart of my meat recipes. When I served my meat dishes at West of Paris, over and over again people would say, “This is wonderful! I’ve never tasted anything like this before!” And that was true, because these people had probably never experienced the umami taste of a sauce made from an authentic homemade stock. It’s a long and expensive process, so most restaurants use powders as the basis for their sauces or gravies.
I call my stocks “liquid gold.” They are wonderfully rich in flavor, and are expensive if you buy them commercially. You can buy small jars of real stock online, but it will cost you an arm and a leg. So make your own! You can add your stock to many dishes to give them full-bodied, satisfying savors.
I suggest that you make your stock once a month. Order bones ahead of time from your butcher, or from the meat department at your grocery store. Make a big stock pot full of this treasure in your own kitchen. When it cools, it will become a savory gelatin which will not only be the foundational element in your meat sauces, but also an addition that will enhance spaghetti sauces, soups, and stews.
I suggest that you pour the stock into ice cube trays and keep them stored in the freezer. You can fix a delicious meal at the last minute because your stock is already made and waiting for you in the form of little frozen cubes that quickly become liquid again when you pop them into the pan where you are cooking your meat.
The broad principal for preparing any tasty meat is to brown it in a bit of butter, searing the outside quickly over high heat to seal in the juices and flavor. Then remove the meat from the pan, and set it aside. Add two or three squares of stock from your ice cube tray to the pan juices, then add some wine—typically, red for red meats and white for white meats. Let it all cook for a several minutes, until it reaches your preferred cuisson (temperature), and finish it off by stirring in a tad of cream. Arrange your meat on the plate with your accompagnements (sides), and pour the sauce over it. C’est délicieux!
Stocks are made by cooking bones (that still have small bits of meat clinging to them) and skin in a large amount of water that is reduced over a long period. The meat yields most of the flavor, and the bones and skin yield most of the natural gelatin needed to concentrate the stock. To make a good stock, you need both. For a neutral brown stock, use the skin, meat, and bones from veal. For a neutral white stock, use the skin, meat, and bones from chicken.
- For the white stock, put the bones with meat remnants and the skin from two medium chickens in an 18-quart stock pot, and cover the meat with cold water. Bring to a boil.
- A foam will form on the surface. The foam contains the impurities, mostly the blood, from the meat. After a 5-minute boil, remove the chicken bones from the pot, and rinse them in cold water. This will blanchir (blanch) the bones
- Discard the liquid that you boiled the skin and bones in as well as the foam that has been produced by the boiling.
- Clean and refill the pot with fresh, cold water, and put the bones and skin back in.
- Bring the contents to a boil again, and add the mirepoix (2 medium chopped onions; 5 carrots, peeled and chopped in small pieces; 5 celery stalks, chopped). Add 5 parsley sprigs, 5 branches of fresh thyme, 5 bay leaves, 10 peppercorns, and 5 cloves. You may also add two cups of dry white wine. The mirepoix and herbs give sweetness and aroma, and the wine gives tartness and savoriness. Do not salt, because the meat and vegetables release some salt on their own, and the liquid becomes concentrated as the stock reduces.
- Cook very slowly for up to 4 hours.
- Filter stock through a fine-mesh sieve or a cheesecloth, and put it in a cool place.
- The next day, you should have a soft semi-solid that is a gelatin-like white stock. At this point, remove the congealed fat from the surface by easily scraping it off with a knife or spoon.
- For the brown stock, instead of initially boiling the meat pieces as you did with chicken, you blanchir by roasting them at a high temperature. Spread out 5 pounds of veal bones on a large, shallow pan or baking sheet. Roast in a 500° oven for about 40 minutes, until the bones are brown. The high heat forces the blood (the impurities) out of the meat and the bones. This process will intensify the flavor of your stock.
- In a separate shallow pan or dish, spread out the mirepoix (same quantity as for the white stock). Brown it in the oven at 500° for about 20 minutes, turning over the onions, carrots, and celery every 5 minutes.
- Place all the meat and bones, the mirepoix, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, and peppercorns into an 18-quart stock pot. Fill the pot almost to the top with cold water.
- Cook gently on low heat for 12 to 15 hours or until the liquid has reduced down to a third of its original volume. In other words, two-thirds of the liquid will have evaporated. The bigger the pot, the longer you will need to cook the stock. I would cook mine for 36 hours. You must cook your stock very slowly, uncovered, for better evaporation and better flavor.
- Filter your stock through a fine-mesh sieve or a cheesecloth. Throw away all the solid bits left in the sieve. Put the stock pot in a cool place for the night. In the morning, remove the layer of fat from the surface of your stock by scraping it off with a spoon or knife. You will now have a clear, light brown stock that is like a heavy gelatin. A great stock is judged by flavor, clarity, color, body, and aroma.
- By reducing your brown stock even more, you can concentrate it into meat ice, which the French call demi-glace and glace. For a demi-glace, keep cooking your brown stock after you have filtered it to make a clear, light brown liquid. Reduce this new liquid to 40 percent of its volume; in other words, 60 percent of the volume of your filtered liquid will have evaporated. To create glace, cook it until it is at 10 percent of the volume of the filtered stock; in other words, 90 percent of the filtered stock will have evaporated.
- Meat glace is used in small quantities to lend flavor and body to sauces.
BONUS: A French Twist on Thanksgiving Turkey
“Francis knows his Bible, Francis knows food, and he knows the right relationship between them.”
– Douglas Wilson, from the foreword
“His expertise, passion, and graciousness just slosh over the rim of these pages.”
–Valerie Ann Bost