09- The Basics: Stock

Serves: 5
Total Calories: 330


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Stock, Chicken
Stock, Meat
Stock, Secondary


In Chinese cooking, stock never intrudes on the flavors of other ingredients. It's always neutral and delicate. Chicken stock, being the most delicate, is most preferred. Pork, often used in combination with chicken, is next. Beef stock is never used-its flavor is too hearty, too pronounced.

Stock is only as good as the ingredients which go into it. A few bones, some shreds of meat-no matter how long they're simmered-will never produce a rich, pure stock. The better the stock ingredients, the better the final dish.

There are two grades of stock: primary and secondary. Primary, made with fresh meat, is the richer, purer and more concentrated. It calls for a maximum of meat, a minimum of liquid. The meat may be a whole chicken, chicken and pork combined, or pork alone. Secondary stock uses uncooked bones from meat or poultry. Chicken bones are the first choice, pork the second. They are also good in combination. Bones left over after cooking can be used, but make a very weak stock.

Stock is simple to prepare. Both primary and secondary stocks are cooked in the same way: the meat or bones are placed in the pot with cold water to cover. They are then heated simultaneously. This enables the meat juices to flow out and blend with the liquid. * When the liquid comes to a boil, the heat is reduced at once to a simmer. As fat and impurities rise to the surface, they are skimmed off until they no longer accumulate. This takes about five minutes and helps keep the soup light.

NOTE: If the liquid is permitted to boil at this point, the fat and impurities will incorporate themselves with the stock and make it cloudy. (Some cooks get a clear soup by scalding the meat or poultry first, then cooking the stock according to recipe directions. The scalding is done by immersing the meat or bird in boiling water, bringing it quickly to a boil again, then pouring off all the liquid and rinsing meat or bird at once under cold running water.)

After the skimming, the soup pot is covered and the ingredients are simmered slowly for 2 to 3 hours. (The longer stock cooks, the more concentrated it becomes.) Once in the pot, stock needs little attention. It can also be turned off at any point, and the cooking resumed later. If more liquid is needed at any time, only boiling water is added. (Cold water will spoil the flavor.)

The meat and bones are then removed and the vegetables (diced or cut in chunks) are added. The vegetables, depending on their tenderness or toughness, are simmered from 15 to 30 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, the seasonings are added. (The meat from primary stock can be eaten hot or cold, accompanied by a soy or hot-mustard dip. It can also be combined with other ingredients and used in steamed, stir-fried and deep-fried recipes.)

* When cooking a whole chicken, if you're more interested in the bird than in the stock, put it in boiling water, which will seal in its juices and make the bird more tasty. The same is true of meat. With meat, the larger pieces can also be browned in oil first. The stock, of course, won't be as flavorful.


Fat is most easily removed after the stock is refrigerated and chilled. The fat will congeal and harden into a solid disk at the top. It can then be lifted out as one piece. (If there isn't time to chill the stock, let it stand for five minutes until fat rises to the top. Then either skim with a spoon or ladle, or draw up with a bulb-type meat baster. A lettuce leaf or paper towel floated on the surface will absorb the last few globules of fat.)

Unless cooled after cooking, stock is apt to sour. To cool, simply remove the lid and let the temperature gradually diminish. When the contents have cooled completely, cover the pot tightly.

Before storing stock, strain out all the solids and vegetables (use either a double layer of cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer) and pour into a jar. Cover tightly and refrigerate. (If reheated to the boiling point every 3 or 4 days, stock will keep for a long period of time.)

Strain out all the solids and let cool. Pour the stock into Plastic containers (either quart or pint), allowing about 1 inch head room in each. Seal tightly and place in the freezer.

NOTE: Freezing makes sense because stock lends itself to preparation in quantity. Maximum storage time recommended is six months.

Both primary and secondary stocks can be enriched by adding (during the last hour of cooking) a ham bone and one pound of peeled and diced turnips, or a slice or two of Smithfield ham, or dried scallops, squid or shrimp. Fresh seafood such as lobster, shrimp and clams may also be added. These need only about 5 minutes of cooking.

Canned chicken broth, bouillon powders or cubes can be used. Of the three, canned broths are best. Although not comparable to freshly made stock, they are concentrated, clear, economical and a time saver. Select those types seasoned with salt but not with stronger spices. Their flavor can be enriched with chicken or pork bones, chicken or duck giblets, or a few slices of fresh pork. Never add monosodium glutamate: it has already been added. For a lighter soup, use a mixture of one-half canned broth, one-half water. The next best substitute is bouillon powder. This is richer and less salty than bouillon cubes. (Should the saltier cubes be used, the amount of soy sauce and salt called for in the recipe must be reduced.)

Stock can also be made from any leftovers or odds and ends, including bits of meat, fish, vegetables, scrapings from the bottom of the skillet, water in which mushrooms have been soaked and the liquid from canned or parboiled vegetables.

When no stock of any kind is on hand, the following can be substituted: 1 teaspoon monosodium glutamate stirred into 1 cup water, to which 1 teaspoon soy sauce and a dash of pepper may also be added.

The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook. ©1994 by Gloria Bley Miller.

Nutritional Facts:

Serves: 5
Total Calories: 330
Calories from Fat: 30

This 09- The Basics: Stock recipe is from the Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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