Hot Stock Tip

You may as well start making stock this way, because I think you’re going to end up doing so sooner or later. Pressure cooker stock has been around for decades… like so many things that are now in fashion (canning, foraging, bread making). It is now being popularized by the new generation of “modernist” cooks: it appears in the massive, multi-volume Modernist Cuisine and its forthcoming little brother, Modernist Cuisine at Home, as well as Heston Blumenthal at Home.

In this case, I think the attention is well deserved. I’ve made half a dozen batches of stock this way, and it has several advantages over the standard method:

It takes less time to produce great stock: two hours rather than several
It takes much less energy (gas or electricity)
It doesn’t fill the kitchen with heat and steam
It keeps all of those aromatic molecules in the pot
There’s a lot less hands-on work (skimming)
It forces the ingredients to give up everything they have
It produces a clearer, cleaner looking stock more easily

The downsides?

You might not own a pressure cooker, and really good ones (stainless steel rather than aluminum) are not cheap
Unless you buy a seriously expensive pressure stockpot, you won’t be able to make more than 2 or 3 liters at a time
You miss out on some of the sensory pleasure of stock-making: the tending of it, the sight of it bubbling away, and the house-filling aroma. The pleasure of opening the lid and suddenly: “whoa, it’s stock!” has its merits, but it’s not exactly traditional.

When push comes to shove, though, I’m more likely to spend a little time making stock a few times a month rather than a whole lot of time making it once a month. This is something that’s going to result in me making more stock, and better stock.

Bonuses: pressure cookers are obviously good for a lot more than stock. For dried beans and grains, in particular, I find the pressure cooker makes the difference between never cooking them, and being generally happy to cook them even on a weeknight. And a really good pressure cooker is also a really good standard pot: our Kuhn Rikon ‘cooker is a heavy beast that’s never going to warp.

Heston Blumenthal’s White Chicken Stock

1.75kg chicken wings
150g peeled and finely sliced onion (approx. 2 medium onions)
150g peeled and finely sliced carrot (approx. 2 large carrots)
100g finely sliced button mushrooms
60g finely sliced celery (approx. 2 sticks of celery)
50g cleaned and finely sliced leek, white and pale green parts only (approx. 1 leek)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and bashed with the flat part of a knife or by hand
10g flat leaf parsley (stalks and leaves)
6 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
5g black peppercorns

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The precise ingredient amounts might seem a little obsessive, but it’s worth paying attention to them the first couple of times – you’ll then develop a good sense of what 50g of leek looks like.

Method:

Blanch the wings: put them in the pot, cover them with cold water, and bring them to a boil, skimming any scum that rises to the top. Strain them out, rinse them thoroughly under cold running water, clean the pot, and return the wings to the pot.

Cover the wings with cold water, and bring them up to pressure. Cook under high pressure for one hour. Let the pressure come down naturally.

Open the lid, and add the vegetables (but not the herbs). Bring the pot up to pressure again, and cook for 30 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally.

Now, add the herbs and spices and cover the pot, but keep it off of the heat. This extracts the delicate flavours without cooking them away.

Strain the stock through damp muslin or several layers of damp cheesecloth. Cool it rapidly in a sink of ice water, and refrigerate. The following day, scrape off the fat. There you have it: truly excellent stock.

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