01 09 10

search you little tarte

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bucket List

I have always wanted to make homemade beef stock but I never have.  It's funny because I've made chicken stock and vegetable stock.  I've even made fish stock but I've never made beef stock.  I'm not exactly sure why.

Oxtails... to make the beef stock
Oddly enough I have thought about this.  I think it might be because there are a lot of bones involved and making beef stock takes a really long time.  It's not that there aren't bones involved in making chicken stock or fish stock, it's just that somehow to me the beef bones sound more unappealing.

But the main reason I've never tackled beef stock before is that it has to cook forever.  And I'm not talking about an hour or two.  I'm talking about more like three hours.  And then there's all the fat to deal with.  Overnight refrigeration is a must.  So now we're up to a two day project and we haven't even done anything with the stock.
Sweating the veggies for the stock.
Having said all that,  my culinary hero, Melissa Clark recently wrote about making French onion soup in her column in The New York Times.  I thought to myself that if Melissa can do it, so can I.  And besides, while I am sure French onion soup made with beef stock from the box would be good, I am absolutely convinced that making it with real beef stock would be beyond delicious.

I'm not going to lie to you.  This was a project.  It was messy and greasy and yucky.  There was browning, simmering, straining, refrigerating, and defatting involved and that was all before I even made the French onion part of the French onion soup.

But I will tell you this.  Homemade stock made this recipe.  This was delicious beyond measure.  There are just no words to describe how rich and delicious this French onion soup was.  So delicious in fact, that if I ever made it again, I would go through all the mess and yuck again.

If you have any interest in really doing it up right, I urge you to add making your own beef stock to your bucket list.  And then make it.

Recipe:  One-Pot French Onion Soup With Garlic-Gruyère Croutons
Adapted from Philippe Bertineau, Benoit, Manhattan

Note:  I made my soup individually because I love the presentation (and I wanted my own blob of melted gruyere).  See below for instructions.

Time: 5 hours


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds oxtail or beef shoulder, cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces
8 medium onions
4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
Black pepper
1 cup port wine
Lemon juice, to taste, optional
6 ounces baguette loaf, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 garlic cloves, halved
8 ounces Gruyère cheese.


1. Heat the oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven over high heat. Add the oxtail (or beef shoulder) in a single layer (work in batches, if necessary to avoid crowding the pan), and sear until the undersides are brown (do not turn). Season generously with salt and transfer to a plate.

2. Coarsely chop two of the onions; add to the pot, along with the celery, carrots, bay leaves and thyme. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Return the beef to the pot. Pour in 8 cups water. Simmer mixture gently until the meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

3. Transfer beef to a bowl to cool for another use. Strain liquid into a bowl over a fine-mesh sieve; press gently on the solids with the back of a spatula to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the solids; you should have about 10 cups broth (add water if necessary to equal 10 cups).

4. Halve the remaining 6 onions through the root end, then peel and thinly slice them lengthwise. Melt the butter in the bottom of the Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, tossing occasionally, until deep golden-brown and caramelized, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Pour in the port and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, for 3 minutes. Pour in the broth and simmer mixture over low heat for 30 minutes. Season with salt and lemon juice, if desired. (For a smaller group, you could refrigerate some of the soup and reheat it later.)

5. While the broth simmers, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast until golden, about 12 minutes. Rub the garlic halves over the surface of the bread.

6. Heat the broiler and arrange a rack 4 to 6 inches from the flame. Using a cheese slicer, thinly slice 3 ounces of Gruyère. Coarsely grate the remaining cheese. Float the broiled bread over the surface of the hot soup. Layer the cheese slices over the bread; scatter the grated cheese over it. Transfer the Dutch oven to the oven and broil until cheese is golden and bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes (watch to see that it does not burn).

7. To serve, use kitchen shears or scissors to cut the bread and cheese into portions. Ladle soup, bread and cheese into individual bowls.

Yield: 8 servings.

Note: To broil the soup in individual bowls, place 8 ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. Fill with hot soup, top with broiled bread, shaved cheese and grated cheese, and run under the broiler until golden and bubbling. You may need to prepare it in batches.

1 comment:

  1. Melanie here! I enjoyed this piece, please email me--I have a question about your blog. MelanieLBowen[at]gmail[dot]com