speaking of making stock...
whence the "thou shalt never permit thy stock to boil!" prohibition?
I've heard that this makes your stock cloudy; is that right? (bonus question, for the food scientists: why would boiling have that effect when simmering does not?) And what's so bad about cloudy stock, anyway? Is the concern purely aesthetic, or does it affect the flavour?
I've never had a problem ending up with great tasting stock after letting my stock come to a simmer or a gentle boil. Personally, for my uses cloudy stock is not a problem, but if you want to clarify stock after its been strained and degreased, the tried and true method recommended by Julia Child is to whisk in the white of an egg into the hot but not simmering stock and strain it though a cheesecloth. The egg will pick up the little bits of stuff in the stock and viola, clear broth!
I think the boiling releases all the blood and guts insides the bones and so your soup gets cloudy. But unless you are making a connsomme where you need clear stock, I don't think it's that important. I boil my stock all the time (sorry can't wait six hours) and use them in stews, soups, gravy and they all tastes good.
The other poster's methods of clarifying with eggs are mentioned in many traiditonal consomme recipes. I've never tried it, but it's almost magical the way they describe egg white, egg shells, groud meat all coming together as a "raft" and picking up bits and pieces of stuff to make your soup clear... Oh, I seem to remember reading somewhere that if you boil your stock no amount of clarifying with eggs will clear it up, but don't quote me on that one.
re: Wendy Lai
"I think the boiling releases all the blood and guts insides the bones and so your soup gets cloudy."
There are no blood or guts in bones. There is collagen, though, in the connective tissues and that is best released with a long simmer. The stock gets cloudy because boiling makes all of the molecules in the stock bounce around so much and break into smaller pieces. Plus, when the stock boils it will reduce much faster, and you're not trying to make a reduction.
"But unless you are making a connsomme where you need clear stock, I don't think it's that important."
Well, the asthetics of cloudy stock may not matter to you, but when you make a cloudy stock, you also do other bad things, as I wrote above. You tend to extract much less collagen and you tend to lose a lot of the water. If you are pressed for time, try making your stock in a pressure cooker, rather than boiling it.
"The other poster's methods of clarifying with eggs are mentioned in many traiditonal consomme recipes. I've never tried it, but it's almost magical the way they describe egg white, egg shells, groud meat all coming together as a "raft" and picking up bits and pieces of stuff to make your soup clear."
The magic is caused by protein in the raft attracting small molecules from the stock. They essentially stick to the raft, so when you remove the raft, the remaining liquid is exremely clear.
Three things one should never do to stock:
The true clear stocks have come to a bare simmer for serveral hours which allows the bones to release all their proteins - aka flavor. A clear stock is sticky to the touch, very rich and lends itself to perfect sauces, etc.
Naturally, the home cook, being pressed for time, may make all sorts of short cuts. If, however, you're going to make true stock for more than just a quick soup, take the time to do it right every time. It's never disappointing that way and you will be pleased with the consistenty it lends to everything you add to it and make with it.
Clarifying stock for consumme by creating a raft of eggwhites, ground meat, etc. produces a most excellent product that has so many possibilities.
When one takes these steps to make stock and consumme correctly there is a noticable, remarkably different result in one's cooking. It's the difference between "Chowhound" and true "Gourmet," perhaps.