There are no shortcuts to building great flavors, and few things bear that philosophy out better than stock made from scratch.
To kick off the Chef It Up series, I couldn't think of a more fitting place than where many chefs start their recipes: stock.
Nowadays, it's easy to find stock in many forms at the grocery store, from powders to pastes and cartons of liquid. But there really is no substitute for a homemade stock.
For more than two decades, The Coach House, 6437 Avondale Drive, has been the playground of chef Kurt Fleischfresser, and few kitchens have produced more consistently delicious foods using classic French techniques.
At least one burner on the stove facing the tiny kitchen line at the Coach House,, which is under the Western Concepts umbrella, almost always holds an enormous stock pot. Whether the pot percolates with chicken, veal or beef stock is a matter of the calendar.
Fleischfresser's kitchen is not only the place where some of the state's finest foods are born but also some of it finest chefs. The Coach House Apprenticeship Program births chefs who complete a 36-month journey from the bottom rung of kitchen tasks to heading dinner service.
So, the kitchen is part classroom — meaning Fleischfresser and chef de cuisine David Henry have a responsibility to ignore shortcuts and preach the gospel of focusing on individual ingredients before combining them to build complex flavor profiles.
Few things could be more simple than stock, but that doesn't mean it's easy — especially if time-consuming falls under the definition of complicated in your lexicon.
Fleischfresser took time out of his schedule to talk to me about the importance of stock and show me how to make a simple blond chicken stock.
Of utmost importance, Fleischfresser said, is using high-quality, fresh chicken.
“Your stock will only be as good as the chicken you use,” he said. “There's no such thing as ‘Oh, this is going bad, I better make stock out of it.' Making the stock is only going to magnify the bad aspects.
“Making a stock is probably closer to my heart than a lot of chefs because the chef I trained under (Bernard Cretier) learned from Paul Bocuse and the Troisgros brothers, and he trained as a saucier,” Fleischfresser said. “The basis for all fine dining and, really, good food is all these little components that have to build up, and stock is literally the base for all that goes on in the kitchen.”
Fleischfresser said Cretier didn't let the apprentices make the stock at first. Rather, they did the simplest tasks such as cutting ingredients for the stocks into properly sized pieces before they moved up the chain of apprentices and finally to the chef.
“We make chicken, lamb, duck, veal, and they all have to be consistent, otherwise our dishes don't taste consistent.” Fleischfresser said.