How to make beef stock
To make beef stock, you must be willing to give up a day of your life, and you're probably thinking, what could be worth that? One thing: real French onion soup. You cannot make it without real beef stock. Well, you can, but please don't. Homemade beef stock is rich in flavor, yet more delicate and less salty than store-bought. Make the stock this weekend, and come back in a few days for the onion soup recipe. You can use the stock for incredible mushroom-barley soup, too, so there's another reason to have homemade beef stock on hand.
How to make beef stock
Beef stock isn't terribly photogenic, but it is a beautiful thing. Makes 3 quarts.
5 lbs beef bones, preferably with some meat attached, cut into 2-inch pieces (ask the butcher to do this)
1 large onion, skin on, cut in half
2 carrots, washed, cut in half
3 lb chuck or bottom round roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 stalks celery
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 large bay leaf
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place beef bones, onion halves and carrots on a rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss everything to get a bit of oil on it. When the oven is heated, place the sheet pan in the oven and roast for 1 hour, until the bones and vegetables are brown.
Place the roasted bones, onions and carrots in a large (12-quart) stock pot with 6 quarts of water. (Don't wash the sheet pan; you'll be using it again.) Bring to the boil, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 1 hour.
In the meantime, place the cubes of chuck or bottom round on the same sheet pan. Season lightly with kosher salt and pepper, and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes, turning the beef once, or until it is thoroughly browned on all sides.
After the bones have been cooking for 1 hour, add the browned beef along with the celery, peppercorns and bay leaf to the stock pot. Continue to simmer for 1-1/2 hours.
Remove the bones from the pot, and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the chunks of meat (reserve the meat for soup or sandwiches), and raise the temperature to high. Boil the stock down until it is reduced by half (approximately 20-30 minutes). Taste, and add up to 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper if you wish. I prefer to season the stock when I use it, depending on other ingredients in the recipe I'm making.
Allow the stock to cool in the pot for 1 hour. Some of the fat will coagulate, and some of the bits will sink to the bottom. Using a ladle, pour the soup through a fine-mesh strainer (or a large strainer lined with cheesecloth) into a storage container. When the stock is thoroughly cool, refrigerate the stock for up to one week, or freeze it for up to six months.
Before using, remove the solid layer of fat that will have coagulated on top of the stock. If you wish, strain the stock a second time through a layer of cheesecloth. I seldom do this, but it does yield a very clear stock.