A plain tomato sauce can contain little more than tomatoes with some simple seasonings but other, more complex, varieties will include garlic, onions and other vegetables somewhere in the cooking process. Likewise, a truly rich tomato sauce, particularly those destined to be a ‘Sunday gravy’ will frequently be ‘beefed up’ (if you will pardon the expression) with stocks based on chicken or other meats.
For my experimental project to create a Sunday gravy that can be built upon and enhanced over the long term (please see yesterday’s Introductory Post), I am going to first make a rich meat stock using beef and pork hocks so that the collagen and other proteins released by the skin and bone will work with the meaty flavors to give a good, hearty body to our final sauce…
- 2 lbs. Beef Marrow Bones
- 2 meaty Pork hocks
- 1 Medium Onion, cut in half
- ½ cup dried Porcini Mushrooms (optional)
- 1 tbsp. Peppercorns
- 2 generous pinches of Salt
- 1 cup White Wine
- 4 quarts water (more or less)
Our first task is to briefly roast the meat, bones and onion in order to get a bit of caramelization going for added flavor. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and then rub a little oil over the bones, hocks and onion. Sprinkle them with a pinch of the salt and then place them in a roasting pan. Roast this for about an hour or so, turning the bones and hocks occasionally, until everything is cooked through nicely browned.
Once you have accomplished the browning operation, rinse the bones and hocks well under running water to flush away excess fat and remove any loose ‘bits’.
Transfer the hocks, bones, and onion to a stockpot and add the pepper, wine, mushrooms and the other pinch of salt. Add the water ensuring that everything is submerged. The mushrooms and onions will float but after the first two hours of the cooking process they will have given up their flavor and can be removed.
Bring the water to a low boil and then turn the heat down until you can maintain a nice light simmer. Brew the stock, skimming off any fat or scum that rises, for 5 to 6 hours.
At the end of the simmering, strain the brew through a fine sieve to remove all the solids. For a clear soup broth you might want to actually filter through cheesecloth or something but, since this recipe is destined for a tomato sauce, this is not really necessary. By this time, the stock should be about half to two thirds of it’s original volume and, since we want a good strong brew, we can reduce it further by cooking at a low boil in a fresh pot until just a quart, to a quart and a half, remains.
After reducing, allow the stock to cool and then pop it into the fridge for a bit until any remaining fat has congealed on the surface. There shouldn’t be a lot if you skimmed frequently during simmering but whatever remains can now be lifted off with a spoon. As you can see, this batch has so little fat that it is not really worth removing.
Here is a close up shot of a small saucer of the cooled stock. The proteins from the bones, tendons and, especially, from the skin, have given a jelly consistency to the finished product that will translate into a lovely rich body in our sauce. In a future experiment, sometime, I will be using a similar process to make the filling for the famous Chinese ‘soup dumplings’ known as Xiaolongbao…
For now, however, keep following and we will use our stock in the creation of our basic tomato sauce for the Sunday Gravy…