Taking Stock

Part one of two.

   Common wisdom regarding the American holiday season is, usually, of the hard-boiled sort.  Where restraint is not encouraged, abstinence usually is.  The common theme might be to just let it go, where the it could as easily be the contentious politics of a ginned-up uncle, or, as they too are prevalent during this time of year, a ham.  But the marathon between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a long time to maintain so implacable a charade.  Which is why I do the cooking; when done correctly, food preparation is full of levity.

    But here too I must preach some restraint.  Regardless of cultural background, and however fine the intentions, elaborate meals have a way of submarining even the most congenial families.  Those more fractious nuclei, my own dear family very much included, depend upon the digestible and familiar to maintain its delicate equilibrium.  Even a single exotic tart might set the orbits wobbling; the friction from an ambitious fish dish would be terrible.  Curry—even mentioned, let alone present in the air—would sunder electrons.

    But simple meals of roasted meat or fowl and buttered vegetables need not be bland.  I should say, they need not be, as long as the home cook masters the making of stock, roux, and, the union of both in that most venerable lubricant of the holiday season: gravy.

Stock: Ingredients

Several Pounds of bones, preferably of the same species as the accompanying roast

Three to five white or yellow onions, quartered but with skin and paper left intact

Two or three large carrots, split and peeled

Two or three large stake of celery, cleaned

A small bunch of parsley

Two or three bay leaves

Several sprigs of thyme

Several peppercorns

Cold Water


In a large roasting tray put bones and vegetables and put into a preheated oven to roast until well browned (but not burned).  Transfer to a large stock pot.  Deglaze the roasting pan with some of the water and add to the pot.  Add the remainder of the water to within two inches of brim.  Add the herbs and peppercorns.  Make certain everything is covered by water, but resist the temptation to stir.  Put the pot on a rear hob and bring up to a boil.  Skim the scum that accumulates on the surface.  Reduce to a true simmer.  Simmer and occasionally skim for three to four hours.  Carefully drain through a colander or chinoise into another, smaller stock pot.  Wrap carefully and immediately refrigerate for later use.