Once you’ve committed to turning trim, bones and carcasses into a tasty stock, what can you do with it? Pretty much any recipe that calls for beef broth, chicken broth or those hideous bouillon cubes can be made better by using your own homemade stock.
The type of recipes best suited for a particular kind of stock depends on the critters you used to make the stock. For instance, a reduced stock made from lighter-fleshed upland game is ideal as a replacement for chicken broth or stock. Darker-fleshed waterfowl and antlered game stocks are an upgrade from canned beef broth.
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Stocks can be reduced by simmering at low temperature in an uncovered pot. Once reduced, the flavor is much more concentrated. One of the benefits of reducing stocks prior to freezing is that it takes up much less room in the freezer. For a simple pan sauce, simply add a few tablespoons of the reduced stock to the skillet, throw in some mushrooms until soft and whisk in a little chilled butter to smooth out the edges of the sauce.
Pan sauces are a thing of beauty. You start by seasoning the meat and browning evenly on both sides in a lightly oiled hot skillet. As the meat browns, little bits of meaty goodness get stuck to the bottom of the skillet. This is one of the reasons why I much prefer a cast iron skillet over one that’s non-stick. Once the meat is just a tad underdone, remove it from the skillet and keep warm. While still on the burner, add some stock and stir to dislodge whatever is stuck to the skillet. Reduce the liquid by half before adding whatever else you’d like in your sauce. A splash of bourbon, fresh herbs, mushrooms, diced tomato, caramelized onions, peppers…you get the idea. Adding a big splash of whipping cream and reducing it by half will transform your pan sauce into something silky, smooth and creamy.
Video: Chef John McGannon’s hands illustrate how to make “Venison Medallions with a Bourbon Mushroom Cream Sauce.”