If a recipe calls for stock, most cooks respond by opening a can of broth or dissolving a bouillon cube or bouillon granules. Only professionals or serious hobbyists make stock from scratch, a time-consuming process that requires expertise and an assortment of bones or fish parts that may not be easy to obtain.
Into this culinary gap have stepped two entrepreneurs, Jane Matyas of South Pasadena and Connie Grigsby of Lido Isle. Dedicated cooks, they have put on the market a line of frozen stocks--beef, chicken and fish--that are made in the classical French style.
So confident are Matyas and Grigsby of the quality of their product that they have named the line Perfect Addition. Introduced last May, the stocks are carried in upscale markets such as Bristol Farms, Gelson's, the Irvine Ranch Markets, Vons Pavilions, selected Hughes markets and Howie's Ranch Markets in the San Gabriel Valley. Distribution now extends from San Diego to Santa Barbara and will soon expand to the San Francisco Bay area.
What makes these additions perfect? Unlike bouillon cubes, which list salt as their main ingredient, the stocks are salt-free and also free of additives and preservatives. That is why they must be marketed frozen. There is no secret to the formula. "It's just good bones, good meat and good vegetables, wine and long cooking," Matyas said.
The stocks are brewed 200 gallons at a crack in a U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected plant in Fullerton. Soon production will increase to 300 to 400 gallons at a time, Matyas said. The beef and chicken stocks are selling the best.
"The fish stock doesn't sell quite as rapidly as the others. People aren't quite as knowledgeable about how to use a fumet, " Matyas observed. (Fumet is the French term for fish stock.)
Retail prices are high compared to those of canned broth and bouillon cubes. The eight-ounce cartons of frozen chicken or fish stock sell for about $2.39. The beef stock is slightly higher at $2.59 to $2.69. (Prices vary from market to market.)
Speaking of canned broths, Matyas said: "Broth to me is a byproduct of just meat and water. The only way you are going to get a rich stock is with meat and bones and your aromatic vegetables, some wine and a long, slow simmering. That's how you get good stock, and that's why it costs more."
For the chicken stock, Matyas and Grigsby use Zacky chickens, allotting a high proportion of chicken to water. Other components are fresh leeks, onions, carrots, shallots, parsley, thyme, water and white wine. Beef and veal bones and a variety of vegetables including tomatoes and onions go into the beef stock. The fish stock is made with halibut cages, which the women obtain from a wholesaler who sells the halibut fillets to restaurants.
Wine in Each Stock
They add wine to each stock to leach the calcium and gelatin from the bones. The stocks are so rich that they have a gelatinous texture when thawed. If the beef stock is reduced by half, it turns into demi-glace, a rich component of classic French sauces. The demi-glace will keep indefinitely in the freezer, Matyas and Grigsby said. The stocks can be stored frozen for at least nine months.
Neighborliness played a role in one ingredient. The women selected San Antonio Winery's Velvet Chablis as the wine after tasting it at the suggestion of Santo Riboli, vice president of San Antonio. Riboli lives across the street and a few doors down from Matyas.
To emphasize the "richness" of the stock and to draw attention, each carton is decorated with a drawing of a diamond-clad chicken, cow or fish.
Rich in flavor but not in fat, the stocks can be helpful to those on low-fat and low-sodium diets, Matyas and Grigsby said. Half the oil in a vinaigrette can be replaced with chicken stock, and food can be sauteed in stock instead of butter or oil. A thin film of stock will keep meat from sticking to the pan until it releases its own fats, they explained.
There are only 16 calories in one cup of the fish stock, 22 in one cup of the chicken stock and 25 for the same measure of beef stock. Salt is not added because it does not diminish when stock is boiled down, making the reduction overly salty. The only sodium present is the natural sodium from the vegetables.
Both Cooking Professionals
The women are new to business but professionals at cooking. Both were formerly associated with Bon Appetit magazine, Matyas as associate food editor in charge of the test kitchen and 18 testers, Grigsby as senior recipe developer and chief tester. Often they heard testers comment that their dishes would have been better if they had been able to work with a good, classic stock that could be reduced.
In researching the potential demand for ready-made stock, Matyas and Grigsby tagged each recipe that specified stock in an assortment of cooking magazines. When they were finished, the magazines were copiously fringed with yellow tags.