Editor’s note: Cook Like a Chef is a feature designed to help you master cooking techniques that will give your homemade meals professional style and carefully crafted flavor. Each month, a chef instructor from Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College walks us through a skill or recipe.

If one of your goals this year is to become a better home cook, take some advice from Cascade Culinary Institute Chef Instructor Wayne Yeatman, and learn how to make homemade stock. It’s Cooking 101.

“It’s the foundation of most cuisine, whether you’re making rice or soup or sauces; starting with a good stock is basic. If your stock isn’t high quality, your soup, risotto or sauce isn’t going to be high quality,” Yeatman said.

Yeatman takes us through the steps to make both vegetable stock and chicken stock, and you can also visit The Bulletin’s website to see him in a video demonstration of the recipes.

In next month’s Cook Like a Chef, you can use your homemade stock to cook up a flavorful pot of perfect, creamy, al dente risotto.

Although the words “stock” and “broth” are often used interchangeably, they’re different.

“Broth is ready to serve and made with meat. Stock is not considered ready to serve but is an ingredient in a ready to serve item,” Yeatman said.

Making homemade stock is easy, economical and creative. It’s cheaper than buying from the store, Yeatman pointed out, since it can be made with food that’s already in the house.

While he acknowledged that some of the commercially boxed stock is “pretty good and convenient,” there are always vegetables and leftovers to use up at home.

“At our house, we buy whole chickens, because it’s more cost-effective, and break them down into pieces and have the carcass left and use that for stock, or roast a chicken and make stock with the roasted carcass,” he said.

“If you’re someone who cares about where your food comes from and like buying free-range meat without growth hormones or are eating a vegetarian diet without pesticides, making homemade stock gives you more control,” Yeatman said.

The creative and fun part of making stock at home is choosing the flavors you want for the recipe you’re making.

“If you want more of a carrot flavor or sweet flavor or onion flavor for a soup, you can make it what you want without a lot of work or money,” he said.

“For a well-rounded stock with a depth of flavor, you want vegetables in there. Some people add a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme and a dozen black peppercorns. I love leeks, so I use them. I like less onion and a little more leek. Leeks give a richer, buttery flavor,” Yeatman said.

Just avoid strong-flavored green vegetables such as asparagus, green beans, kale and spinach. They will turn a stock green and may impart an off flavor.

“I don’t even put celery in my chicken stock because I think it’s bitter,” Yeatman said.

The vegetable stock recipe below calls for fennel, but if you don’t care for its anise flavor, just add more of the other vegetables, Yeatman suggested.

“The fennel adds depth. It’s very subtle. When the onion and carrots and fennel cook out, it’s just sweet,” he said.

Five tips to stock success

Chef Yeatman said he has a handful of rules he follows to make great stock:

Skim, first and foremost. “When the stock starts heating, the impurities rise to the top. It’s fat and unwanted flavors. You want stock to be clear. Keep skimming it while it cooks,” Yeatman said.

Simmer, don’t boil. “Bring it to just boiling, and then simmer it with just bubbles, because boiling will make the stock cloudy,” Yeatman said.

No stirring. Stirring will make it cloudy, too.

Don’t cover the pot. “I want some reduction of the liquid,” Yeatman said.

No salt. “I love salt, I really do. My students laugh and say, ‘Add more salt, and Yeatman will like it.’ But don’t salt stock, because unsalted stock gives you so much more versatility. If you make stock with salt, when you reduce it for a sauce, it’ll get too salty,” he said.

Ice it to remove fat. Yeatman’s technique is to start chicken stock with a little less water than one normally would and add ice to solidify the fat and make it easy to remove. After icing, more ingredients are added, and the stock continues to cook.

Ladle stock into a sieve; don’t pour or push. When the stock is done cooking, gently ladle it through a fine mesh sieve or chinois, a metal conical sieve with an extremely fine mesh. Ladling will help keep the stock clear.

To cook like a chef, make homemade stock with fresh ingredients and the right balance of flavors (no salt), and we guarantee your meals at home will taste better.

Freeze some stock, and you’ll be ready for February’s Cook Like a Chef recipe and technique for risotto. Delicioso!

— Reporter: ahighberger@mac.com