When reducing a liquid for a sauce or stock, it can be difficult to accurately determine when the liquid has reduced to the desired amount—can you really tell at a glance? Here’s a good method to be absolutely sure. Before making your sauce, place enough water in a saucepan to equal the volume of the reduced sauce. Place a clean metal ruler into the water and note the mark the water reaches. Empty the pan to prepare the sauce. Periodically dip the ruler into the sauce to see if the sauce has reduced to the right level.
To prevent simmering sauces from splattering onto the stovetop, you can make your own splash guard. Take a round aluminum take-out container and poke at least a dozen holes in it with a skewer. The holes allow the steam—not the splatters—to escape. Stick the very fashionable hat on your simmering pot, and congratulate yourself on your clever handiwork.
Instead of defrosting a large container of homemade stock just to get a cup or so, you can freeze stock in small portions. Ladle the stock into nonstick muffin tins and freeze. When the stock is frozen, twist the muffin tin the same matter you twist an ice tray, tapping the bottom with a knife to loosen if necessary. Place the frozen blocks in a zipper-lock bag, seal tightly, and use as needed.
The appeal of freezing stock flat in bags is that you can store and stash them very easily. Line a coffee mug with a quart-sized zipper-lock bag (this keeps the bag open so both hands will be free for pouring). Fill the bag almost to the top with room temperature stock and seal it. Repeat until all the stock has been placed in bags. Stack the bags flat in a large, shallow roasting pan and freeze. Once the stock is solidly frozen, the bags can be removed from the pan and stored in the freezer wherever there’s room.