Monday, December 29, 2008
The Joy of Stock!
Happiness is a refrigerator full of stock.
I get a lot of accolades for making my own stock, but let me let you in on a little secret: If it was complicated, I wouldn't be doing it. Having homemade stock on hand is the easiest way to make yummy, flavorful food (not just soup!) and incredibly good for you to boot.
The basics: Buy a chicken (preferably organic, free-range, etc.) and roast it. Have I lost you already? Okay, buy a rotisserie chicken. Or two. Eat the meat for dinner and then throw the bones and all that good stuff from the roasting pan (yes, I mean the fat too, that's where the flavor is!) into the pot with some leftover wine or apple cider vinegar (about 1/2 a cup), a whole yellow onion, a couple of unpeeled carrots, and the butt end of a celery or celery leaves. Cover with water, bring it to boiling, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 24 hours. Cool, then strain and toss the veggies and scraps to the dogs (the bones are soft now).
I know, I know, you have to leave it on all night. If that worries you, do it in the crock pot. But make sure your crock pot doesn't contain lead, which many do. The wine or vinegar is important because its acidity leaches the minerals from the bones. All the good stuff from your veggies gets into the stock too, which can be reduced to a sauce later, and eaten over mashed potatoes or pasta. Mmmmm. What a fun way to eat your greens.
If you have beef bones, brown them first to bring out the flavor, then cook them for 36 hours (yes - three days!) and be sure to cool it and discard the fat. In both cases, be sure to check if it needs more water as it's cooking. I don't salt it until I'm ready to use it, in case I reduce it for sauce. If you're in a hurry for some beef stock, go ahead and strain after 12-24 hours, but then use the bones again with more veggies and wine/vinegar.
This is one of the secrets of ancient diets that kept people healthy. Why do you think they are making cancer treatments out of shark cartilage? And why is chicken soup the Jewish Penicillin? Give it a try. If you make beef stock let me know, and I will share my mother's amazing minestrone soup recipe!
One more tip - save and freeze your vegetable scraps. I know I really sound like your grandmother now, but those onion peels give your stock such a nice color. Keep adding to your zipper slide gallon bag every time you chop just about any veggie, and when you are ready to make stock, you'll be all set.
Once you've tasted your favorite recipes with homemade stock, there's no going back. You will treasure and cherish your bones. And truly have no shame about how you acquire them. Picture me, for instance, walking around the kitchen last night snatching up gnawed on chicken wings from the everyone's plates. It's okay, really. I'm going to boil them, after all.
Click here if you want to read more from the professionals, but while the weather outside is frightful, you should really make some stock!