Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Taking stock

There was a recent article in Huffington Post on "bone broth."  It's now a "health craze."  We just used to call it "stock," or even more simply, "soup."

Saveur Magazine got into the topic, too, in its Saveur 100 list for January 2015.

They used to laugh at us when we abstained from meat on Fridays during Lent.  Now "Meatless Mondays" are the hipster foodie craze, and of course, perfectly sensible.  Funny how we were ahead of the curve on these things...

I've made many a pot of stock in my life.  Few things are as satisfying from a cooking perspective as making a pot of stock.  Few things as satisfying from an eating perspective, too.

And I love buying the ingredients for a good stock: chicken bones (cheap, cheap, cheap!) from Giunta's in Reading Terminal Market, turkey or chicken necks and wings, beef shank bones, pork neck or rib bones.  They all make great stock.  Making stock is a great way to clean out the freezer, especially when you're frugal enough to save carcasses from roasted chickens, beef rib bones, chicken backs and necks, and leftover but uneaten roasts, chops, or chicken.

Pork and beef bones, from the local Korean supermarket, HMart.  The beef shank bones
give you the bonus of tender, delicious meat to chop and add to your finished soup.

More often than not, I brown the bones in a 350°F oven until nicely colored -- about 30-45 minutes, depending on the meat.  I'll typically toss a carrot or an onion in with the meat to brown alongside.

Browned meat then goes into the colander insert of my 12-qt pasta pot.  The meat is covered with a generous amount of cold water (around 8 quarts), and the pot is brought to the simmer.  With roasted/oven-browned meats, there typically isn't much scum to skim off, as you have with raw meats used for stock.

After the pot has come to a good simmer, I add my aromatics: an onion (halved, but not peeled), two carrots, two ribs of celery, a handful of parsley (or just parsley stems), half a dozen garlic cloves (not peeled, but each clove halved), a teaspoon of thyme or a few thyme sprigs if you have them, a bay leaf, a teaspoon of peppercorns. 

The pot is again brought to the simmer, the heat reduced, the pot covered.  Simmering time can be as little as 2 hours, and up to 5 or 6, depending on how much time and patience you have.  A long-simmering stock pot yields a richer, tastier stock. 

A pot of stock (in this instance, turkey) just underway. 

When your stock is finished simmering, let it cool substantially in the pot.  The wisdom of using the pasta pot for stock is that you can lift out the colander insert, with all the stock components, and let it drain.  Pick off any meat you'd like to reserve for your soup, and discard the rest.

If you wish, strain your stock through a fine-mesh sieve, cheesecloth, or even a moistened coffee filter fitted into a sieve, to remove any lingering bits. 

Typically, I pour the fresh stock into containers, let them chill in the fridge, then remove most of the fat.  At that point, you can use the stock for soup, freeze it for later use, or, if you want really rich stock, bring it back to a simmer in a large pot and let it reduce in volume to concentrate flavor.  This concentrated stock, because it was made with lots of bones, will almost certainly solidify into a jelly-like mass.  That's a good stock, full of protein in the form of gelatin, which offers the best taste and mouth-feel.

I never season stock when it is made, and only add salt later when I'm using the stock for soup, sauce, or other uses.  

 Ham and bean soup, made with ham stock.

A bubbling pot of green pea soup, made with a ham and pork-bone stock.

Cabbage soup with little meatballs.  Made with chicken stock.  

French onion soup, gratineed with toasted bread and Gruyère cheese, made with a rich beef stock.

And yes, I've even made vegetarian stock, which if you read the article, would not be the font of nutrition that a "bone broth" would be, as it is almost entirely devoid of protein, and certainly devoid of fat.

A pot of vegetable broth underway.  Lots of oven-roasted veggies (carrot, onion, celery), garlic, herbs, and dried mushrooms (of my own manufacture), which add "umami" to broth.  

Impressive color, from the roasted veggies and dried mushrooms.  Tasty, yes, but lacking the character of a meat and bone broth.

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