Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: "Stocking" your kitchen for soup weather




Hello my hungry lovelies! I don't know about you all but even though the temperatures still reach eighty during the day I am in full soup making mode. Fall has arrived and so will the comfort foods that come with it. The butternut squash risotto I shared with you all...I have made it twice already. Man! That stuff is so good.

Ok...so most soup generally calls for some sort of liquid or broth. If the soup calls for water, do yourself a favor and add either veggie or chicken stock (or beef if you are cooking with beef) and let the added flavor take you away to your happy place. So, how do you get to this happy place with the broth amazingness? Well, I can help you with that today.

You may ask, "can't I just use the little bouillon cubes or canned broth from the store?" Why of course you can! (I can only type/say that with the accent of the lovely Ms. Truvy in "Steel Magnolias"--I hope that is how you read it.) But, do you know how much sodium is in that jar/can? Or if there are any weird preservatives? You will know if you make your own though! Below are some recipes I have found or techniques I use when I make broth. Yes it does take time and effort but let it be known that you will feel so accomplished and proud of yourself should you attempt to conquer this culinary treasure.

First up:

Veggie Stock
 
Vegetable stock is an excellent substitute for chicken stock, and is a must for all types of vegetarian cooking.
To make 4 cups of vegetable stock we used 2 large onions, 2 medium carrots, 3 stalks of celery, 1 whole bulb of garlic, 10 peppercorns, and a bay leaf.
  • Chop the vegetables into large chunks rather than small dice. The stock should simmer for a full hour--and over time, the stock will take on all of the flavors of the vegetables.
  • Remove and discard leaves from the celery stalks. Celery leaves, especially those on the outside of the bunch, are bitter and should not be added.
  • Slice the celery into large pieces.
  • Peel and chop the carrots into large pieces. If you'd like to preserve more of the carrots' nutrients, don't peel them. Instead, scrub them under cold running water, then chop into large pieces.
  • Garlic is the base flavor for this stock, so we use a whole bulb of garlic. Break up the bulb into individual cloves. Peel the garlic using the method shown in Peeling Garlic. There's no need to chop the garlic.
  • Once all of your ingredients have been prepared, combine them in a large stockpot--large enough to hold the covering water.
  • Add aromatics to the vegetable medley. We used peppercorns and a bay leaf. You can also add herbs or scraps leftover from other dishes. Potato scraps will help thicken the stock a little. Parsley, thyme, or rosemary stems are other good additions. If you're planning on using this stock in an Asian recipe, try adding fresh, peeled ginger.
  • Pour enough water into the stockpot to completely immerse the vegetables. An interesting trick to making delicious, thick vegetable stock is to use potato water strained from mashed potatoes along with (or instead of) water!
  • Turn the stove to a high temperature, and bring the stock to a quick boil. Once the water has begun to boil, turn the stove down to low. Allow the vegetables to simmer for an hour. Any longer than an hour and the vegetables will begin to turn mushy and begin to lose all their vibrant flavor.
  • Strain your stock through a fine mesh straining device. Cheesecloth placed in a colander would also work well.
  • The stock should be light in color, sweet, and translucent. If you want a darker colored stock, caramelize the onions and carrots (see Caramelizing Onions) before placing them in the stockpot. Alternately, roast the vegetables until caramelized, then add them to the stockpot.

Chicken Stock:

When I make stock I start with a whole chicken in the crock pot. We eat the meat for dinner or make my favorite chicken salad and then reserve the bones and skin in the crock pot with the onions and celery I stuffed inside the bird before cooking. Add a few cups of water to the pot and cook on low overnight. In the morning allow it to cool, skim the fat off of the top of the cooled broth and strain it before dividing into containers for later use.  So easy and hands free. The recipe below has a few more steps but sounds even better than mine.

              Basic Chicken Stock
1lbs chicken parts, 1 large onion, 3 stalks celery (including some leaves), 1 large carrot, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3 whole cloves, 6 cups water, 1/4 cup cold water (optional), 1 egg
  1. Quarter onion. Chop scrubbed celery and carrot into 1 inch chunks. Place chicken pieces, onion, celery, carrot, salt, and cloves in large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add 6 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Remove chicken and vegetables. Strain stock. Skim fat off the surface.
  3. To clarify stock for clear soup, removing solid flecks that are too small to be strained out with cheesecloth, follow this method. Separate the egg white from the egg yolk, and reserve the shell. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup cold water, egg white, and crushed eggshell. Add to strained stock, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Strain again through a sieve lined with cheesecloth.

Beef Stock 

  Beef stock takes about eight hours to simmer, but once it’s done, you’ll have a great base for soups, sauces, stews, and other savory dishes.
  • Ingredients: 1 tomato or 3 ounces tomato paste, 1 large carrot, 2 celery stalks, 2 medium onions, 15 black peppercorns, and 1 bay leaf (optional ingredients: herb stems from parsley and thyme). You can use beef bones and beef trimming without the fat (beef trimming is not required, but adds a lot of flavor), and you can also purchase “stew meat” to enhance the stock's flavor. We recommend using 6 pounds of bones, and 2 pounds stew meat.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C), place the bones (not the trim) onto a sheet pan, and put the pan into the oven. Do not heat the oven any higher than 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) or the bones' surface can burn, resulting in a bitter-tasting stock. Cook for about 35 minutes or until the bones are well browned, turning occasionally.
  • While the bones are in the oven, coarsely cut up the carrots, celery, and onion. This combination of ingredients is known as mirepoix. Also cut up the tomato (if you are using one). Keep all of the vegetables separate--you will add them at different times.
  • Place a large stockpot on the stove and turn the heat to high. Once the pot is hot, add 1 tablespoon of light olive or vegetable oil. (This pot will be used first to caramelize the vegetables. Caramelizing of both the bones and the vegetables will create a more complex and robust stock. Without caramelization, the stock will have a very murky look and muddy taste.)
  • Add onions and carrots, stirring constantly until onion is soft and caramel colored--about 15 minutes.
  • Add the tomato product. If you use a paste, you will not need to cook the mixture as long as if you use fresh tomatoes.
  • Once the vegetables are caramelized to a dark color, add the celery.
  • At this point, the bones should be a light brown roasted color, but not burnt. If they have burned slightly, pick those spots off; or where the bones are too burned, throw the bones away.
  • If you have any trim to add to your beef broth, add it to the sheet tray with the bones now.
  • Once the bones and trim have turned a consistent roasted brown, add them to the caramelized vegetables. Cover with water to one inch above the level of the bones and vegetables. Once stock has been heated, turn stove to low and simmer. Do not let stock boil.
  • Add bay leaf and black peppercorns to beef broth, as well as herb stems from parsley and thyme if, you choose.
  • The sheet tray now contains crystallized drippings from the bones and trim, known as fond. The fond contains a lot of concentrated flavor, so you’ll want to add it to the stock. Place this tray on top of a burner and add a small amount of water, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. (This is known as deglazing.)
  • Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove the bits of fond. The liquid combined with the heat from the stove will cause the fond to quickly hydrate and blend with the water.
  • Once all or most of the fond has been removed from the pan, add to the stockpot.
  • After a while, the fat and impurities from the bones and meat trimming will float to the top. Skim this fat off the top, being careful not to capture too much of the stock in the ladle. Repeat this step over and over as new layers of fat form. You want to prevent fat from getting back into the stock as this is what creates a muddy flavor and cloudy appearance. 
  • After about eight hours of skimming and simmering, strain the stock. Often small meat and bones particles can form.
  • Strain the stock through a cheesecloth after the initial straining, just to make certain it’s clean and free of debris.
  • When the beef stock is done it should be dark brown in color.
  • At this point, you can also reduce this stock to create what is known as “glace.” Gently simmer the stock over low heat until it has reduced to approximately 10% of its original volume, and is nearly the consistency of maple syrup. This will take several hours, and great care must be taken that the glace does not burn, especially towards the end of the reduction process. Often people will freeze their reduced stock into ice cube trays and then add one cube at a time to some water, reconstituting the amount to the original strength in consistency, viscosity, and flavor.

When it comes to storing your fresh stock you can keep it in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days but a couple of months in the freezer. One idea a lot of people have shared and liked is to freeze the broth in ice cube trays for easy defrosting and portion control.

 Our kitchen art is from Emproud on Etsy. And thanks to Allrecipes.com for the recipes today.

Enjoy your comfort food!

-Alison

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