Welcome to a new but crucial topic here at Lust for Cooking: Tips & Tricks. Otherwise known as The Basics or “How to Fish.” You know the old adage, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” This is where we will do our damnedest to show you “how to fish.” NOT literally. This isn’t a sporting blog. But “how to fish” in the kitchen. The real trick to loving cooking is knowing how food works. Then you become the master of your ingredients, and you can cook anything.
Important tip #1. HOMEMADE STOCK.
Why make your own stock? You can go to the grocery store and buy a box that’s exactly 4 cups. You can even get organic. So why bother?
Well, the sodium count for one thing. Holy criminy. The sodium content on some prepackaged stock and broth boxes is extraordinary. And don’t get us started on bullion. They have to add salt as a preservative so it can sit on the un-refrigerated grocery shelf. But you don’t have to add any to homemade stock. And really it doesn’t need it. Salt should only come in while seasoning the final product, such as soup or risotto, but if it’s already in the stock, chances are the final product will be overloaded.
The second reason is bones. Bone broth is soooooo good for you. The nutrients that come out of bones go a long way toward a healthy lifestyle. Chicken soup is known as a cure-all, not because of anything Campbell’s did, but because real bone broth will give a sick body the fortification it needs to fight off a cold. And really, do we trust these food processors to be giving us the most nutrient dense content? No. Not even a little.
And third, and possibly most importantly, it’s FREE. Yeah, you read that right. It’s free. It doesn’t cost anything. $0.00. Really. Why? It’s made completely from scraps. Things you would otherwise be throwing out. We at Lust for Cooking are big on preventing waste, and making your own stock, well, it kills two birds with one stone … or two fish…or whatever. You get the metaphor. So here’s how it works:
You need bones. Any bones, really. Chicken, pork, beef. Did you have a bone-in pork roast lately? How about some beef ribs for a BBQ? Chicken wings? Any and all roasted bones are what you need. Throw those bad boys in the freezer. They will keep for a very long time. And when you’re ready, they can go right from the freezer to the stock pot. For visual purposes, I’m using a chicken carcass left over from a roast chicken dinner. The meat was picked clean to use in enchiladas, and yes, it still has some garlic and lemon stuffed inside. It’s all good. Through it all in.
Veggie scraps. Here is where you will find nuance. If you google “stock recipe,” it’s the veggies that vary from recipe to recipe. The standard formula is carrots, celery, onion. But honestly the secret is…. it doesn’t matter. What vegetables do you like? What do you eat often? That’s what will work well in your stock. Here is the awesome hidden secret to stock-making. Freeze all of your veggie scraps.
At Lust for Cooking we keep a large Tupperware in the freezer that is usually overflowing with broccoli, cauliflower, and kale stems, onion scraps, bell pepper tops, carrot and Brussel sprout nubs, fennel fronds, apple cores, asparagus tips, mushroom and cilantro stems, and those obnoxious tiny garlic gloves in the middle of the bulb. These seemingly inedible portions are all still loaded with flavor.
In order to determine what to use, just keep in mind what your final product will be. If you’re going for tortilla soup, then the pepper tops are perfect. If you are looking for a sweet pork base, then apples cores are great. If you want a hearty vegetable broth, then mushrooms are your best friend.
Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong here. We at Lust for Cooking have never made the same stock twice. Just remember, you will almost always want to include those onion scraps and garlic cloves. Everything else is subjective. Experiment. Try different combos. Mushrooms = hearty. Kale stems = dark. Carrots = sweet. And so on.
For all types of stock, put all your ingredients in a big stock pot, fill it with water, bring it to a boil, then immediately lower the temperature to a gentle simmer. Then walk away. Really, that’s the gist. Any day you think you’ll be home for a few hours, it’s stock making time. (We don’t recommend leaving the house with the stove unattended, however, for safety’s sake.) It’s especially easy with the frozen veggie scraps. No chopping necessary. How long do you simmer? Here are the basic guidelines for each type. But these are rough guidelines. When it tastes less like watery something-er-rather and more like wholesome deliciousness, it’s done:
Veggie stock- 2 hours
Chicken stock – 4 hours
Pork or beef stock – 6+ hours
This is a valuable extra step, especially for bone stock. As your stock simmers, check out the surface. If there is a lot of foam or grease, grab a spoon and skim that off. Those are impurities from the bones. They’re not dangerous or anything, but they will cloudy up your stock and muddle the flavor. Better to remove them.
Once the stock is done, pour it out through a fine sieve to catch all of your solids. You can even line the sieve with cheese cloth if you wish. Then let your stock cool. If you put it strait in the fridge, it could actually raise the temperature of your fridge and threaten to spoil the food inside. We usually put the bowl in the microwave to get it out of the way. Just don’t accidentally turn it on. Once it gets to room temp, you can put it in the fridge. Once it is cool, a layer of fat will usually form at the top. This you can skim off once again for clarity. And that’s it! You’re done! You can now boast homemade stock!
Stock will keep for a very long time in the freezer and for about a about week in the fridge. You can use it at full strength or water it down.
Stock is so versatile and used in so many recipes that you will be stoked every time you open your fridge or freezer to find your very own homemade batch waiting for you. Use it as a base for soups, rice, risotto, and most sauces!
Keep on the lookout for more Tips & Tricks, or “How to Fish,” from Lust for Cooking.