Monday, November 10, 2008

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Stocking Me

It's cold.

Not that "passing-cold-front-should-warm-up-tomorrow" cold, but the "hey-suckahs-remember-me?" incumbent New England winter kind of cold. The darkness is settled in comfortably with its feet up on the table by 4:30, and it's hard, for me at least, to get much done after that. On the flip side, the days have been so impossibly bright and beautiful that I feel like my face might explode when I look up at the azure sky through the filter of the vibrant remaining leaves. So I guess I'm saying that yes, it sucks, but it could suck worse.

For example, I'm really happy that the season of stocks is upon us. There's little more satisfying than the smell of earthy vegetables simmering in a warm, cozy, boiling bath of herb-infused water. Then to strain it, store it, serve it, while knowing that it's something you made - as is inevitably more tasty and healthful than even the best organic guys you can get at a store. I highly recommend getting in the habit of making stock to have on hand. Arm yourself - you're gonna want it this winter.

J'hab's Basic Veggie Stock

Use well-washed organic veggies here. They taste infinitely better, and you really don't want those pesticides and waxes washing off into your stock. Benzene Bisque? Not so much.

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 onion, unpeeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh parsley
pinch of sea salt
a few peppercorns
olive oil for sauteing
6 cups water

Heat the olive oil over medium in a large...stockpot. Add the onion and garlic and saute until fragrant but not browned (if the skins burn, it'll impart a charred flavor to your delicate stock). Add the carrot and onion and turn to coat with the olive oil. Add the water, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, and parsley. Cover, crank the heat and bring to a boil. Remove cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 45min-1hr. You can add more water if the level reduces too much. In that time, arm your sink with a strainer and a large bowl. Remove from heat. Pour the liquid over the strainer and into the bowl. Now, use a spoon to press out the excess liquid in the veggies (an extra pair of hands hear to hold the strainer is really, well...handy). Seal the stock in a tightly shut container, refrigerate and use within 5 days. Or divvy up into smaller containers and freeze for up to a month.

Stocks can be flighty, but they're also easily personalized. This one is the ultimate in simplicity and truly universal. Add potato peels to make a slightly thicker stock, one that'll hold its own against coups with potatoes, beans, and the like. Try throwing in some ginger and lemongrass to make some killer Thai soups.

Tooling around the interwebs today, I found this great blog: Not Eating Out In New York. I really like the cut of her jive - check it!


Kevin said...

I always like a smack of thyme in my stock, and as far as veggie stock goes, especially if you want to use it to poach something with (I recommend salmon) throw some white wine in after about 45 minutes, then kill the process at oh, about 2 hours or so. I find that veggies with their less that meaty substance will lose a lot of flavor if you go to long. To combat this, I leave at such a low simmer that the vapours just barely come off the top.

pixiepine said...

I like to use my veggie scraps before I compost them. It makes a nice all-purpose stock and the flavor is always unique with each batch, depending on what I've been cooking.