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I’m back! (to basics, that is)

It’s amazing how quickly time goes by during the school year, especially when you have two active teens. One of my new year’s resolutions is to make at least one blog post each week. I don’t have a picture for this yet, but I wanted to get it up since I think my mom is going to give it a try. I decided to start the year with some cooking basics that really make a huge difference in flavor, particularly if you cook without meat fats. I’m starting with the three most common stocks I use: dark, light and seafood. Traditionally, you would use beef, poultry and fish, respectively, but when you don’t use those ingredients, is it still possible to get a stock with lots of flavor and depth? Absolutely!

You’ll notice that many of the stocks have common ingredients with just a few variations in herbs or content, depending upon the desired flavor. Feel free to add other left over veggies you may need to use: like parsnips or tomatoes. Avoid starchy veggies, like potatoes, or bitter ones, like cabbage, as they tend to have adverse affects on the stock. Also, feel free to add or adjust the herbs listed below. These are my preferences, but you can toss in whatever herbs you prefer. It’s really difficult to mess up a stock, so be brave and daring. Toss something in and see what happens in the end! The only spices I don’t add to stocks are salt and pepper. This is because you want them as ‘clean’ as possible so that you can adjust the seasonings when you actually use them in a dish.

Dark Stock:

5 cloves of garlic, peeled

3 red onions, peeled and cut into quarters

3-4 carrots, scrubbed and cut in to chunks (~ 1-2 inches each)

3-4 celery stalks, washed and cut in to chunks (~1-2 inches each)

1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms

2 bay leaves

6 allspice berries

3 large sprigs of fresh rosemary or 4 Tbsp dried rosemary

1 small bunch of thyme or 4 Tbsp dried thyme

1/2 cup fresh sage leaves or 1 Tbsp dried sage

1/2 cup fresh parsley or 1 Tbsp dried parsley

2 cups full-bodied red wine (I prefer a good cabernet sauvignon, but you want something with strong earthy tones and moderate fruit)

5 quarts waters

Light Stock:

5 cloves of garlic, peeled

3 yellow onions, peeled and cut into quarters

3-4 carrots, scrubbed and cut in to chunks (~ 1-2 inches each)

3-4 celery stalks, washed and cut in to chunks (~1-2 inches each)

8 oz. white button mushrooms

2 bay leaves

6 allspice berries

1 large sprigs of fresh rosemary or 2 Tbsp dried rosemary

1 small bunch of thyme or 3 Tbsp dried thyme

1 cup fresh sage leaves or 4 Tbsp dried sage

1/2 cup fresh marjoram or 1 Tbsp dried marjoram

1/2 cup fresh parsley or 1 Tbsp dried parsley

2 cups full-bodied white wine (I prefer a good chardonnay, but you want something with an assertive flavor and moderate to light fruitiness).

5 quarts waters

Seafood Stock:

5 cloves of garlic, peeled

3 yellow onions, peeled and cut into quarters

1 stalk fennil, washed and cut in to chunks (~ 1-2 inches each)

3-4 celery stalks, washed and cut in to chunks (~1-2 inches each)

5 large pieces of kombu

1 cup of dulse flakes

2 cups full-bodied white wine (I prefer a good chardonnay, but you want something with an assertive flavor and moderate to light fruitiness).

5 quarts waters

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add a few splashes of wine (not part of the 2 cups listed above) and toss in the first four ingredients from which type of stock you are making. You can use oil instead, but I personally don’t like the feel of the oil in my final product. I tend to saute in small amounts of wine that I allow to cook completely down before splashing in a bit more as needed. You don’t want to dump in a half cup of wine as the veggies will steam instead of saute. By splashing just enough wine to wet the bottom of the pan gives me a nice crisp to the veggies and some of the desired ‘stuff’ that sticks to the bottom of the pan, all without the fat and oily feel.

Once the onions are lightly browned, add the 2 cups of wine and bring to a boil. Once this boils, add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Let the stock simmer, uncovered, for about 1-1.5 hours.

Once it’s done, turn off the heat and let it cool. The liquid will be either light or dark, depending on which kind you made, and it will have a wonderful fragrance. The veggies will look dingy and soggy because they’ve given everything to the liquid. Remove the solids to a separate bowl and toss them in the trash or compost bin once they’ve cooled. Pour the stock through a fine mess sieve into a large bowl or pot. Depending upon the size of your sieve and how much of solids you’ve already removed, you may need to stop part way through and empty your sieve as it may clog up. As tempting as it may be, don’t try and squash out more liquid from the solids. This will only put solid particles into the stocks, which you don’t want.

Once the stock has cooled, you can either use it in a dish (as a base for soups, stews, reductions or gravies) or you can store in the fridge or freezer. I usually divide the stock into 3-4 containers. I’ll put one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer. If you plan to use the stock within a few days, but forget or something happens, don’t panic. The stock won’t go bad. All you have to do is pour it into a sauce pan every 3-4 days and bring to a boil for 15 minutes. Let it cool and put it back in the fridge. Stock will keep indefinitely doing this.

Next week: reductions and demi-glaces

Black Quinoa Cake over Cattle Bean Sauce with Curried Squash, and Kale

Categories: Dinner, Gourmet Tags: , , , ,