What Most Cooks Don't Do, But Should
I posted a short piece the other day suggesting that if you’re going to make your own soup, you should really be making your own stock. It’s mostly just a long-winded preamble to a handful of recipes (vegetable stock, mushroom stock, and fast chicken stock) that I would describe as absolutely essential for any home cook, especially now that “soup season” (or at least the time of year when hot broth is a good thing) is upon us. Those recipes are in the article below, and I hope you’ll check them out and cook them forever.
In that piece I talk about how stock need not be at all expensive if you make it with vegetables and/or meat scraps that you collect over time and store in the freezer. Reading that over again, it strikes me that the whole scrap-saving thing is something that might be worth dwelling on here for a second. While I don't have any hard data to back this up, I'm pretty positive that the vast majority of Americans who cook don't make their own stock. This is unfortunate, but understandable; we've been conditioned over the years to seek out convenience foods that are meant to make our lives easier. Stock in a can or a box is one of those foods.
Here's the thing about saving kitchen scraps: if you do it, you're going to make stock, because they're not really useful for anything else (or at least anything you'd be excited to eat). It's mostly an exercise in not forgetting: When you're cutting up onions, carrots, and celery, remember to save the ends. When you're cutting herbs or shiitake mushrooms, save the stems. if you ever come across a meaty bone (chicken, pork, beef, etc.), some shrimp shells, or a fish head, don't throw them away. Just avoid strong tasting vegetables like broccoli and asparagus, and bitter ones like eggplant and bell pepper, or any food that is inedible or spoiled.
Carve out a small corner of your freezer to keep a few resealable bags or storage containers. Any time you produce scraps that would be good for stock, add them to the bag or container, squeeze out as much air as you can (if you're using bags), and pop it back in the freezer. When you've got enough accumulated, you simmer the scraps in water (no need to defrost), and there's your stock.
Of course it’s easier and arguably better to begin with fresh, whole ingredients. Take a carrot, an onion, a celery stalk, a whole chicken, some seasoning, and you can make three quarts of stock, enough for two or three batches of soup. I'm not saying that the best way to make stock is solely with saved scraps, but rather suggesting that saving scraps is the best way to get in the habit of consistently making stock. And as cooks, that's one of the best habits we can have.
Enjoy the week; I hope it's filled with carrot tips and onion ends.
Even the simplest vegetable stock — an onion, a carrot, a celery stalk, a few other scraps, cooked together for 20 minutes — can make a difference in most soups.
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Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.