Athena Magazine

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Homemade Soup Stock: Mystery solved March 5, 2009

finished-soup-stockBy Julia Pantoga

One of the ways to “trick” people into thinking that you’re really a pro when it comes to cooking is to make the same thing over and over again and stock your freezer with it. This is what I do with soup stock. I’ve been making soup stock from the same two recipes for years now; and since I make soup once a week, I end up making soup stock over and over again.

Making soup stock isn’t really easy, but it isn’t really hard either. The word I’d use is “satisfying.” Making soup stock involves chopping, making a mess and squishing vegetables with your hands, all good things in my book. In the end, you have at least three quarts of homemade stock in your freezer, which I guarantee will gain you instant domestic goddess (or god) status.

Vegetarian cookbooks of the seventies will have you believe that all you have to do to make vegetarian soup stock is save the cuttings from your vegetables and boil them. I haven’t found that to be true. For one thing, your stock will always taste different depending on the scraps you have. For another thing, it’s just not likely that, in these days of packaged bite-sized carrots, you will ever have enough carrot scraps. Most importantly though is that soup stock made from a recipe is an awesome addition to soup; it makes a huge difference flavor-wise.

What follows are recipes for stock, not broth. What is the difference, you might ask.  Stock is an ingredient in soup, broth can be eaten alone.

The first step to making soup stock is assembling the equipment. When I tell you what you will need, you may think this is going to be complicated. This is where doing the same thing over and over comes in handy—after you do this once you will always have the equipment on hand.

Here’s what you’re going to need: 2 eight-quart stock pots, a colander or strainer that fits on the top of one of your stock pots without falling in, cheese cloth (enough to generously line the colander) and containers to store 3 or 4 quarts of stock. The two types of stock I make are vegetable and chicken, which look exactly alike, so I also have packing tape and a permanent marker on hand to label each container “V” or “C”.

Here are the recipes I use:

Chicken Stock

4 carrots – chopped into 2 inch pieces
4 stalks of celery – chopped into 2 inch pieces
4 onions – cut into eight pieces each
15 parsley stems
2 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
1 small chicken

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need two bowls for sorting the chicken from the bones.

sorting-the-chicken1

sorted chicken

1.     Put all the ingredients in a pot and cover with water.
2.    Bring to a boil and skim off the foam that rises to the surface. Reduce heat and simmer for four hours.
3.    Turn the heat off and let cool.
4.    This is the messy part. Put your extra stock pot in the sink. Put your colander on top of the pot and line the colander with cheese cloth. Go change into a T-shirt that you can splatter chicken grease on and wash your hands. When the stock is cool enough to put your hands into, pull the chicken out and plop it into the colander. I’ve tried using tongs, big spoons and other devices to remove the chicken from the pot and found that good old hands work best. Over the colander, to catch any broth that drips off the chicken, separate the chicken meat from the skin and bones. This step is a mess, but totally worth it. The chicken you will gather is great shredded chicken for chicken salad and/or to put in soups.

5.    Once you recover from that step by throwing the chicken bones away, putting the shredded chicken in the refrigerator and washing your hands again, strain the rest of the stock by pouring vegetables through the cheese cloth and colander. Squeeze the cooked vegetables with your hands to get the juices out. Wrap the (now smashed and sorry) vegetables in the cheese cloth, give the whole thing a final squeeze and throw them away. At this point, I move the stock pot to the counter, wash my hands again and have a cup of coffee.
6.    Pour the finished stock into freezer containers, label and freeze.

 

straining-the-vegetables

straining the vegetables

Vegetable Stock
(much neater, but involves more shopping and chopping – and no great shredded chicken leftovers to show for your efforts)

3 tablespoons butter (for vegan broth, use olive oil)
3 large onions
3 big carrots
1 broccoli stalk
1 large leek
2 stalks celery
1 small zucchini
1 ¼ cup white wine
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove – cut in half
1 whole clove

1.     Cut the onions into rings and sauté in butter.
2.    Add broccoli, leek. Carrots, celery and zucchini and sauté.
3.    Add wine and 4 quarts of water.
4.    Add thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, garlic and clove.
5.    Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.
7.    Put your extra stock pot in the sink. Put your colander on top of the pot and line the colander with cheese cloth. Strain the stock by pouring vegetables through the cheese cloth and colander. Squeeze the cooked vegetables with your hands to get the juices out. Wrap the (now smashed and sorry) vegetables in the cheese cloth, give the whole thing a final squeeze and throw them away.
6.    Pour the finished stock into freezer containers, label and freeze.

 

Exciting Domestic Goddess Post Script October 7, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess — rebmas03 @ 1:03 am
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I opened my Cook’s Illustrated magazine today (Nov./Dec. 2008 issue), and the center story is about CHOPPING!  We’re all happy to know that CI and I both give the same advice.—Julia Pantoga

 

More Cooking 101: Chopping October 4, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Food is Good — rebmas03 @ 5:47 am
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By Julia Pantoga

Chopping rocks
Chopping is the cute 4-year-old of cooking. We could hardly tolerate 4-year-olds, if they weren’t so darned cute. I’d probably rarely cook, if it weren’t for chopping.
Remember all the mind tricks I encouraged you to use for housework? You won’t be surprised that I recommend some also for cooking.  The first trick I want you to play on yourself is to do all of your prep work and clean-up long before you will be cooking.  By the time you cook, you won’t remember errant spinach that stuck to the side of the refrigerator—that will be a distant memory of something you cleaned up long ago.

Principles of Chopping (right-handed instructions)

Let the tool do the work.  Human beings have been cooking since the dawn of time and, ever since they have been making tools, they have been making cooking tools.  It is very, very unlikely that you will try to do something in the kitchen (except open certain jars) for which there is not a tool that will do the work for you. If you are ever having physical difficulty doing something in the kitchen, you are likely using the wrong tool, or the tool you are using is not good (by the way, you all know that dull knives are much more dangerous than sharp knives, don’t you?).

Cutting tools

Cutting tools

Use the right tool for the job. Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of chopping tools, but my favorite, hands down, is a knife. As much as I love my knife, I must admit that sometimes other tools are better suited for the job at hand (for example, a food processor for chopping raisins).
Minimize the number of tools you use. Remember, each tool that you use is going to have to be washed.
Use several cutting surfaces. The purchase of a packet of four cutting mats was one of my best kitchen purchases. Having several cutting surfaces means that I don’t have to stop to wash my cutting board because it reeks of onions; I can throw it in the sink, grab a clean one and continue chopping and wash the five I’ve used all at once.

Chopping with a Knife

First of all, minimize your movements. Every time you lift the knife up completely from the cutting board, you are moving the knife. It’s safer and requires less energy to move the knife as little as possible. Whenever I can, I “rock the knife” (this has the added benefit of making you look like a real pro in the kitchen).  That is, I keep the tip of the knife on the cutting surface, push the vegetable through the knife blade with my left hand, then “rock the knife” up and down with my right hand to chop.

Rock the knife

Rock the knife

Flat surfaces on the cutting area make whatever you are cutting more stable.  Before I chop something, if it doesn’t have a flat side already, I make one. When things that you are chopping are rolling around, they are at their most dangerous; this is when it is the most likely that you will have vegetables and knives flying around.

Cutting carrot in half

Cutting carrot in half

So, here’s how I’d dice a carrot:
First, I’d cut the carrot carefully in half.  If it were a big carrot, I’d lay the flat sides down and cut the carrot halves into thinner strips.

Then I’d lay the carrot strips flat side down on my cutting surface and use the “rock the knife “ technique to dice.

Stay tuned for more chopping and cooking tips;. The holiday season is fast approaching (can you believe it?), so we need to move towards getting ready for that next week.