Take Stock

February 12, 2009 at 7:21 am

Rob Gardner

You think you can eat local by sussing out a good farmer’s market, putting up the best tomatoes, and disdaining any strawberry not red inside, but to truly eat local requires one big effort, cooking.   To cook well, OK, not so much to cook well, but to cook completely requires stock.  OK, if that sounds too absolute, how ’bout this, to have stock on hand really amps up what you can do in your kitchen.  We discussed stock making the other day (in broad terms).  Let’s discuss what can be done with said stock.

  • Braise meat – February rain or not, this is still the season of soft foods.  Warm up with a batch of long cooked food.  Braising needs some liquid.  It can be done just with water, but stock adds complexity and more importantly body to the product.
  • Enhance potatoes – The classic French potato salad contains a bit of stock.  Try it.  The French also know that a bit of stock in a dish of baking potatoes creates the wondrous boulangere potatoes.
  • Don’t stop at potatoes – Make other vegetable gratins, this one looks good if your sweet potatoes and squash are holding up better than mine.
  • Don’t stop at potatoes II – Many Asian vegetable stir-fry recipes call for a some stock (cf).  Even if it’s a more Western style vegetable prep, like an Italian sauteed garlicky spinach, a dose of stock adds a lot.
  • Make soup – Right! Soup is rather stock made a second time, huh?  If you have stock on hand, soup can be put together zip-zap-zooey.
  • Skip the soup, keep the broth – Trying your hand at home made noodles or dumplings, just host them in a bath of your stock, no additional preparation required.
  • A chicken in your pot – Is there a more fitting dish for these times?  The expression originated in 16th Century France and refers to the dish otherwise known as Poule au Pot.  Instead of just simmering your bird in stock, the French often stuff the stuff.  Here’s a recipe that carries that concept with not quite as much work as the real thing.  My only problem about talking about boiled chicken now, is that I like my boiled chicken best with a robust green sauce, and fresh herbs are limited this time of year.  I could, of course, use some of the pesto we have in the freezer.
  • A beef in your pot – Simmer a hunk of meat, especially a fillet in broth with good results.  This recipe sounds fun for this time of year (I’d just ditch the bell peppers).

Yes, damn yes, canned broth can be used, and yes if you have local meat, local vegetables and all you need to wrap up your local dinner is a some stock, go ahead and open the Swanson or whatever, some may be good.  There are times when compromises must be made.  Yet, I think of two things.  No canned product tastes as good as stock you made.  Second, if you care about your ingredients enough to buy local, should not you continue to care about your ingredients in your broth.  Take the time to make big vats of stocks, beef or chicken, every once in a while.  I never mentioned the power of demi-glace to amp up the amp up, because I have not taken my stocks to that level [ed. you mean down to that level right?], but that opens up even more worlds of deliciousness.  Freeze your stock.  Freeze in various sizes, to meet your needs.  Some days you need a few cubes from the tray, others you want a quart or two.  Look at all you can do once you have some stock on hand.

Other good suggestions for stock?  Stock making tips?


One Comment

  1. Mhays says:

    Our household has one unconventional use for stock: I freeze it in ice-cube trays for ease of use. My son is hypersensetive to heat – can’t stand anything to be hotter than, say, a warm summer day. We now add “Soup ice cubes,” when appropriate, to cool down his food.

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